For many years I have been singing the praises of the zig rig and, indeed at the right time, if utilised properly, it will out fish a conventional bottom bait rig by a country mile. It is not just a summer tactic either and I tend to use it more in the winter than at any other time of the year.
My biggest Carp on a zig, a 35lb mirror, fell to a 6ft rig in 10ft of water in November! So the question is, why don’t more people use it, especially as we are nearing one of the best times of the year the opening of the new season.
When I am on the bank I have so many people tell me that they can’t get on with it, or it doesn’t seem right, so I have put this article together to try and explain more about the awesome zig rig.
WHY USE IT?
What I have found with many anglers is a lack of confidence: they simply can’t get their heads around suspending a bait in mid water, and feel that this must be very alien to a Carp. In reality, this is far from true, and once you have landed one on a zig, your confidence will grow, and you will never look back. The reality is, we turn up, bait up with boillies, cast a rig out, and sit and wait. But what if the Carp is not feeding on the bottom? How many times have you seen a Carp swimming around, nailed to the bottom of the pond? You may well have seen a Carp enter your swim and drop down onto the bottom to feed on your bait, but they actually spend more time swimming around off of the bottom. They will spend time in the water column at whatever depth they feel most comfortable at, and this is where the fun begins. In the colder months the Carp will find a level that is warmer, and spend the bulk of their time there. What you have to do is keep altering the depth of your rig until you find that level. Their natural food could be at any depth, not always on the lakebeds. During a fly hatch the food is suspended throughout the water column, and you will often see Carp go into A frenzy during these times. Huge blankets of daphnia can often be seen just below the surface during the summer months, and indeed shoals of fry, another Carp favourite can also be found in these areas. So don’t be fooled into thinking they only feed on the bottom. In short, the lakebed is only a very small area of the Carps’ home.
You don’t need to change your rods and reels. I always stick with my ever faithful Greys Torsions – a perfect all round rod. It’s your terminal tackle that we need to look at. Starting with leads, I find the shape to be very important. You are using a long mono hooklink, which can easily tangle and I find the more streamlined zip leads are less likely to do this. When it comes to weight of leads many people advocate the use of a light lead however, I like to lose the lead on the take, and a heavier lead combined with the brilliant rig marole lead clip will do that every time without fail. At times you may well have anything up to 15ft of mono leader between your lead and the fish and the last thing you need is a 3oz bomb bouncing around, trying to remove the hook for you. The hook itself needs to be fairly small. I like to use small bits of bait when fishing zigs, not something too blatant, and a size 10 or 12 is perfect. Then we come to the hooklink itself. I have heard many people talk about flouro carbon when it comes to zigs, but in my opinion this is a big no no! Yes, flouro carbon has a similar light refraction to water, rendering it almost invisible, but by its very nature it is also very heavy and sinks like a stone. You might get away with it on a shorter link, with a very buoyant bait, but on the longer lengths it is just going to drag the bait down, not what you are looking for at all. I like to use a light floating mono.
This is something we simply have to touch on. When using the zig rig you need to be aware of your surroundings, and the Carp. Again, you could be using anything up to 15ft of mono between the lead and the hook, so there a several things you need to take into consideration.
- When casting make sure there are no other anglers in your vicinity, a long rig could easily hook them, even if they are standing a fair way from you.
- Take into consideration any trees or bushes that the rig may get snagged on as well. When casting a link over 8ft, place a bucket behind you, and coil the link inside. This stops it from snagging anything that may be on the ground, and also ensures that it follows the same projectile on the way out.
- The cast itself needs to be slightly different to the norm as well. Rather than punching the lead out, try a gentler lob. This works in two ways, firstly, it helps to keep your hooklink clear of your mainline, cutting down on the risk of tangles, and more importantly it stops you from hooking yourself as the link comes flying past your ear! Also try to stop the lead just before it hits the water. This will throw the hooklink away from you, again to help eliminate tangles.
- Then there is the safety of the Carp. You should never use a zig near to snags – it gives far too much scope for the Carp to get in them before you really know what’s going on, and it is not advisable to use one in heavy weed. The safety of the Carp is paramount, and you want to land it, not leave it tethered. You should also give some consideration to landing the fish. Again, anything up to an 8ft link, and you should be fine landing a fish on your own, however once you get to 10ft and beyond, it’s an awful lot easier if there are two of you. Please give this some thought, and if you don’t think you can land it, don’t try to put a hook in it!
When it comes to bait, the world truly is your oyster. Basically you can use anything that you can get to float! Very often the curiosity of a Carp will get the better of it, and as they don’t have hands, they use their mouths to check if something is edible or not. How many times have you seen a Carp sucking up and spitting out bits of twig and gravel when bottom feeding? Or sucking at bits of leaves or feathers on the surface? They are hungry, and searching for food, and this is the reason I find bits of foam and cork to make excellent baits. You can cut them to any size or shape, use any colour you like, they stay popped up forever, and you can even dip them in a flavour or glug to add to the attraction. They don’t need to eat it, they just need to be curious enough to take it into their mouths!
Small pop-ups are very effective, either in 10mm size, or chopped down into any shape or size that you like. You can use a hi viz boillie, or replicate whichever boillie has been catching well off the bottom. I have had great success using slivers of pepperoni between some slices of cork to pop it up, and any of the plastic baits can also be very effective, from corn to dog biscuits, you are spoilt for choice.
It’s also worth mentioning that for the last year or so I have been playing around with artificial flies. They have to be of the floating variety, but there are a vast range available in the fly fishing section of your local tackle shop, and the daddy long leg patterns seem to be particularly effective.
Don’t be scared to try it, once you land one your confidence will grow and you will never look back. Keep trying different baits, different sizes and different colours until you find one that works for you. The most important thing is to find the right depth. If you can present a bait on their nose, very few Carp can resist sucking it in, so keep changing depths. I generally start a foot or so below the surface, and drop it by a foot every hour until I get some action. If you are using three rods, then set them at different depths, until you get some interest, then switch them all to the same depth.
Finally, please be careful. Take into account your own safety, that of other anglers, and of course the Carp. Have fun, and enjoy.
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Amazing article – thank you! I can never get them to work but your article has helped me greatly. Thank you again.
I’ve been having loads of takes on zigs but losing a lot this winter to hook pulls. What am I doing wrong? What hooks should I use?
Looking forward to the last day of my session tomorrow. I’ve had three poor nights so far – blanked on every bait on the bottom. With swims that have been slowly baited. I will be re trying the zig tomorrow at more varying depths closer to the surface. Thanks for the advice.