Despite its apparent popularity in the angling press these days fishing zigs or zig rigs still seems a pretty underused method on some of the waters I fish. I would hazard a guess that perhaps only 10-20% of anglers give them a serious go and I’m still shocked to speak to people who have never used them! At this time of year there’s usually a flurry of article in the angling press like this one as anglers such as myself try and pass on a few tips or ideas on getting the best from you spring and early summer fishing. All sounds good that doesn’t it? Why then are so few anglers taking advantage of this superb method? Well there could be a number of factors, such as lack of confidence, or perhaps you’ve been told that they don’t work on your waters or perhaps like some anglers believe it’s cheating! Unbelievable I know but I’ve met a couple of people who think just that.
Regardless of the reason if you’re not fishing zigs, especially through the months of April, May and June you could be seriously missing out.
So what makes zigs so effective? Well in my view there are a number of reasons; firstly the mid water layers from the top right down to the lake bed are rarely explored, surprisingly as this is where the fish spend an awful lot of their time! If your one of the anglers that thinks fish live on the bottom and only come to the surface when it’s hot, think again. The mid layers are perfect areas to present baits and if done correctly can bring excellent result. Another reason of their effectiveness is fly hatches and insect development, a regular occurrence at this time of year, when the fly hatches are going on you’ll often see seagulls going crazy continually sweeping and making a general nuisance of themselves. At times I’ve seen carp topping in these areas and failed to get bites on the bottom and switch to zigs especially when fished close to the surface has often brought instant results. Whatever the reason the use of subsurface baits is one that when mastered can be devastatingly effective and could bring a whole new dimension to you angling.
Ok so where do we start? First up there are a few common factors when assessing the effectiveness of zigs these being water clarity, depth and fish stocks.
Almost to a water zigs have been more effective for me on clear waters, reaffirming my belief that sight is a major factor when fishing them. The depth also is an important factor and whilst I’ve caught on relatively shallow waters it’s the pits and lakes with a good few feet in them that seem to be best. It’s clear why this is so as obviously the more water between the top and bottom there is, then the more the fish have to travel and explore giving the angler lots of options and depths to try. The amount of fish in your chosen venue is another factor and whilst I know zigs will work on sparsely stocked waters its the venues that have a good stock and where the fish move in good size groups were this method can really come into its own. Competition for food and the percentage factor are the keys, after all getting bites on zigs when fishing for 50 fish is more probable than when fishing for 5.
If I’ve convinced you to give zigs a go this summer then perhaps a few pointers may help?
What do you need? When it comes to terminal choice remember your fishing in or near clear back ground, there’s no muddy bottom or ‘chod’ to hide you rig and line so everything is on show. Luckily the last couple of seasons we have seen a number of companies taking the steps forward to help anglers out when it comes to using suitable hooks and more importantly hooklink. Obviously because of the nature of how and where the bait is presented i.e. in mid water we need to look at using the smallest hooks and lightest hooklink we can safely get away with. I know a lot depends on the size of fish your likely to catch and if fishing for smaller carp perhaps in clear venues lighter hooklinks maybe suitable. Personally I won’t now use hooklinks lighter than 10lb and look at diameter more than breaking strain as my guide .026-.030 are perfect for zigs and now there are a number of purpose designed lines intended for zig or floater fishing.
Whatever your choice please be careful when tying knots and always check both the line and knot after each fish. For a number of years I’ve used Gold label Pro Clear in 10lb and find it perfect, recently though I’ve started to try the new Zig Link hooklink from Gardner Tackle despite only catching a couple of fish on it so far its performed well, but I’ll be giving it a serious go over the next few weeks.
When it comes to hooks until recently I had one or two patterns that I preferred and pretty much dismissed anything else. It was only when another angler pointed out his preference for out turned ‘chod’ type hooks and his success on them that I started to look at my own hooks. After listening to a number of successful anglers I’m currently giving the Gardner size 12 Mugga hooks a serious go, these are super sharp and aggressive in their shape and I’ve found them to give superb hook holds.
One point I must mention is the use of a good quality lead clip system and the dropping of leads especially when using long hooklinks in or near weed. Whilst I’ve used inline leads and find them effective I now restrict their use to open clear water only. On the subject of leads I try and use the lightest I can get away with as playing a fish on a 10 or 12 ft hooklink with a heavy lead bouncing around is a definite no no in my book.
No tangles. A subject close to my heart as when I first started fishing zigs a few years ago I go plenty of tangles. These days I rarely cast out without a piece of dissolvable foam on the hook or if bites are coming quick a small bag of Richworth Trout Pellets in a small PVA mesh bag. Both methods work and prevent tangles but sometime the foam nuggets can take to long to melt especially in the cold month. A section of silicone or anti tangle sleeve pushed onto the swivel also aids in cutting down tangles as these helps keep both the hooklink and mainline separated.
What bait? Now there’s a subject to ponder when it comes to choosing a suitable hookbait remember all we need is something attractive visually and perhaps stimulatory to their sense of smell. I’ve caught on both flavoured baits and unflavoured and to be honest the jury is still out as far as which is most effective. Trimmed down pop ups both dark dull ones and bright coloured ones can be effective it’s down to the individual to see what works on each given day on different waters and at different times of the day. Foam or artificial baits are very much in vogue at present and quite rightly so as on their day they can out fish everything. The slim cylindrical foam sold by companies like Gardner in black, yellow or white has saved me a blank on a number of occasions and being extremely buoyant can be used in tiny amounts mimicking small bugs or fly larvae. Of course foam isn’t the only artificial bait to use, cork especially the small cylinders or 8-10mm cork balls can be very effective. Enterprise Tackle do a number of artificial baits suitable for zigs including zig hookbaits in a variety of colours and even sell a night glow version now. The bumble bee rig has its become known is very effective, by combining slithers of black and yellow foam not only do you have the visual aspect with the flecks of yellow but also the dark silhouette of the black, a very good tactic on a lot of waters.
Different depths. This can be the real key to getting the best from zig fishing, sometimes especially early on when the waters still a little cool fishing your baits fished at half depth can be a good place to start. In the height of summer when temperatures are high baits fished on the surface or very near to it are probably the best option. Remember though the fish will use the water column as they wish moving up and down it as the light levels and temperatures change. Seek out these zones and work them to your advantage even if this means changing the depths your baits are fished on a regular basis.
Spodding. When it comes to free offerings and getting them out into the lake there are a number of ways to do this, by catapult, spod, or with the use of PVA mesh bags, for longer range though and when looking to put large quantities of floaters out nothing in my view beats the spod, I was a little slow getting onto these superb baiting tools but now find them invaluable.
My current zig fishing has centred on a few trips to Baden Hall in the Midlands a clear deep gravel pit full of natural food, it’s also got a good head of 20lb fish as well as a number of 30lbers it’s these types of venues that are perfect to explore with the zigs. The gin clear water gives the fish an excellent view and the insect life emerging from the weedbeds attracts the fish like bees to honey! When it starts to warm up you can be sure the fish will be on the prowl for mid water food items and over this spring I’ll be using this method as often as possible.