Carp Fishing – Theorise to Optimise – Lee Wagner

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Carp Fishing – Theorise to Optimise – Lee Wagner

After enjoying a bit of success on the bank over the last few years I’m often asked, be it on the lakeside or through social media, “what rig did you have it on” or “what bait was it on”?

I’ve considered the motives of that question numerous times, but one thing I’m very rarely asked is the real key information. Why?

For me bait isn’t a huge worry as I have so much confidence in the bait I use due to the years I’ve used it and the continued consistent success. The question of why I chose that rig in particular however though has many differing connotations. Most people are happy if you simply tell them that it was a pop-up or a bottom bait. I’ve reasoned that they must believe that during any particular session a pop up will outperform a bottom bait, or vice versa and want to get on “what the lakes switched onto”. Truthfully though, I don’t personally believe that it’s that simple and think that the only time that rings true is when they’re up in the layers on hatches, etc. which would make it a day for “zigging” anyway!

In the past I’ve noted that had I revealed that a capture was on a bottom bait then someone with a greater knowledge of rigs may further quiz me as to whether it was critically balanced hookbait and the truth is that if I’m on the bottom it will always be nicely balanced. By that I mean with the bait lifted but the hook still flat on the deck. This is down to my personal opinion on rig mechanics which I’ll go into a bit more detail about later.

So if it’s not ‘what the fish are switched onto’ that determines what rig I present, then what is it?

Simply put it’s the nature of the spot I’m fishing on. The swim choice will firstly and most importantly be based on the location of fish as that beyond doubt the single all-important determining factor. After that prior knowledge of a swim’s topography is extremely helpful because if the fish are showing in an area that I know is firm and relatively weed free I’ll automatically clip on a rig that will present a bait well in that scenario, a presentation called ‘the Horton rig’ that is my own tweaked/bespoke bottom bait presentation. This rig consists of a Gardner Covert Dark Mugga hook and an Ultra Skin hooklink.

If however fish are showing in an area I’ve not fished before, or over an area that I know to be unsuitable for a bottom bait rig then that will be what determines my rig choice and I’ll pop my variation on the Chod rig out there. It’s certainly NOT the fact that I believe that the fish will only pick up a bottom bait or pop up on that day!

The point I’m getting to is this, regardless of whether you’re fishing hard on the bottom or with the hookbait up off the deck, it’s the location of the fish and the mechanics of the rig you put in front of them that that is of paramount importance.

So what are rig mechanics and what does it mean to me?

My understanding of rig mechanics is that there isn’t one definitive answer for everything. It’s a relative thing determined by the style of rig that you’re using and what you’re looking to achieve in that critical moment when a fish picks up your hookbait.

My conclusions related to choosing specific presentations has evolved having witnessed numerous fish (of all types and sizes) feeding over the years with the additional benefit of watching fish feeding during underwater filming. With that knowledge in my head my ultimate (mechanically effective) bottom bait presentation, namely my Horton rig, came about after thinking about getting everything reacting as fast as it possibly can when the hookbait is sucked in.

In terms of the lead arrangement I use; I like an inline drop off system incorporating a Gardner inline lead that’s designed so most of the weight is at the swivel end (the end closest to the fish) and transmits the full weight of the lead the second the hooklink tightens. There’s no wasted movement, unlike a lead clip system where there can be 2-3 inches (half a second) of movement before the full weight of the lead comes into play; that’s plenty enough time for a fish to realise what’s occurring, spit you out and move on! The fact that the lead arrangement is fished drop off style means there is also no way for the fish to use the weight of the lead once the hooks set to throw or shake the hook out.

The next critical detail is the whipping of the D on the “Horton rig”; specifically where this finishes is not by accident, that’s all been carefully tweaked over the years to give me the optimum efficiency so in that the millisecond after the fish sucks at the bait, the hooks already turning over before the baits even entered the fishes mouth. Essentially this means that be it a slow feeding winter fish, a sly rig wise pressured fish or a silt pig willing to hang itself, I’m giving myself the best possible chance of converting pick-ups into takes.

Nothing is superfluous in my set up, right down to the mounting of the bait on a mini rig swivel; as these allow the bait and rig to behave a little more naturally amongst feeding fish, as well as allowing the bait to hover directly over the hook, shielding it from view and settling in the “cocked” position which ensures no wasted movement if a fish does decide it wants to snack on my hookbait.

This level of scrutiny goes into every rig I cast out and I’m always looking to “theorise to optimise” and will discuss my thoughts on optimum hooking efficiency with pop ups sometime soon. For now I’ve ran out of time so be lucky and don’t forget… “consider everything”!

Lee Wagner

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