Lee ‘Mozza’ Morris shares some of his finest tips for catching carp up in the water on the often-overlooked tactic of zig-rig fishing
During spring and early summer zig rigs can be an incredibly effective method and one that will often outfish any other tactic that you have at your disposal. In recent years a lot has been written about the use of zigs and countless sections on DVDs and films on YouTube have covered their use, yet still, the vast majority of carp anglers do not use them. Why? Well, I’m not really sure. Laziness? Maybe. Lack of knowledge? I don’t think that’s an excuse in 2016. Denial? I think this is the main reason. I meet people who simply don’t believe that suspending a little piece of foam feet about the lake bed can work. They think everyone in the angling trade is trying to have them over to spend money on something that is a gimmick. Well, let me tell you – ignore this method at your peril! Zig rigs do work; in fact, they are often the most productive option you have!
Tip One – Find And Record The Depth
When it comes to fishing with zig rigs, depth is one of the most vital aspects to master. Carp will sit at different depths at different times of the day and during different times of year, the amount of time they spend at certain depths will also vary. At this time of year, experience has taught me that the carp tend to spend most of their time in the top 25% of the water, so on a 12ft-deep lake anythin, over 9ft would be the best bet for zig length. As a general rule, the warmer and brighter it is, the higher up in the water the fish will be, so on dull days I would try a zig at, say, mid-depth, just in case.
To gauge the depth you will need to use a marker float and once you know it, it is important to record not only the depth figure but also the distance (using wraps around marker sticks). I keep all of this vital information stored in my Swim Mapper app to ensure I know the depth and distance of all my key spots should I wish to cast a zig out during a session.
Tip Two – Use A Reliable Rig
Because zig-rig fishing is still alien to a lot of anglers, I see many users getting into a bit of bother when they try and tie one up for the first time. Common mistakes involve using standard mono line designed for spooling the reels up with or, even worse, fluorocarbon line (which while invisible is extremely heavy so can actually sink your hook bait!). You are far better off using a specialist mono hook link designed for zig-rig fishing because this has a very low diameter, is neutral buoyancy and also very strong for its breaking diameter.
The rig itself couldn’t be simpler to tie thanks to the awesome invention that is the Zig Aligna. All you have to do is thread a Zig Aligna onto your hook link, then tie your chosen hook to the line with a palomar knot. I like to use a hook no smaller than a size 8 for this. With the hook tied on you slide the Zig Aligna over its eye and then insert your foam hook bait into the loop on its back – simples!
The Zig Aligna not only forms an irresistible hook bait, it also enables you to get incredible hook-holds and far reduces the chances of any hook-pulls occurring during the fight.
Tip Three – Match Your Hook Link To The Conditions
You will read lots of articles telling you to use the finest hook links you can get away with because the carp will be less wary of a thinner diameter. While this is no doubt true, what you must not do is jeopardise the safety of the fish by increasing the chance of a cut-off by using a hook link that is not strong enough for the conditions you are faced with. Therefore, if I am fishing a lake that is clear of weed and snags I would use the 9lb Zig + Floater hook link. However, if it were really weedy and snaggy I would use the 15lb to ensure I had every chance possible of landing what I hook.
Tip Four – Carry A Selection Of Hook Bait Colours
Once you have the right depth to present your zig, the next big dilemma is hook bait colour. Carp can be very strange and their colour preference can change by the hour, so it pays to chop and change with hook bait colours until you find the one that works best. Zig Alignas and Zig Aligna Foam are available in nine colours, so that gives me an incredible number of hook bait colour options.
Tip Five – Use Heavy Leads
Because zig rigs are long hook links I am paranoid that there is too much movement for a carp to easily eject my hook bait. I therefore always like to use a nice heavy lead of 4oz minimum to ensure that when they pick up the bait there is plenty of resistance to drive the hook into their bottom lip. The heavy leads also enable me to fish my hook baits at long range, which is another edge when you are fishing on busy lakes and the fish are pushed towards the middle.
Tip Six – Boost Your Hook Baits
Unflavoured foam hook baits will catch you lots and lots of carp but on days where bites are hard to come by it can pay dividends to boost your bait with liquid attraction. I like to have foam glugging in flavour so that when it’s in the water it leaks off a cloud of attraction that will catch the attention of any passing carp and might just trigger them into having a feed, banking me a bonus carp or two.
Tip Seven – Avoid Tangles
When fishing with such long mono hook links, the risk of tangles occurring on the cast is high. Therefore, I have a number of things I like to employ to keep the tangle risk to a minimum. First of all I tend not to fish with a leader such as leadcore because the knot from the main line to the leader is a tangle zone waiting to happen. Instead, I will use naked main line straight through and couple it with a Naked Line Tail Rubber, which ensures my hook link cannot tangle around the tail rubber, which happens on standard models. A further anti-tangle measure is the use of an XL Anti-Tangle Sleeve, which helps to keep the long hook link away from your lead and also helps to kick it out once your cast hits the clip, ensuring no tangle occurs upon impact with the water. A final measure to put into place is adding a small High Riser nugget (dissolving foam) around your hook. This adds weight to the hook end, which further reduces any chances of the hook wrapping up around your line or lead.
Tip Eight – Maximise Bite Indication
If you are fishing with zigs then you need to make sure you fish your line as tight as possible and use a bite indicator like a Springer Arm, which puts the line under tension meaning as soon as your lead moves a millimetre your indicator moves too and your alarm (set to high sensitivity) will then bleep to register a bite. Because you are fishing for the carp high up in the water you do not need to fear that tight lines will spook the fish because they are now swimming lower down near your line, so will therefore not be aware of them.
Bites on zigs are usually not very aggressive, with carp often not realising they are hooked, so the more sensitive your bite indication is, the more carp you will catch.
Tip Nine – Use The Right Rods
Now I know that not everyone can afford or justify owning more than one set of rods, so if you have casting rods of 31/2oz or more then you will obviously have to make do. However, where possible, a nice light test curve of 3lb or less will be better for zigging because the softer tip will help to prevent any hook-pulls and so on when playing carp on such long rigs with a lead bouncing around. Also, if you are using a light 9lb hook link, the last thing you want is a broom handle of a rod applying loads of pressure to the hook link, which could cause it to snap.
Tip Ten – Spod Over The Top When Applicable
This is only a tactic to employ when fishing heavily stocked lakes where the carp are competing for food. In such situations, it can catch you an insane number of carp. Basically, you need a nice, wet, sloppy spod mix that will cloud the water. Then clip the spod up so it will land above your zig hook bait and cast repeatedly over the top with the sloppy mix. This will cloud and the sound of the spod will draw carp in from afar and get them feeding aggressively high up in the water, meaning you get far more bites than you would from a single hook bait sat there on its own.
Tip Eleven – Use An Extended Landing Net Handle
When fishing with long hook links it can be a real pain trying to land a fish on your own using a standard 6ft landing net pole. I tend to use the Horizon XT landing net, which is supplied with a 6ft handle plus a 3ft extension, meaning I can create a 9ft handle, which makes landing zig-caught carp far, far easier.
Well that’s my word limit just about taken up. Hopefully you will be able to get some use from my 11 tips and hopefully, over the coming weeks, they will help you bank some zig-caught fish. Good luck and tight lines...