Seasonal Carp Angling: The Best Rigs for Spring

by | Carp, Spring |

Spring is my favourite time of year to be fishing; I am always incredibly keen following the winter period, which coincides perfectly with improving weather and the carp being at their most catchable. In this article I will cover my rig approach to the spring period, which rigs I use and why I use them. My approach varies depending on several factors, these are things to consider in your own fishing as there is no ‘wonder rig’ for all situations.

Rigs in early spring

As discussed in my piece on early spring fishing, during the first months of the spring season the carp are relatively docile, they have had a long rest but the rising water temperature will begin to affect the fish’s behaviour.

Throughout this period, the fish’s eyesight will still be poor, they will be slow moving and unable to digest any significant amount of food. For this reason, I focus on being in the right place and presenting a bright hook bait in front of the fish in the most effective way, any more food items will only serve to delay a bite and reduce your chances of catching. I have two main tactics for the single hook bait approach:

1. The chod rig

The choddie (as it is known) was originally conceived as a way to present a bait over silt and was developed around in the late 90’s or early 00’s. In recent times it seems less fashionable but has served me well, resulting in some very big fish.

A March Spring capture on a choddie over fresh Canadian weed growth

I use this rig for extreme distance fishing, as it is almost impossible to tangle and presents over almost any substrate. It is most effective as a single hook bait or over a spread of boilie, when the fish will be moving up and down between baits. I would avoid using it over any spodded bait as it will not favour this type of feeding situation.

Whilst other presentations may suffer as a result of being rejected, the choddie will always be cocked and fishing for you, maximising your chances. I usually try to fish this rig with a slack line, if fishing over debris or on a gradient as I don’t like the idea of it sitting up off the bottom.

The chod rig can be fished on lead core, in which case the weight of the leader will pin the rig to the lake bed, or ‘naked’ meaning it is fished on the main line without a leader, in this case you should wrap putty around the swivel knot to sink the rig. If fishing with a lead core (which I prefer) I will leave a loop joining the rig to the swivel, if naked it is tight to the swivel eye, this is just neater when sitting on the lake bed.

If using lead core, it is essential to fish in a way that allows the top bead to move freely over the leader knot, as this allows the fish to discharge the leader in the event of a breakage. I do this using a 0.5mm silicone sleeve and a 5mm rubber shock bead (both are readily available, I find the Korda and ESP ones fine).

Choddie, still devastatingly effective

One further consideration when playing a fish with a chod rig, your lead is only the length of the rig away from the hook; this can be as little as a couple of inches and can result in lost fish due to ‘hook pulls’. To counter this I suggest either fishing a drop off style lead with a Korda Heli Safe (or similar). Alternatively, you can tie a small steel ring to the leader, 12” above the lead so that the swivel cannot get any closer to the lead than this.

The final aspect to consider is bead positioning, the lower bead determines how close your rig can sit to the lead and the top bead how far away it will travel. Consider this when setting their positions, if fishing over weed you’ll need to know its length to avoid dragging the rig down in to it.

Hinge and Ronnie Rig

In recent years I have used both presentations extensively. When I am fishing over a reasonably clean bottom, this is my go to approach. I consider both rigs almost interchangeable, with the Hinge being slightly more blatant as it can be fished higher, but we’re splitting hairs here. Generally, I have favoured the Ronnie as it has proved so effective over recent years, also due to its low presentation of the hook bait I am happy to fish this over more bait without worrying it is too blatant.

This arrangement has also proven to be very anti tangle when used with a stiff boom.

I prefer to fish these rigs on a lead core leader helicopter style. This allows me to adjust for substrate by moving the top bead easily and quickly. Like the chod, this arrangement has also proven to be very anti tangle when used with a stiff boom. I favour Korda Boom in 25lb with the ESP Curve in a size 4, this pattern has a short point and wider gape (the gap between eye and point of the hook), giving better hooking efficiency.

On a session in 2018, I was catching from a spot at 100 yards every morning. I’ve been so confident that they don’t tangle ever since and usually have them on if it’s not particularly weedy.

My Ronnie Rig set up

Zig Rig

Zigs are far from my favourite approach, I only use them when I feel it is the only chance I have of getting a bite. This will usually be during the very early weeks of spring when the sunlight is warming the top layers of the water and the fish are most comfortable there.

I managed to nick an early bite within three hours of arrival

Usually I would only consider fishing zigs if I have seen fish cruising and bow waving or if they are jumping in a way that suggests they haven’t travelled up from the bottom of the lake. By this, I mean they come out of the water at a shallow angle, usually porpoise-ing rather than straight up and over, when coming off the bottom. If you watch the fish showing on a warm day in March or April you’ll see what I mean.

Another sure sign zigs might be worth a go is evidence of a fly hatch, this can be as blatant as hundreds of Nymph casings in the margins, or perhaps birds feeding off the surface in a particular area. Recently I managed to nick an early bite within three hours of arrival at my Club water, it was cold and windy but the margins were littered with mosquito skins. I had seen a few shows and during a break in the wind, a back could be seen at range just breaking the surface. A 7’ zig roughly 12” under the surface resulted in a nice stocky to kick start my spring.

A recent zig capture after seeing fish up in the water and evidence of a hatch.

To effectively fish a zig, you have to know the depth. Then you need to estimate where the fish are, if air pressure is very high and you can see them, you’ll generally want to be within 6” of the surface. If it’s overcast or at night it’s more of a guessing game. Generally start by covering an area with three rods and start making gradual depth adjustments from there

I use 10lb double strength fly line and Fox zig aligna kits with the smallest hook I can get away with (usually a 10 or 12), these are fished with a long anti-tangle boom and a lead clip. I don’t attach a tail rubber and tie the lead clip closed using PVA tape, this will discharge the lead on the take and make landing the fish easier and more likely, especially when using large leads and long rigs.

Indication is crucial, often it will be a subtle bite or a drop back, consider if you drop the lead suddenly the fish has a lot of slack to play with so tight lines and large bobbins are essential.

My lead arrangement

My hook set up

Tight lines and heavy bobbins

Rigs for Late Spring

Now that the fish are likely to be feeding more confidently for a longer period, my choice of rigs will change also. When fishing a single hook bait, you’re likely to encounter a browsing carp that is dropping down on to the bait from above, in this way a blatant pop-up is a great approach and likely to be successful.

For a fish feeding hard on the bottom on grouped baits, they are likely to move more slowly, not rising so far between each mouthful. In this scenario, a high (height) pop-up might be too obvious and easily avoided by the fish, but this depends on the spread and type of bait used. If using a catapult or boilie stick, a pop up amongst a spread of boilie would be fine.

If I were using a spomb/spod to create a carpet of bait, I would favour a bottom bait, or (if the substrate demands it) a very low pop-up. The most important thing to consider is how the fish will be moving around the spot and how your chosen rig will sit on the bottom. The cleaner the spot the lower the bait is a good rule to use.

I generally use only two bottom bait rigs, the first is a simple coated braid rig with a large long shank hook, I will typically fish this with a snowman or balanced hook bait over soft but clean substrate. I also tend to use this at shorter ranges when I can see the rig landing, if going over around 60 yards something stiffer would be better, to avoid the worry of tangles. 

My two preferred bottom bait rigs

My second is a stiff ‘d’ rig using a heavy fluorocarbon with a Chod style hook. This is something of a recent addition to my armoury but the results over very hard spots have been excellent and it seems very hard for the fish to deal with. In fact the first time I put this out it resulted in a tench almost immediately, while not the target, tench are finicky feeders and this one was nailed dead centre of the mouth an inch back which installed immediate confidence.

This is now my go to rig for snag fishing on clean spots as it won’t tangle, will re-set consistently, is resistant to bird attention and is a very effective hooker. Paired with a balanced tiger or maggot bunch it’s hard to beat and has resulted in some very cute carp for me with consistently good hook holds. I would tend to fish these both on a helicopter arrangement, but they could equally be used with a lead clip.

Bait for late Spring

As the water temperature increases so does the fish’s drive to feed and ability to digest food. This means you can start to introduce more bait, increasing the amount of attraction and length of feeding activity around your rigs. At this time of year, carp are preparing to spawn and will be trying to gain weight in anticipation.

My staple fishmeal contains a high quality fishmeal base with garlic and crab flavours

Around May I usually start to use a fishmeal based boilie, the higher oil content gives an excellent level of attraction and will leak well into the warmer water. The choice of boilie is a personal one and there are plenty to choose from, but as with all things, confidence is key. My staple fishmeal contains a high quality fishmeal base with garlic and crab flavours.

During my first summer using this bait I didn’t catch a single carp on it but had more bream and tench than I had on any on any other bait, this combined with knowing it had been successful in the past gave me great confidence and the following season it paid off!

My fishmeal of choice, the smellier the better!

Depending on the other species the water contains I will also start to use more particle and pellet in my mix, this will bulk out your bait and also increase the number of food items in the area, keeping the fish feeding for longer.

A May capture on the GS crab using a balanced bottom bait on the long shank rig.

Where allowed maggot will still feature in my mix, a typical mix when bream aren’t a problem would be boilie (chopped, crumbed and whole), maggot, maize and pellet; then scold the whole lot with freshly prepared hemp in introduce it warm. I will adjust this mix depending on the water and restrictions so if bream were an issue I might remove the pellet or if the birds are a problem I would remove the visual element of the corn or maize.

I hope this has been useful and you have something to put in to your own angling.