Even back when I started carping in the early 80s it was apparent that the hook end of things was critical – from sourcing hooks that didn’t open out, to finding patterns with barbs that weren’t too big or using glue and tubing to improve rig mechanics.
No matter how good your location, bait and bait application you are only as good as your hook and the way it’s set up. Having helped at dozens of fish-ins, answered hundreds of questions and watched many anglers fishing it is clear that hook choice remains an area where there is still a lot of confusion. Here’s why the correct choice of hook and how it is set up makes all the difference…..
In this day of hype (best ever, all I ever use… yawn yawn) you may be surprised I would never claim there is any such thing as the ‘perfect’ hook. You cannot pick one pattern and expect it to perform as well with zigs as it does with Multi Rigs, bottom baits or floaters.
Equally, you don’t need dozens of packets of hooks of all designs, sizes and from a variety of companies. The patterns I’ve settled on are from many years of experimentation and although they seem to slightly improve in terms of sharpness and lightness each year, for the last 10 years the story remains the same. Three hook patterns, no more than four sizes and most importantly complete confidence. When that Siren sounds or that Bolt Machine shoots across the surface the last thing you want to worry about is the hook. I never worry and you shouldn’t either.
It’s no secret I catch almost all my carp on the bottom with the Multi Rig pop up presentation. That’s a lot of carp from a lot of different waters twelve months a year, every year.
The Fang X has the perfect curve to allow the pop up to sit correctly on a Multi Rig, the size of the eye allows the coated braid to sit securely without the need for tubing and all three sizes are super strong. When a Multi Rig is tied right the pop up almost covers the hook from view from above and the way it is weighted it sits and spins very aggressively. Other companies have similar hooks but most do not have ALL the characteristics for a perfect Multi Rig hook. For 18mm pop ups it’s a size 6, for 15-17mm a size 7 and anything smaller a size 8.
Although I mostly use pop ups, in shallow, clear and hard bottomed waters I use bottom or balanced baits and the Fang Twister is the perfect hook for these situations. Its longer shank, unusual ‘square’ bend and pin sharp hook point mean that for bottom baits, double bottom baits or wafters the design of this hook allows the bait to sit perfectly and the mechanics to operate as they should. The inturned eye allows the hook to flip and dig in beautifully and avoids the need for shrink tube on many occasions. Size wise for double baits it’s a 6, for single 15/16mm baits it’s a 7 and for anything smaller an 8. I know some anglers even use the Twister for multi-rigs but I still prefer the Fang X because of the thousands of carp I have caught on it.
In the last couple of years I really have upped my game when it comes to surface fishing and have had to seriously look at hook design and patterns to make the most of opportunities I create with the Riser Pellet. Be it a directly hooked Hookable Floater, a superglued Chum Mixer or a hair rigged Sucker hookbait the Fang Gaper is perfect. Its short shank ensures the hook bait is not submerged and the wide gape is reminiscent of a claw reaching out to grab passing carp. Generally I start with an 8 but will move to a 10 if the carp are finicky or to a 7 if the water is weedy.
Hook size is dictated by the mechanics you are looking for, and also bait size. My starting point is a 7 but I do go up to a 5 for big carp in weed.
If you are using a pop up you need to ensure that the pop up supports the size of hook you are using. If not you need to rethink your pop up construction be it Airball or cork ball. DON’T change the hook size, change the way you make your pop ups. The new improved Nash Airball Mix has specifically been tweaked for increased buoyancy to ensure chod and stiff link users always have effective presentation with bigger hooks.
Bigger hooks have more chance of catching hold and in real terms less chance of opening out due to the thickness of the wire. However a smaller hook that beds in fully will take a tremendous amount of pressure to open it up so don’t be afraid of smaller sizes. If you want some starting point advice it’s a 7 for me and go larger if you can providing you don’t affect the mechanics of the rig.
Hook Sharpening? Fad or not? Yes….and no….The hooks you get from the Nash stable are sharp, very sharp. However every single hook you get and tie up should always be examined with an eye piece. Feeling a point is if you excuse the pun pointless as even if it is slightly turned over it will still prick you. The trick is to look with your eyes as they don’t lie. It takes seconds to do and bear in mind that hook could be sat out there for hours.
If the hook point is turned over I simply discard it….Yes, discard it…Hooks from 7 and smaller hardly ever get sharpened by me but are always examined. Personally I think the majority of anglers do more damage than good trying to sharpen a hook that size. I may give them a slight rub with a fine gauge sharpening stone but that’s it.
Larger hooks, size 6 and bigger can be sharpened more easily although most people really don’t need to. Check with the eyepiece and most are pin sharp particularly in the Twister range.
The best place to store hooks is in the packet they come in. Simple advice but true. Under no circumstances take them out and put them in boxes… they rattle around and can lose their sharpness with constant contact to hard plastic.
Ideally I would get to the water and tie every rig up on the day but being a short session angler I don’t have that time and tying hooks up whilst carp are boshing in front of me would drive me crazy.
When I turn up at a water I have a lot of rigs tied up, in my kit I can find three rig boxes with 10 rigs in each pre-tied. One Stiff Rig Box is full of Fang X Multi Rigs from 6-8, one with Twisters from 6-8 and the other a Uni Rig Bin with my Fang Gaper traces for surface fishing. Even on productive waters it would be unlikely I would run out of rigs and when I come home I replenish those I have used.
When I target big fish waters like Church I tie up additional rigs in 5 and these are stored on a homemade rig box which is 20” long.
In an ideal world you would use a new rig after each fish and in the ‘olden’ days that was true. However with the advent of chemically sharpened hooks there is no need to providing you use that eye piece. When the fish has been unhooked you need to look at the rig and I don’t just mean the hook either! Has the fight in any way damaged or changed the hook length? Often it can strain knots, twist hairs and so the sharpness of the hook is just one part of the equation. If the rig is fine and the hook as sharp as before it’s fine to use again in my opinion but it’s a very personal thing.
At a place like Church Lake I wouldn’t use a hook twice as I am fishing for mid 50s. On a day catching twenty mid to upper doubles on surface tactics means I am far happier using a hook again and again providing the eye piece shows the point is pristine. But I would NEVER use the same hook on two sessions and I even check my hooks after casting or winding in just in case I have turned them over. If in doubt, change!
Unless I am forced to use barbless, it’s barbed hooks all the time for me. In the bad old days barbs were comparatively crude and I can understand why fisheries banned them. However on the hook patterns I use the barbs are genuinely ‘micro’ and do no damage that I can see. I feel they stop the hook twisting and ripping and frankly I won’t use barbless unless compelled to do so. However the barbs on some hook ranges from other companies I notice are nowhere near so small.
With the Multi Rig I don’t use silicone as the smaller eye of the Fang X sees a coated braid sit firmly until attached to a carp and then it slides and allows the hook to bed in properly.
With bottom baits I use rig silicone to secure the hair in the required position blowback style. Occasionally I use silicone above and below the hair when I want it to kick out ‘KD’ style.
If I want to create a kicker to improve the line-aligner effect then I use D-Cam shrink tubing in 0.5mm or 1.00mm. When sat over the naturally inturned eye of the Twister it really kicks out the shrink tube for an aggressive turning effect.
If you tie your rigs up at home (and most of us do) be careful not to store them on your rig board under too much tension, otherwise you straighten out the shrink tube and lose that aggressive turning effect you’ve spent time trying to improve.
When I use a Multi Rig I mount the bait on a ring or a bait screw so although it’s not a hair as such I think it’s important to detail the correct position. When the Multi Rig loop is set correctly the ring should be opposite a mid point between the hook point and top of the bend – NOT in line with the point. When set correctly and dropped in the water the pop up should almost obscure the top view of the hook depending on size of hook and pop up being used.
For bottom or double bottom baits a short length of silicone is pushed round the shank so that the hair exits at the base of the hook point. This makes the hook point heavy and when the hook goes in it tends to flip over aggressively resulting in really strong, secure hook holds. I use silicone that holds it firmly. If the tube is too loose on the hook the hair exit point you think you are using can easily move on long hard casts. A soft hair is also an essential with bottom bait rigs.
With a balanced bait I use what many describe as a ‘KD’ style set up with the hair kicking out because I have whipped three turns more of the braid under the hair exit. It exits almost in line with the hook point. Unlike the orthodox KD Rig I don’t use a shot on the hair but my wafters or balanced baits just sink with the weight of the hook. With a small hook such as an 8 I glue below and above the hair exit point whereas with a 6 I glue and add fine tight silicone.
The whole point of this piece is to get your hook in the carp more often, but it’s essential that you are equally as able to get the hook out of the carp. Don’t wiggle hooks out with your fingers, it’s a crude and stupid way to do it and might just end up with the hook in your finger. Use forceps and grab the hook shank and remove it smoothly and positively.
Occasionally with smaller hooks I even use a large size disgorger as this allows you to push and retrieve. Sometimes the hook cannot easily be extracted in which case I use a pair of wire clippers and snip off the barb which I remove and then the rest of the hook can be eased out. Needless to say a Medi Carp kit should be in every caring carper’s tackle bag