Ian Gemson shows how zig rigs have transformed his fishing on the surface
Zig rigs aren’t just for fishing baits at mid-water. As Chub’s Ian Gemson proves they can transform your surface fishing results this summer
AS SOON as the bright hot sun hits the water, carp will start drifting around on the surface like balloons on a breeze. As a professional carp angling tutor, Ian Gemson has noticed over the years that a lot of anglers are unsure of the correct way to target them in this situation. They either fish on the deck in the hope that the odd carp will drop down to feed at some point, or give surface fishing a go. “Something I see time and time again when it comes to surface fishing, is that anglers feed a few dog biscuits and, as soon as a carp tentatively slurps down a couple of mixers, they crash a controller float on top of its head,” said the owner of Smart Carping. “This inevitably leads to any carp present scattering in all directions!” Of course, as the summer progresses, carp will soon wise-up to standard floater fishing tactics and become wary whenever a controller float is in the swim. To overcome this problem with surface fishing, Ian has turned to zig rigs. But rather than presenting the hookbait mid-depth in the traditional way, he uses them ‘overdepth’ so that the hookbait sits on the surface and is anchored in the baited area. We joined him at a very wet Thorpe Lea Fishery (www.thorpeleafishery.co.uk) for the day, where he took us through the finer points of his approach.
Anchoring the hookbait
A problem encountered by many when surface fishing, Ian included, is surface tow dragging the controller float and hookbait out of the baited area. Once carp notice this bait moving differently to the freebies, they will immediately reject it. After trying sinking lines and mending the mainline etc, the solution of an overdepth zig came to him in a ‘eureka’ moment. “As long as you have carp on the surface that are willing to feed, the overdepth zig is deadly,” said Ian. “The hookbait is still able to drift around naturally, but as the rig is anchored to the bottom it can only drift so far. There is also the additional benefit that there is no surface controller to spook the fish.”
Setting up your rigs
Zigs work best with light lines and small hooks. Lighter carp rods of 2lb-2.5lb, or even barbel rods, are therefore ideal and will prevent hook-pulls or breakages. Ian favours the use of a pre-stretched mono mainline, 12lb Berkley Trilene in this case, which provides a more direct contact than standard mono. With no leader being used, the next piece in the chain is an anti-tangle sleeve. This stops the hooklink, tied from 8lb Trilene, coming off the quick-change swivel, as well as helping the hooklink to ‘kick away’ from the lead.
Accurate plumbing of the swim is essential with this tactic to ensure that the hooklink is the correct length to fish the hookbait ‘overdepth’. Don’t rely on guesswork! “I like to use size 8-12 Korda Mixa hooks, depending upon the size of hookbait I’m using,” explained Ian. “These are tied knotless knot style with a soft latex bait band tied in a small loop in the hair. The loop enables the band movement so I can use a range of different baits on the hook, either by banding them or pulling the band into them.” One major aspect of the tactic is to squeeze the eye of the swivel that attaches the mainline to the hooklink. This means that when the safety clip is attached, it is no longer semi-fixed, but becomes a running rig that enables the lead to slide down the mainline on the take to prevent the carp from using the lead’s weight to throw the hook. “It also gives much better bite indication which can be a problem when fishing zigs at range,” added Ian.
Make a surface spod mix
Nearly every angler uses dog biscuits and then casts out a pop-up boilie on the hook. This can work, but having a different shape, taste, colour and buoyancy to the freebies, it makes it incredibly easy for the carp to identify hookbait. To overcome this, Ian makes up a spod mix containing a variety of different shapes and sizes of floating baits, just like he would if fishing on the bottom. “I’ll use dog biscuits, cat biscuits, marshmallows and a range of expander pellets,” said the Pure Fishing and Kordabacked angler as he poured a selection into his green bucket. “Mixed in a ratio of two thirds small items (6mm or less) to one third large, means the bigger baits don’t swamp the mix. Plus, once the dog biscuits become waterlogged, they swell to twice their original size.” To finish the mix, he gave the baits a coating of hemp oil. “The advantage of using oil is threefold. First, it makes the loosefeed float
for longer. Secondly, it creates a flat spot on the water which makes spotting takes easier, and finally it gives the loosefeed added flavour to draw in fish from further away.
How to fish surface zigs
When surface fishing there is no magic time to cast. The one discipline Ian recommends is to build the swim slowly and sit on your hands until the fish are taking baits confidently and aggressively. Getting it right can see the fish feeding for hours. “The The skill is feeding enough to get them excited but not too much to fill them up. I will also overcast the swim – Spombing loosefeed to the area I measured out exactly using marker sticks – before slowly pulling the rig back to the line markers tied on to my mainline. This ensures the rig is sitting bang in the middle of my loosefeed every time. “It also means the commotion of casting occurs beyond the feeding fish and doesn’t spook them. And, as there is no PVA or feeder to contend with, I am able to move the rig without ruining the presentation. “Too many anglers fish on the bottom, regardless of the prevailing conditions. If you put a bait in front of a carp the only way it can test it is to mouth it. Then you’ve got them!” Ian thinks in three dimensions, not just putting a PVA bag or feeder on the deck and hoping for the bestbest.
Fool wary surface feefeedding carp
Fishing the lead clip as a running rig prevents carp using the weight of the lead to throw the hook
Light lines and smaller hook sizes are the order of the day when it comes to overdepth zigs
Use a marker float to accurately plumb the depth to fish the ‘overdepth’ zig correctly
Left: The swivel on the mainline is squeezed so the safety clip is free running
Below: Accuracy is vital so Ian uses distance sticks to measure the cast
Big, wary carp are fooled by the ‘overdepth’ rig
Ian Spombs out loosefeed on a particularly wet day!