How long should you make your hook links and does it effect your catch rate? Paul Cooper discusses the length of hook links and types of materials used for carp fishing.
What are the main materials available to create hook links?
Firstly I do not want to go into naming brands and makes, as I believe that this section of fishing can be a very personal choice. I will therefore, talk generally about the different types available.
The first material is the obvious one and that is mono-filament line, the main line that is used for spooling up our fishing reels. Obviously the strength and thickness of the line depends on how it behaves as a hook-link in the water.
-Fluorocarbon and amnesia line
These types of material were designed for making up hook links and are generally used to make up stiff rigs due to the low memory make up of the line making them far less subtle than ordinary monofilament usually fished in BS’s of between 15 and 30lb.
-Braided hook link material
Braid generally comes in the form of a woven braid that is generally more subtle than the nylon type lines.
-Coated braided hook link material
This generally comes as a fine braided material that is coated in a plastic or rubber type coating that can be peeled or stripped back if required exposing a small section of the braid.
So there you have the main materials that are available on the market to suit most carping situations. What I want to talk about is what lengths suit what line and the different fishing conditions. Firstly we need to look at the general feeding patterns of the species that we are targeting.
Most species of carp, in particular the ones that we generally target, commons and mirrors, feed in a manner that can be different from other fish species. They tend to test their food prior to eating which is done by a suck and blow method. It is when a carp is blowing, or ejecting the bait that our hook pricks it’s mouth so different lines behave in different ways.
I would say that the average sort of length for a hook rig is between 6 and 12 inches, and these can be made up of any of the materials that I have already mentioned above.
Stiff rigs, made of fluorocarbon or amnesia type lines are best fished on longer rigs which is where they become most effective, not allowing the carp to eject the hook easily and presenting the bait further away from the rest of the more obvious rig components. With the coated braids and the more supple braids, a carp can eject a longer hook link very easily. Shorten it and you enter a different ball game.
There are some excellent underwater action shots available online that show carp feeding, and on most of them you can see carp picking up a bait, lead and all, with no indication at the anglers work station. A quick shake of the head or spinning on the spot and the hook is ejected.
I personally like to fish shorter rigs down to around 3 inches so as to reduce the amount of space that a carp has to reject the hook. I find that I get very strong takes and do tend to catch a lot of fish using this method. With the hook link being so short I get away with soft braided material and casting distances does not worry me around tangles etc.
It is in my opinion that when carp get finicky or when the colder months set in, shorter rigs work best.
During these periods the carp’s metabolism slows down and there actions are much slower, so are their feeding habits. In the warmer months carp feed more freely and are quicker in their actions so longer rigs can work better, even then I will use rigs no longer than 8 inches made up of either fluorocarbon, coated braid or soft braid or a combination of 2 of the 3.
I proved this on Brocard Small when I fished there last October with Jim Kelly. I was getting what I thought were liners and missed bites. It could have been crayfish activity, but I took a chance and reduced my 5 inch hook link down to around 3 inches. The change brought on immediate results, with no liners just screaming runs. I was fishing with 3 ounce leads at around a 98 meters cast, so the lead was plugging into the silt.
I did not pull back after a cast so imagined the baits to be either just below or just sitting on the lake bottom. This did not deter the carp, and my tally for the week was 18 in some very difficult wet and cold conditions. Give it a try, you will be surprised at the difference it can make.