Question 1. What are the advantages of a braided hooklink over mono?
Dozens of hooklink materials are available these days, but broadly they fall into two categories – stiff or supple.
Traditional braided hooklinks are strong for their diameter, and limp. They’re perfect for use inside PVA bags where you want a hooklink that can be stuffed easily into a tight space, and their suppleness also means they can present a bait ‘naturally’, allowing it to move freely.
Unfortunately they’re prone to tangling and despite their low diameter can be quite conspicuous.Mono or fluorocarbon hooklinks are much harder to see underwater and are far stiffer. This makes them difficult for the carp to eject once they have picked up your hookbait. On the flipside, they won’t follow the lakebed’s contours as well as braid so they may sit unnaturally.
A hybrid of the two is coated braid, with a supple braided inner section and a stiffer outer coating that can be peeled back to create hinges and supple sections. Available in a range of stiffness ratings, they are great all-round hooklinks.
Question 2. What’s the safest carp rig I can use?
A safe carp rig is one that the fish can get rid of in the event of your mainline snapping (either during the fight or as you cast). Any rig with a barbless hook is safer in this respect because without pressure from the angler’s end these hooks tend to fall out of a fish’s mouth quite easily. However, most carpers consider the lead and any leaders to be the most dangerous part of a set-up, if the carp can get rid of these it is unlikely to become tethered.
A free-running lead, attached to the line via some form of ring, will slide off the broken end of the mainline in the event of a breakage. If you wish to fish a ‘semi-fixed’ lead then a lead clip, which holds the lead on a plastic arm, can also discharge it.
Helicopter rigs work on the reverse principle, whereby the hooklink is discharged from the lead. Most manufacturers offer ready-made versions of these set-ups, with detailed instructions on how to use them safely.
Question 3. I’m confused about the various types of carp hooks. Surely a standard pattern would do?
Just as in match fishing, there is a wide range of hooks to pick from for carping and they all achieve different tasks on their day. The long shank hook comes into play when fishing a blowback rig, allowing the hookbait to move when a fish takes the bait but leaving the hook in place to ensure a firm hookhold when using bottom baits. Adding some shrink tube to the shank further enhances the set-up.
Wide gape hooks are unbeatable when fishing with short hooklinks, a large lead and PVA bags with either pop-ups or bottom baits. You may also come across hooks with an out-turned eye that are great for fishing with rigs made from stiff materials (mono or fluorocarbon). These help keep the gape of the hook at its maximum, encouraging a better hook-up and subsequent hookhold during the fight.
Then there are curved shank hooks with a swept gape that work well with blowback rigs or pop-ups. These hooks allow the rig to re-set themselves if a carp picks up the bait and blows it back out, which means the rig is still fishing effectively without the need to reel in again. Of all the hooks available, the wide gape is the most commonly-used and versatile, so this would be the one to pick in the tackle shop if you are restricting yourself to one type.