Zigs have to be by far the most under appreciated method of fishing I know of, which is a not a surprise because we are casting a piece of flip flop into a lake and hoping to catch. Despite this I have had numerous big hits of fish on zigs. Fishing on the bottom is an easy method to get your head round because all most people think about is what is the bottom like. You are essentially fishing in 2D you have a level round lake with ups and down and various bits of debris and features and if you look at it from a birds eye view or on a contour map it is 100% a 2D image. When you talk about Zig fishing you now move into the 3D spectrum not only are you placing your rigs at a set distance you are also fishing them at different depths and from working various trade shows and speaking to anglers from all over the world this is the bit that people cant get there head round.
If you have ever met me at a show one of the first questions I ever ask people is “Do you ever fish zigs?”, and almost 90% of the time the response is along the lines of “yeah I have tried it and its not for me”. I love asking people “why” and learning what issues are people having and trying my absolute best to help them improve their angling. As carp anglers we instinctively want to find a clean spot to present a rig, put some bait on it and eventually the fish will move in and bang you have one. On certain days of the year this is almost impossible. If we take periods of high air pressure as an example, the oxygen levels in the water are very low which means a carp is very unlikely to be anywhere near the bottom they will almost certainly be a few feet below the surface or sulking in the shallow parts of the lake and margins. There is no mystery to this it is simply because that is where the oxygen levels are highest so why anyone would opt to fish on the bottom on big beds of bait is beyond me.
When it comes to people saying “yeah I have tried it and its not for me” they mean exactly that, they have seen a couple of fish on the surface and they have hair rigged a pop up on some zig line and pub chucked it into a lake at what they think is going to be the right depth and location. This is not zig fishing this is pub chucking foam into a lake and hoping you catch one. Obviously the chances of catching with this method is very slim so after 3 hours you’ve probably had enough and gone back onto the bottom and been completely put of this style of fishing. With an engineering background I need to understand "how and why" in everything I do so here is my simplified approach to Zig Fishing.
The first thing I advice anyone new to zig fishing is to show up at a lake with no bait and give it a proper chance without the temptation of moving onto the bottom. Once you get to the lake do exactly the same as you would on any other session first, which is find the fish. Go for a walk chat with some of the other anglers on the lake while keeping one eye at all time on the water. Climbs some trees if you have to because finding the fish should be your number one priority it is far more important then your rigs, bait and everything else combined. Once you have chosen your spot and got in your peg get your marker rod out and find your depths and what ever you do don’t put your bivvy up yet.
We are going to use 12ft as an an example for the lake depth. Now even tho we have seen fish on the top and are confident they are there I wouldn’t put all 3 rods near the surface straight away. We may have seen 20-30 fish on the top and that means there could be hundreds that aren’t but just because they aren’t on the top that doesn’t mean they are on the bottom we have 12 foot of water they can be in. With this in mind I like to spread my depths out so starting with with the surface I like to be 2ft below it so in this example that would be 10ft. I also like one mid water so that would be 6ft meaning there is a 4 foot difference between our tallest zig and your middle. I would also have the same 4ft gap on my shortest zig making it 2ft. This literally strategy means that in 12ft of water with 3 rods a carp is never more than 2ft above or below my zigs so I can sit on my hands confident that if a fish swims through my spot it will see at least one.
Now if you have a fish at one depth I don’t like moving all 3 zigs to same depth only because in the back of mind I’m thinking what if it was just a fluke, a rogue fishing swimming around doing its own thing. I can’t ignore it tho, so what I do is I move them to similar length depending on the depth of the lake. So if its 12 ft and I caught at 6ft I would bring them all within a 2ft of each other so I would now fish 8ft, 6ft and 4ft. However if I was only fishing in 6ft and I caught at 3ft I would bring them to 2ft, 3ft and 4ft.
Hook Bait Choice
I know a lot of people fish pop ups on a hair rig style zig and I’m not going to dispute that this method catches fish but what I am going to say is that there is a much better way to hide your hook and replicate something natural to a carp. This is our zig aligners and foam, the zig aligners and foam are styled to replace a nymph. For those of you that aren’t aware what a nymph is, it is basically an infant bug that hasn’t grown wings yet and these are regularly found at all depths of the lake and are a staple part of a Carp’s feeding pattern. The aligners doesn’t just hold the foam it also aligns the hook link allowing the hook to turn over far more aggressively similar to using shrink tube or a kicker on a bottom rig. We have all been surface fishing and seen a carp take every free offering there is but turn its nose at your hook bait and I am 100% certain this is because that can see my hook. Due to the hook sliding inside the aligner it is perfectly masked so there shouldn’t be many carp that would spook from the rig like they do with a mixer on a bait band. Our Zig Aligners & Foam are available on our website and from all of our stockist worldwide with an RRP of £3.49 making zig fishing more then affordable for anyone who wants to try it.
Situation 1 - I have a really simple method for the choosing the colour of my zigs. The concept is very simple the first thing I think of is what bait goes into the lake. If you were to be fishing Brasenose One on the linear complex 3-4 years ago before they banned maggots I would 100% have all 3 on red zig foam and aligners, for the sole reason that anglers piled thousands of pints of maggots into that lake every week. If I was fishing Brasenose One now I would go with yellow foam and aligners because its no hidden secret that corn works amazingly all year round on that lake.
Situation 2 - If I arrive at a lake and I don’t know much about it or at least not enough to choose a colour for all 3 I will choose the colours depending on the length of the zig i’m fishing. If you image your a carp and your looking up at the surface from underneath, the sun is going to behind the zig so all that will be visible is a silhouette and the best colour to aid that contrast of bright and dark is black. So if your zig is in the top 3rd of the water column you want the darkest zig possible as this is where it’s the most brightest. Now if your fishing in the bottom 3rd of the water column the chances are the carp will be above the zig look down at the bottom of the lake so I use a bright zig and I usually go for a Yellow (I also tend to fish yellow at night unless its a bright night such as with a full moon). Now your final rod which is mid water, this is the grey area where you have a 50% the carp are above and 50% chance there below. So you can take your chances and go either bright or dark but what I usually do is use a red zig foam and aligner as they aren’t exactly dark and I wouldn’t say they were bright either.
Making your Spod Mix
Where zig fishing is most different from your normal fishing is we don’t want to put any bait on the spot but we want all of the same flavours and visual attractions so to do this we create a cloud using a selection of powders and liquids. I am aware some bait companies sell a zig mix but they tend to be very expensive and I can make myself 3-4 buckets of zig mix for around £10-20 from any supermarket. For your spod mix we are looking for products that when added to water make a cloud and thickens up such as custard, milk powder, rice pudding and angel delight. Another amazing bait is blended up sweetcorn as it goes to a similar consistency as milkshake, which creates an amazing cloud and goes perfectly if fishing yellow zig foam. When your mixing your concoction you need the mix to be very watery so I use an old school spod but tape up the holes with electrical tape so it holds the liquid without it leaking out of the sides.
Before you start firing spods all over the lake you need to know the wind direction. The reason for this is because your mix isn’t heavy so it will sink incredibly slowly which means it almost certainly will not fall straight down because it will fall down with the current in a diagonal pattern. I like to take this in consideration when decided whether my 10ft zig is my left and rod or my right. So if the wind is blowing from your left you would want your longest zig on the left and your shortest on the right and you will only be spodding over the left hand zig.
Another thing to take into consideration is the distance between your zigs, now only you can be the real judge of that but generally the faster the current the further apart I would have them to allow for the wider spread of the bait cloud. So obviously the slower the current the tighter I have them.
How often should you Spod?
I always start of my zig sessions with 10 large spods. We need to make sure that the cloud around our zigs doesn’t disappear so I like to set an alarm for every 15 minutes and put another 3 spods out. I know this may seem a lot but you need to remember we are only putting out liquids with very little powder in them so even after a full day of putting out 3 spods every 15 minutes you may have only used 3-4 kilos of powder. When the inevitable happens and you land a fish start the whole process again with another 10 large spods and your 15 minute timer.
All the other little bits I do.
Tight lines is an absolute must, if we use the illustration below to show the vast amount of movement a carp can have with a zig before the lead is moved we need to know the very second that lead moves and that is only possible with a bow string tight line. If we are fishing with a 10ft zig that fish has a circle with a diameter of 20ft that it can move around in without moving the lead so if were taking this in consideration it has more then enough room to try and detach from the hook. Obviously if a carp moves straight up it will lift up the lead and you will get an indication but this is fishing and nothing is certain in this sport so I like to give myself the best chances possible.
Its also very important to drop your leads, due to us fishing a 10ft hook link a lead bouncing around while playing a fish can very quickly pull the hook out. It can also be dragging along the bottom and very quickly get snagged up in weed and any other debris resulting in lost fish and possible damage to carps mouth. The best way I found to drop the lead is to use very heavy leads 4oz and above and to fish a lead clip system without the tail rubber. The weight of the lead on the cast is against the lead clip so you won’t loose leads on a cast but you have an incredibly high chance of dropping the lead on a take.
One problem you may have especially when fishing zigs over 13ft while alone is netting them because the zig is longer than your rod is. We get around this with the “Rod Bird Method” taught to me by a good friend of mine Rod Bird. What Rod does is he puts a small log or object half way under his net pole and creates a similar contraption to a seesaw so the nets head is fully submerged and all he has to do is play the fish over the cord and stand on the handle with 1 foot pushing the handle down and the nets head up securing the fish. This method has saved me many times.
Confidence in what your doing is vital so don’t keep changing the depths or colours etc. Every time I think about changing something I simply think to myself there could be a fish 30cm away from my zig. I know I have all colours covered, I know I have all depths covers within 2ft, I know there is plenty of attraction in the area from my cloud of powders and liquids so it is just a matter of time before a carp slips up.
I hope this helps you