How to fish a zig rig - foam rig bait on carp hook

Carp are bottom feeders, spending a lot of time at the bottom of the venue scavenging for any edible food sources that rest of the bottom.

This is generally why most carp fishing rigs are designed to be fished on the bottom, such as feeder rigs, low-lying pop-up rigs and even PVA bag rigs.

Although carp are bottom feeders and will spend a lot of their time consuming and looking for food on the bottom, they will also spend large portions of their time up in the water searching for mid-water natural feeding opportunities such as aquatic bugs.

This is why some rigs have been developed and tested to target these midwater carp when bottom fishing tactics don’t seem to be doing the trick in certain conditions.

One of the most popular mid-water carp fishing rigs is the zig rig.

So, how do you fish a zig rig?

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  • How to Fish a Zig Rig?

    What is a Zig Rig?

    As I mentioned briefly, although carp are classed as bottom feeders, they may only spend around 40-60% of their time feeding on the bottom. They will actively look for food in the upper layers of the water, typically on warmer days when the top layers of water warm quicker.

    Zig rigs are rigs tied with a lead that will sink to the bottom with extremely long hook links with super buoyant baits that will float up in the water and stay suspended at the length of your lead on the bottom.

    This gives the opportunity to fish any layer of the water along as you have tied the hook link to the correct depth.

    Typically, zig rigs can be fished with pieces of foam that will be guaranteed to keep your hook suspended in the water for long periods without the worry of it losing its buoyancy or becoming soft and falling off the hook like some pop-up boilies.

    The zig rig can also be fished in an “over depth” form by tying the hook length to the depth of the water you will be fishing over. 

    This will allow the foam bait to float all the way to the surface as the lead rests on the bottom.

    This creates an advantage to more conventional light tackle, and close-distance surface fishing as your zig rig will have adequate weight to cast far distances into the lake.

    With conventionally straight-line surface fishing, your rig will be far too light to cast any reasonable distances, and you will be constrained to fishing the margins.

    PVA bags of dog biscuits can also be hooked onto the hook before casting, that will release free floating baits around your zig rig as it floats to the surface, which should hopefully encourage surface-feeding carp to feed comfortably around your hookbait.

    When is a Zig Rig Most Effective?

    As you’d image, the zig rig is most effective when the carp can be seen cruising on the surface at distance or when you see head and shouldering or rolling on the surface, which will indicate that a lot of the carp are not on the bottom feeding.

    Zig rigs can also be a go-to when you have spent a lot of time presenting bottom baits for the carp with no luck.

    Although zig rigs can be an effective rig all year round, during the spring, when the waters start to warm after cold winters, natural insect hatches will be more prolific.

    As the carp are coming out of a winter of low energy expenditure and not a lot of feeding due to the cold water temperatures. They will be more than ready to feed heavily with rising water temperatures and hatching aquatic insects.

    This can be a great time to bring out the zig rig and even use imitation foam pieces to imitate the aquatic bugs they are eating in the water.

    How to Tie a Zig Rig?

    Tying a zig rig is fairly simple compared to some other more complicated rigs. The zig rig comprises of a lead set-up with a long hook length and usually a piece of foam attached close to the hook.

    The video below is a great example of how to tie a zig rig, and you should easily be able to follow the steps to tie your first zig rig.

    YouTube video

    What you’ll need:

    • Tail rubber and lead clip
    • Size 8 swivel
    • Chosen size swivel lead
    • Spool of zig line
    • Mixa hook at the correct size (usually 8,10 or 12)
    • Hookbait
    • Anti-tangle sleeve

    The Process:

    1. Thread the tail rubber onto your mainline with the narrow end running towards your rod tip followed by the lead clip
    2. Tie on a size 8 swivel 
    3. Pull the swivel into the back of the lead clip until it clicks into place
    4. Hook the swivel lead onto the lead clip and secure by pulling the tail rubber over the end of the lead clip
    5. Take off your chosen length of zig line
    6. Tie a small overhand loop knot in one end
    7. Push a baiting needle and line through the bait and attach a bait stop on the end
    8. Thread the other end of line through the back hook all the way until the hook sits underneath the bait 
    9. Tie a knotless knot 
    10. Thread on an anti-tangle sleeve
    11. Tie a loop in the other end of the zig line
    12. Thread the loop through the swivel on the lead set-up, pass the zig rig back through the loop and pull tight

      Best Hookbait for a Zig Rig?

      How to fish a zig rig - Foam imitation bait for fishing zig rig

      When fishing a zig rig you’re going to need to be fishing a super buoyant hook bait to suspend your rig high in the water for prolonged periods of time.

      Some anglers will use pop-ups for their zig rig fishing, but you run the risk of the pop-up not being as buoyant as the alternative foam baits.

      Pop-ups can be great as they still hold the attractive ingredients and flavours that will bring carp in from surrounding areas, but the most common bat used for zig rigs are imitation foam pieces.

      These foam pieces that are often shaped like natural aquatic insects the carp will be feeding on (similar to trout flies) give maximum buoyancy for pro-longer periods and also mimic the natural food sources of the carp, so they may be more inclined to feed on it.

      Some of these imitation foam pieces can also help to disguise the hook, so they may be more effective for wary carp who are not yet comfortable feeding in your swim.

      If you’re fishing a commercial high-pressured fisheries then these foam imitations can also work better than pop-ups as the carp will likely not come across baits such as this which can give you a better chance of the carp taking the bait comfortably.

      Another good tip for your zig bait is to match the hatch on the water in the same way that trout anglers would.

      This can relate to the size, colour and shape of insects that will be commonly hatching at certain times of the year, and a little research should give you an idea of the common insects that are present in the water at the time of year.

      Zig Rig Tips

      Avoid Tangles

      When fishing with a zig rig and the very long hook link that comes with it, tangles can be a problem, but there are a few tips you can use to limit the chances of your rig tangling.

      The last thing you want is your hook link to become tangled on your mainline and spend long periods effectively fishing for nothing.

      One of the ways you can try to reduce tangling is by feathering the line on the cast.

      Once you’ve cast, you can slow the line coming off your reel with your finger; that will create some resistance and hopefully keep your hook bait and hook travelling further away from the lead set-up and your mainline.

      You can also stop the line dead by pinching the line once your rig has travelled the correct distance. This will help separate your read and hook link as it enters the water.

      Check the Depth

      Another tip for fishing the zig rig is to check the depth of the swim you’re fishing with a marker lead and float. 

      Checking the depth is a required step in fishing the zig rig effectively so you can accurately set the length of your hook link and the depth your bait will be floating.

      Cast out your market lead and float set up, and tighten your line slowly until you feel float touch onto the marker lead. You can check this by moving your rod to the side, and you should feel resistance and the lead dragging on the bottom.

      Loosen your drag and slowly start to release the line from the reel taking note of how long the line you’re releasing is. you can do this by releasing line 1ft at a time and counting how many times you need to release the line before your marker float appears on the surface.

      Flavour Your Bait 

      As you will often be using imitation foam as bait for zig rigs, they won’t have the flavour and scent properties that conventional baits such as boilies and pellets have.

      This is especially useful when the water is coloured and the fish may not spot your bait if there is not attractive scent to follow in the water with their olfactory system.

      You can use any water or oil-based flavourings, and a mixture of the two can be great to create maximise flavour trail in the water.

      You can add a squirt or two of flavourings to the foam or soak them in flavourings before your fishing trip.

      Fish a Few Rods

      Finding the depth that the carp are feeding at is essential when fishing the zig rig. To avoid having to constantly tie new rigs at different depths, you can fish a few rods with varying depths of zig rig.

      This will give confidence that you’re covering many depths of water to find the feeding fish and if one rod becomes increasingly consistent at catching fish, you can change the other two rods to this depth.

      That’s All

      Zig rigs are great for carp fishing when they’re not feeding on the bottom or the surface close by and you should now know how to fish a zig rig.

      They give the ability to suspend a bait midwater where the carp may be searching for natural aquatic bugs or larvae in the water column.

      They also provide the opportunity to surface fish at a distance, as you can cast the rig far distances with the weight of the lead.

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