Rigs My Way - Part Four

While most of the rigs I have covered in the previous parts of this series are designed to be efficient when fished in one specific way, there is a compromise rig I use that allows me to use a few different presentations without the need to completely retackle. I use this rig when I am fishing from the bank in a mobile manner, moving swims throughout the day, and especially when boat fishing.

This set up is yet another simple one, comprising of a tubed sliding float, usually a spherical or dumpy one, with a bead above and below it, followed by a Paternoster Boom and a rubber bead to stop the whole lot at the trace. Naturally there is a stop knot above the float to set the depth. By clipping a one and a half to two ounce bomb directly to the boom I have a float leger rig, add a weak link between bomb and boom and it becomes a paternoster rig that can be used with deadbaits.

In theory, using a float with a running rig should be a recipe for dropped runs. If a pike pulls sufficient line through a leger so that the float connects with it, there is a chance that the sudden increase in resistance, as the lead stops being free running, will cause the pike to eject the bait. In practice I haven't found this to be the case. Maybe the buoyancy of the float acting against the lead has something to do with this, or perhaps this possibility is countered by the use of large sharp hooks preventing bait ejection, as I discussed previously. More likely I have been worrying over nothing… I can't say for sure, but dropped runs haven't been any more noticeable with the running lead float leger than with plain running legers or semi-fixed lead rigs. A fine example of practice and theory contradicting each other!

In the paternoster guise when boat fishing, by moving the stop knot over depth, the rig can also be used for trollernostering without modification. Remove the link; replace the bomb with one light enough to cock the float without submerging it and the rig can be used for float trolling. In neither case is there a need for an uptrace, in my view, as the motion of the boat keeps a livebait swimming behind the rig, preventing tangles, and deadbaits don't cause any problems to start with. All in all, despite its theoretical limitations, this is a good rig to use in many situations.

Having touched on the topic of bite-offs and uptraces I might as well go a little deeper. As far as I am concerned the only time you need to consider designing rigs to specifically avoid bite-offs is when fishing livebaits. At all other times I am sure bite-offs can be cut out by avoiding rig tangles. There is no way of overcoming bite-offs completely, pike can always find a way of defeating your best efforts. The only times I have had my line bitten through by pike have been once when using a livebait on a paternoster with an uptrace, and another time when a pike attacked my sunk float! One real bite-off in over twenty years doesn't strike me as being anything to worry about. However, I am prepared to concede that this could be a reflection of the situations I fish in.

In the real world I can see no point whatsoever in using uptraces with deadbait rigs, or even when float fishing livebaits. In the latter case there is always the chance, as there is with paternosters, that a pike can swim upwards with the bait, lifting the weight, and encounter the mainline with its teeth. An uptrace might prevent this, but then again it might not. I had a livebait lift a two ounce bomb to the surface in twenty foot of water, and a pike could have taken it at any point. No uptrace in the world could overcome that kind of thing! Of course, if I start experiencing bite-offs I will do something about it, but until then I reckon the chances are so slim as to be negligible. Yes, I know this isn't very 'politically' correct, and might not seem to be the right thing to say. But those are the facts as I see them.

Anyway, all that said, my standard paternoster rig for livebaiting does try to prevent bite-offs! Despite someone on the Pike and Preds internet forum calling it a lazy man's' rig (which I actually took as a compliment) it is highly effective and, as you'd expect by now, easy to set up. Whether you rig your paternosters with surface floats or sunk ones is largely irrelevant (unless you are relying on the float for bite indication). For close range work I use surface floats, they are useful for keeping the line off the water when fishing rivers and drains, for example, and for boat fishing they provide the primary bite indication. But most times fishing large stillwaters from the bank I opt for a sunk float - partly because a smaller float can be used if it is to be sunken, and this will cast slightly better than a larger one.

I have, in my time used bottom end sliders for paternostering, both sunk and surface. These days I use tubed sliders. I go for a spherical or dumpy bung shape, as I feel these hold baits up better than slimmer floats. Surface floats can be larger than the ones used for sunk float work. The reason is simply that a sunk float is constantly trying to lift the bait and bomb to the surface, and a surface float should be big enough not to get dragged under by the bait or the water and weather conditions. If you are struggling to keep a sunk float paternoster in place, when it is very windy for example, the answer is not always to use a bigger bomb. Switching to a smaller float can do the same job. The sunk floats I use all the time are one and a quarter inch poly balls. These have served me well for a long time now, with baits of all sizes.

If you are having trouble keeping a large livebait in place with an ounce and a half bomb and a one and a quarter inch poly ball the answer, in this case, is to use a bigger lead. I think nothing of using two ounces or more to hold rigs in place - even when paternostering deadbaits. Generally speaking, the bigger a livebait is the less worried by the paternoster bomb a pike will be. To be honest, I don't think pike are over worried by big leads at any time. So stop fretting! If I need to cast a paternoster a long way I'll use a big lead and a small bait - live or dead. Same thing if I have to cast a paternoster into a strong face wind.

My basic livebait paternoster consists simply of the float, beads, stop knot and trace. The weak nylon paternoster link is tied directly to the trace. With larger baits the link goes on the eye of the upper treble hook, but smaller baits seem more prone to being cast off when the rig is set up in this way so I tie the link a few inches above the top hook using a stop knot, with the bomb link being the upper tag of the knot. This rig might look crude, but it doesn't tangle on the cast, or when the bait is swimming around. There is hardly any chance of the bait swimming up and into contact with the main line, and it casts a lot better than other paternoster set ups. A small livebait hooked head up the trace can be really belted out into a headwind with this set up and a two ounce bomb on the link.

I have heard this rig criticised as not giving the bait enough freedom of movement to be attractive to pike. Who's to say that a restricted movement isn't attractive, or even more attractive? All I know is that this rig works. In fact, by not using too large a float, the bait has more freedom than you might think. If the bait can pull the float down a little way it has quite a bit of freedom, and the float will be keeping the mainline away from the bait. When it swims up again the float still keeps the line tight to the trace. So long as the bait can't move the bomb it shouldn't be able to contact the mainline. I have devised and used more complex rigs for paternostering livebaits in the past, and they did what they were supposed to do - avoid tangles and bite-offs. But they did that no better than the 'lazy man's' rig. They were more trouble to set up though.

Although I usually use the Roberts Boom rig for paternostering deadbaits, the lazy man's' paternoster can be used effectively with deadbaits. If you need to paternoster a deadbait on a longish and accurate cast, this rig is actually preferential to any rig involving a paternoster link above the trace. There is no spinning and tumbling of bomb around bait during the cast with the link tied to the eye of the upper treble. The bomb drags the rig and bait behind it and the whole lot really flies.

The only other static fishing method that I use from time to time is a legered livebait. I either present these on one of my plain running leger rigs, or on a fixed lead rig. If I am using a standard running leger I pop the bait up by attaching a poly ball to one of the hooks. This should be large enough to prevent the bait swimming down to the main line. Not only should this keep the bait working and visible but it will also reduce the chances of bite-offs. If you are paranoid about bite-offs, then use an uptrace with a leger ring (or better still a curtain ring) sliding on it. The uptrace will need some means of stopping the lead sliding down to the hooks, a small poly ball or cork ball is good. The only problem I encountered was that the ring sliding on the uptrace caused it to pigtail. I overcame this by sleeving the uptrace with aquarium tubing. I have used this rig in the past and it is a good one, albeit rather overcomplicated.

I haven't used the fixed rig for some time now, but when I did I used to make up special traces with short hook sections, and a three way swivel as the attachment point for the lead. The bomb being clipped to a short, sleeved, weak link. With a tough bait and a two ounce bomb this makes a great rig for casting a livebait a long way. Just tying a short link to the trace does work, but the bomb seems to tangle when the link is so short - a couple or three inches. Sleeving the link is the answer, but tricky to do neatly without the three way swivel.

Recently I have messed about with an uptrace rig that involves one of those linked ring doobries that carp anglers use to make hinged hook links. These can be used to make up neat uptrace rigs, but are a bit of fiddle to make up. For the neatest, and therefore least tangle prone, rig I found the rings that have one round and one oval ring to be best. Sleeving the twisted connections to the round ring with shrink tube tidies the trace nicely, and attaching the bomb link to the oval ring allows it to be sleeved with silicone tubing. A few inches on a long link is all that is required. This rig has worked well with paternoster live and deadbaits, and my guess is that it would a treat using a short link as a livebait leger.

In the final part of the series I look at a couple of float fishing rigs and give some of my thoughts on traces.

(This article first appeared on in Pike and Predators - September 2004 on this site April 2006)