Carp Rigs for Beginners

Simple Carp Rigs for Beginners


For beginners, carp rigs can seem daunting because there are so many to choose from!

There is always the ‘latest rig’ doing the rounds, but in reality, we suggest using a rig that you’re comfortable making and have absolute confidence in (my Dad still uses a snowman rig 20 years on!)

Learning the basics first is an important step.

From teaching yourself how to tie reliable knots, to hook and lead selection – these details make up the technicalities of a good, safe carp rig.

What is a Carp Rig?

A carp rig is how you go about adding tackle to the end of your mainline.

You are trying to present your hook bait the best you can, in the right conditions, to maximise your chances of hooking a carp.

The four main areas to focus on which include:

Choosing a Lead System
Hooklink Length and Material
Hook Size & Pattern
Hook Bait


These make up the bulk of any carp rig.

An exception to this rule would be surface fishing – where all you need is a hook and bait directly attached to your mainline that you cast out onto the surface.

This method is excellent in the warmer months when carp cruise near the surface.

Carp Rig Selection

Learning to put together a few rigs will help you considerably, and we would suggest making these up at home beforehand to maximise your fishing time.

However, selecting the right rig for the right situation can be tricky for those just getting into the sport.

(If you want to skip this part, just head on over to our fantastic Carp Rig Guide!)

So, let’s discuss a few things to consider when selecting a carp rig to use;

Lake Features – Are you fishing in (mainly)  open water? Any weedy areas or reeds? Don’t neglect margins & gravel bars which can be great areas to target.

Locating Carp Carp like to patrol certain features or hold up in safe areas. Find these, and you’re onto a winner!

Use all the water in front of you! – Depending on the time of day, wind conditions and seasons, Carp like to move up and down the water column.

Angler pressure – too many lines in the water make for shy and wary carp!

Riggy – by this we mean carp could be ‘switched on’ to certain rigs. Learning a it of local knowledge could help you here.

Feeding Times – Carp feed at varying times throughout the day (commonly at dawn and dusk).

Weather conditions – wind, rain, temperature and air pressure (It’s worth reading about water oxygen levels also!)

Session length – (think baiting campaigns and long term strategie folks)

When choosing a carp rig, understanding and adapting to these conditions could make the difference between a good session and drawing a blank.

Rig Rules

Before we jump into making rigs, there are some important guidelines that carp anglers should be following.

Rig safety – make your carp rig as safe as possible to avoid harming our carp. Drop the lead in weedy areas!

Try to achieve the best bait presentation possible. Test them out in the lake edge or at home by dipping them into a bucket of water so you analyse how they behave.

Think about hook hold – aim for the centre of the bottom lip. You can test how a hook will hold by dragging the rig across the palm of your hand.

Experiment! Learn how your rig works – and try to improve it where you can.

Courtesy of, this guide gives you more insight into using safe carp rigs.


The Simple Hair Rig

The most basic rig around today (and has been since the 1970’s) is the hair rig.

Instead of directly placing a bait onto your hook, a hair rig was designed to present bait next to it using a ‘hair loop’.


Basic Hair Rig

As you can see from the image above, we’ve used a swivel to connect your mainline to your certain rigs

Generally though, this is where your lead system will be (read on for lead systems).

You should then thread the hook length through the hook eye and here, you need to decide how much space there will be between the curve of the hook and your bait.


Hair Rig LengthThese range from 2mm (short hair) to 2cm – it all depends on hook pattern, bait size and rig type.

It’s this area where you should experiment –and is also good practice!

The Knotless Knot – Tieing Your Hook

We wanted to step in here – and explain the knotless knot.

This knot is useful for hair rigs – because there is no need to separate the hair from your hook length material.

It’s also a very tidy knot, and easy to master.

Knotless Knot - Step One

Knotless Knot - Step Two

Knotless Knot - Step Three

Knotless Knot - Step Four


Knotless Knot - Step Five

For those that may prefer a video demonstrating a knotless knot.


Craig’s Tip:

When tieing line to hooks or swivels, you should always moisten the knot first before tightening.

Tighten your knots with something like this steel knot puller from NGT.

Choosing the Hook Length Material

So you’ve mastered tieing the hair part of the rig, but what about hook length material?

Again, there are many choices to choose from.

As with most parts of angling – this requires some thought.

Water clarity, depth, and terrain all make the difference when choosing the type of hook length.

The three main materials used are braid, fluorocarbon and mono – all have their own unique styles and behaviours.

Today, mono is less frequently used due to the better properties of braid and fluorocarbon.


Wide range of colours
Variety of stiffness/suppleness
Covers a more variety of rigs
Very Dense
Fast Sinking
Ideal for use in clear water
Same light refraction properties as water

As you can see, each material has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Monofilament is a single strand of nylon and commonly called ‘mono’ – as mentioned, isn’t used as much as these days.

(check out some great monoline such as Shimano’s Aero or Korda’s Subline)

It is cheap, common and has good knot strength as well as low visibility and a good colour retention. It does absorb water easily which effectively increases its stretch and exposure to UV light.


Korda Subline

Fluorocarbon can be bought in varying strengths and thickness.

It carries very low visibility, is denser than water making it sink quickly and does not absorb any water either.

It’s more expensive than mono, can be used for a wide range of knots and is a lot stiffer which suits certain rigs. It’s roughly twice the price of mono.

Much loved by anglers as a leader material due to its sinkability and disguise.

If you fancy giving fluorocarbon a try, we highly recommend Airflo Sightfree or Grey’s GX.



Fluorocarbon Line

Fluorocarbon is without doubt the best hooklength to use if the lake is very clear.

This is due to similar light refraction properties as water, thus almost completely ‘hiding’ your hooklength from wary carp.

Another great thing about fluorocarbon is that it sinks to the bottom very fast so you can be sure your rig is ‘pinned down’ with confidence.

Braid (sometimes called microfilament) is strands of polyethylene that are fused together.

There is no stretch, it doesn’t absorb water and is more supple than mono or fluoro. In its common form, it’s susceptible to abrasion and colour fading so coated braid can be bought to combat this.

It does let itself down when it comes to tying knots (only certain ones can be used such as a Palomar knot).

It is also a highly visible material and tangles can occur more frequently as well.

Available for about the same price as fluoro, braid shines through when it comes to distance casting and strike detection especially with a high strength braided line.


Carp Rig Braid

Braid options include colour, stiffness, suppleness and strength.

Coated braid allows you ‘peel’ back the outer nylon to reveal a supple material that is most often used to allow the hook to turn freely and be used in a pop-up rig.

What Lead Systems are there?

The two most commonly used lead systems is either a ‘fixed’ or ‘running’ type set-up.

A fixed system utilises a lead clip, illustrated below.

You could use an inline lead that is also fixed, or semi-fixed.


carp lead clip setup


A running lead set up generally involves using an inline lead, like this one:


inline lead system


Both lead set-ups offer varying benefits.

Again, think about the lay of the lake bed and the time of year which may affect which one is more suitable.

For example, using an inline ‘fixed’ lead when fishing over a hard bottom, such as gravel, gives the hooklength more weight during a bite and really sets the hook.

During the colder months when carp tend to move around slowly, a running rig gives a more ‘sensitive’ bite indication which is required.

Use a running rig on more softer lake bottoms as opposed to a fixed, heavier led otherwise the lead could bury down deep into the lake bed which gives the carp leverage to unhook itself!

How about learning to make your own carp leads from home?

A cheap, easy alternative to buying them!

Hook Sizes and Patterns

Carp hooks have really improved over the years, today, the quality, sharpness and strength are much improved.

Common hook sizes range from 4 to 8 with maybe a 10 or 12 for zig rigs.


carp hook sizes


Gone are the days of sifting through a new pack of hooks to find that one pin prick sharp hook.

Almost all are now exceptionally sharp.

If this is something you’re really worried about, you can now purchase hook sharpening kits to keep your hooks ultra sharp and can save you money in the long term!

To check the sharpness, place the hook slightly over your finger nail. It should stick in straight away and not drag along it.

Hook patterns have also really evolved.

This is because some rigs require a wider ‘gape’ or a longer shank to work properly.

Other rigs may also require an inward or outward facing ‘eye’ to achieve it’s desired effect.


Inward Facing Eye

inward facing eye carp hook

Very common due to ease of its turn when a carp is hooked. We recommend rig that uses a knotless knot and braid for this hook.
Upward Facing Eye

upwards facing eye carp hook

Ideal for a stiff rig presentation as the hook will remain straight.
Straight Hook

straight hook

Not used much but great for on the top fishing.
 Shank Hooks

shank carp hook

 Turn very easily meaning they are effective at hooking carp. Ideal for big, wary carp.


As for the hook size, smaller hooks tend to be lighter and less conspicuous meaning theres less chance of it been detected.

You may be sacrificing the gape size though!

Bigger hooks will naturally have a higher strength rating – enough to cope with a huge carp.

With larger hooks comes a bigger bait – which is less likely to be taken by a pest fish such as tench.

It’s worth noting that if you’re using a double bait, like you would with a snowman rig, this will sit nicely against a big hook.

So – the bigger the hook, the heavier and harder it is to disguise your bait.

You should learn how to balance hook size with bait size, as some rigs could require slight changes.

It’s also worth checking how sharp each hook is every time you apply one to your rig.

If you’re interesting in learning how to sharpen hooks, this video will explain what to use.



Swivels are mainly used for attaching mainline to your hook length, or used for heli or chod rigs for example.

Micro ring swivels can be used to slide onto your hook if using a 360 rig (your bait is able to turn all the way around your hook) Using a size 8 swivel is common

Typical types include rolling, micro, quick link, flexi ring or big eyed swivel.

Your swivels need to be reliable – as is often your last connection to the carp!


Carp swivels

Baiting Needle

Used to thread your bait through say, a hair rig, a baiting needle is a useful tool.

Some anglers are happy to use a needle for everything, others may prefer varying sizes or hook differentials.

A latch needle is useful for boilies or particles or a finer needle is better for softer baits such as soft pellets, sweetcorn or even splicing.



carp bait needle

If you require your line to be threaded through harder material such as wood or stringers – a heavy latch needle is stronger and preferable for the task in hand.

For really technical tasks such as making hair rigs from braid, you could buy a braided hair needle which is specific for this to avoid tangling in the braid fibres.

Leadcore can be spliced with the strongest needle you can find!

Bait Stops

The final piece of the jigsaw! A bait stop can be a variety of things, but the mot important thing it needs to do is to keep your bait secured properly.



A Selection of Bait Stops


You can buy various shapes, colours and sizes – but your choice depends on the bait used.

You need a size that fits snug against the bait with which the colour needs to blend into its surroundings.

Types include boilie screws, extend stops, boilie stops, pellet bands, maggot clips and hair stops.

Carp Rig Checklist

There are many other bits and pieces that can make up a rig.

When learning a rig for the first time, find out what components are used.

These may include:

  • Anti-tangle sleeves – used to keep your rig tangle free. Placed onto the swivel that connects your lead system to your hook length.
  • O rings – used as part of the hair rig section
  • Swivels – to connect line together
  • Shrink Tube – placed around the eye of the hook to improve the gape
  • Bait Floss – used to attached bait
  • Putty – used to weight down sections of line or as part of a critically balanced bait
  • Sinkers – again, for weight purposes
  • Kwik Links – easy alternative to the swivel allowing a quick change of rig

Oh, and steam! (used to straighten out parts of a rig)

That wraps up everything the beginner needs to get started with carp rigs.

Put together a hair rig, play around with all the elements we’ve mentioned, and welcome to the world of rig construciton!


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