While fishing for carp has yet to take off in the US, in the UK, it’s a national obsession.
These massive fish are more than capable of putting up a memorable fight, but you can leave the lures at home. Largely herbivorous, carp search the bottom for their meals, routine through the mud, silt, or sand for food.
The bait of choice for these gentle giants is a “boily” or simple corn.
But you can’t just skewer a boily with a hook, and you’re going to need a rig to have a chance at a bite.
Enter the Hair Rig, an ideal way to present a boily and a sharp hook.
It’s the first rig any carp angler should learn, and it’ll be one you return to time and time again.
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Related: Best Fishing Rigs
What is a Hair Rig?
In the UK and continental Europe, where carp are a pressured fish, they’ve learned to be wary of a baited hook.
The Hair Rig is an invention that distances the bait from the hook just enough to attract carp, while keeping the hook where it will still snag your fish by the jaw.
That small gap between the boily and the hook means everything, and it’s the secret to the hair Rig’s success.
Why Use a Hair Rig?
Carp anglers in the UK aren’t typically allowed to take boats out on carp ponds and lakes, and thus they need a heavily-weighted rig and long rod to allow for long casts. The Hair Rig allows the use of very heavy in-line sinkers, helping to explain its popularity across the pond.
But American anglers don’t have that problem, and super-long casts really aren’t a necessity where boats can be used.
But the Hair Rig’s cult-like following isn’t strictly won by its ability to attach heavy sinkers: it’s an ideal way to trick a big carp into sucking down a hook with a boily.
Carp are wary fish, and if they detect a hook, it’s game over.
The Hair Rig leaves the boilie hook-free, enticing the carp to suck the whole rig into its mouth.
How to Assemble a Hair Rig
If you’d prefer not to tie your own, pre-tied Luroad hair rigs are available in the US.
For American anglers, the steps should be as follows:
- Starting with approximately 24 inches of strong mono or braid, tie a simple overhand knot to form a small loop. Wet your line, and cinch down the knot.
- Trim the tag end of the loop.
- Run the opposite end of your line--the one opposite the loop--through the back of your hook’s eye.
- Adjust the length of the hair to just about 2 inches.
- Holding the hair and hook in your right hand, carefully wrap the hook from the eye with 7 turns of line.
- Run the free end of the line back through the eye.
- Tie a Surgeon’s Knot at the end of your leader.
- Wet and tighten your knots.
- Trim the remaining tag end.
- Using a baiting needle, pull the end of the hair through a boilie, leaving the small loop you created in the first step exposed.
- Place a stop in that loop below the boilie and wet and cinch-down your knot.
- Crimp split shot a few inches below your rig to keep the boily from floating.
- Finally, attach your leader with a Uni Knot to a swivel sinker.
Carp hooks like the Gamakatsu G Carp Specialist R are specialized tackle, and if you’re tying a Hair Rig, it’s a good idea to go ahead and use one.
Depending on how large the carp are where you’re fishing, you can use a #8 all the way up to a #2, though the smaller hooks in that range work well on the vast majority of fish.
Carp hooks are short shank, narrow gap, and strong, strong, strong.
In Europe, where extra-long casts are the norm, hard hooksets demand braid like Sufix 832. And where the bottom is free from abrasive debris, which it typically is in shallow, sandy-bottomed ponds and lakes, braid is an excellent choice for carp fishing.
I’ll typically use 30-pound Sufix 832 for carp, and it’s more than stout enough for big fish.
Where abrasion is a problem, I’ll switch to strong mono like Berkley Trilene Big Game in 20-pound test.
Why Use a Swivel Sinker?
Unless you need to snap cast like a surf angler - as is common in the UK - you can stick with a simple swivel sinker like the Sinrier Quick Set. They’re very easy to rig and far more available in the US than the in-line sinkers preferred in Europe.
Available in weights a wide range of weights, I’d recommend starting with the #8 and moving heavier only if you need the extra casting distance.
The Hair Rig plays a diabolical trick on carp, separating the hook and the bait to entice wary fish to take a hook they never feel.
Perhaps the best general carp rig out there, it’s definitely an option every fisherman should learn to assemble and fish.
I hope you’ve learned something from this article, and if you have any questions, remember we’re here to answer them!
Please leave a comment below.