Helicopter rigs are being used more and more nowadays, particularly with the recent rise in popularity of the ‘chod rig’ so what makes a ‘safe’ helicopter rig?
To create a helicopter rig it is usually necessary to tie a leadcore leader to the swivel that forms the first part of the hook-link, therefore there is no way that a fish can shed the leader without the rig if a breakage occurs. This obviously applies to monofilament as well but at least 12lb or even 15lb line can possibly be broken free, whereas 45lb braid with a reinforced inner core of lead definitely cannot!
More recently clear or translucent leaders made of plastic coated monofilament have become very popular as a replacement for leadcore but, realistically, they have the same effect when a fish tries to break one. The monofilament inner of these leaders is usually between 35lb and 50lb so they are virtually impossible to break.
Here at TF Gear we have also just recently developed a new style of coated leader, the ‘Lock Down’ that boast a supple braided inner core rather than a stiff monofilament one and this is a big step forward in leader design but obviously must be used safely as well.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that leaders are a bad thing; in fact I use one for practically all of my fishing.
You just have to ensure that, if you do use a leader, it is used safely and in my opinion one of the safest rigs that you can possibly use is one where the hook link can actually detach from the lead core after a breakage, and this is the helicopter rig.
The beauty of the helicopter rig is that, once the top bead has detached from the rig then the hook link can travel up the lead core and pull free, leaving the fish with only a short length of hook link to worry about.
Carp are very adept at working hooks free but the real problems arise when enough line/lead core is trailing behind the fish to ‘tether’ it to objects such as snags or large weed beds.
The fish, once tethered, cannot gain enough slack to eject the hook and due to blind panic, ends up tearing the hook free, damaging its mouth as it does so.
To see if your current method is safe enough first try this simple test.
Take your standard rig and leader/tubing set up, the one that you have on your fishing rods at the moment, dip it in the water first and then hold it up by the bend of the hook (carefully or in forceps) hold it out in front of you and then drop your hand sharply about a foot and stop suddenly.
Don’t snap your hand back up again in a flick, just stop abruptly, if the lead does not detach in one way or another and go crashing to the floor then your rig is, quite simply, a hazard to fish safety and has the possibility to permanently damage a carp!
Carp have no hands and therefore can only use their mouth to ‘pull’ the components apart.
Nowadays I never use leadcore leaders, I have been using either a clear mono coated leader or the braid coated ‘Lock Down’ leaders for every one of my fishing situations and I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to use leadcore again.
If you are using leadcore though, the following method of tying a helicopter rig is about as safe as you can get and I am confident that the hook link can detach every time.
It uses a soft top bead that can easily pull free and leave allows the hooklink to travel freely up the leader, although there are certain ready made heli-leaders that take away all the hardship of creating your own.
The components that I use are a length of lead core, there are many different ones on the market but I prefer one with a nice broken coloration that blends in well with the bottom.
Then you will need a piece of 1.6mm shrink tube, it comes in 50mm lengths and I cut it into sections of two different lengths, 10mm and 15mm.
Next up are two rubber beads but not just any old beads will do, as the choice of beads is the crucial factor that will ensure the safety of the rig.
In the past I have always used the small, soft, green beads from ESP, one 5mm bead and one 8mm version, they have a ‘soft’ and ‘supple’ feel to them and they pass easily over any knots or loops due to the large bore of the hole through them. This is a crucial factor with the top bead and a ‘standard’ bead with a small diameter bore will NOT be safely ejected!
First splice the lead core to form a perfect loop on one end (by perfect I mean one without a visible ‘tag end’) this can take practice but basically you need to tuck less of the braid back in than the amount that the needle has passed through, thereby ‘loosing’ the end along the way. On the other end attach a snap link swivel or lead clip of your choice, also with a splice but slide the swivel onto loop before pulling back through.
Alternatively buy a pre-spliced leader and add your own components.
The first component to go on is a tail rubber and this slides down onto the lead clip. Next thread one of the shorter 10mm pieces of shrink tube onto the lead core and shrink it in a pan of boiling water, positioned about 100mm back from the tail rubber, when it is has shrunk and has cooled, slide one of the longer sections over it and shrink this also. If this outer piece is positioned centrally, this will create a section of thicker tubing with a tapered slope each end to help the bead pass over it.
The tubing should be quite tight and able to be moved up the lead core only with difficulty using fingernail pressure.
Then, using a hook lip baiting needle and the looped end of the lead core, thread on the small bead (large hole first) a size eight uni-link swivel (using the link not the swivel) and then the large bead (small end first).
The components should be arranged as shown and the large bead should not be pushed right onto to shrink tubing, only just located over the end until the tube is just visible, to leave the rig nice and safe. If after reeling in you find that the top bead has detached from the tube then ‘slightly’ more pressure is required when locating the top bead. Large baits and distance casting will create more air resistance and will in turn need a firmer fit and the tension of the large ‘release’ bead can be increased by pushing it on a bit further, but always test it first and use the least ‘bead resistance’ that you can get away with.
This is an easy way of producing an adjustable and very safe lead core rig.
The shrink tube can either be left where it is, pushed into the end of the tail rubber, or positioned higher up the lead core to combat silt or weed or for ‘Chod Rigs’.
The bottom bead can either sit on the shrink tubing to hold the hooklink away from the lead or it can be pushed right over the tube to sit against the lead clip. The crucial ‘safety bead’ though, must be on the shrink tube and not below it.
To attach the finished rig to the mainline simple form a double overhand loop to the end of your mainline and pass it through the splice loop before feeding the whole rig and lead core through, in a loop to loop method.
As have I pointed out earlier though, I now use ready made leaders for all of my fishing; they are so strong and have such perfectly formed loops for attachment to the mainline that I cannot see the need to create my own. The new ‘Lock Down’ leaders have the advantage of being the most supple coated leaders on the market today, being the only ones with a braided core and, working with TFG I have recently designed a ‘super safe’ helicopter bead that is supplied, ready fitted, to the ‘chod’ version of these leaders.
The top bead has an increased hole diameter and slides easily over any knots and the suppleness of the inner braid means the leader will lay perfectly flat along the contours of the lake. By changing the colour of the inner braid we can create semi translucent leaders with a green, brown or black tinge throughout the inner for perfect camouflage.
There is also a swivel version of each leader for use with in-line leads or lead release clips.