There are few articles written about barbel rigs because, let’s face it, they aren’t usually that difficult to hook. But there are considerations to be made and some of the dog’s dinners I’ve seen anglers using or have found on the river bank have made me shudder.
Let’s get one thing straight from the off – barbel are not carp. Most coarse fishing tackle is fine, It does what it says on the tin. If you use carp tackle, especially lead clips, you are risking damage or death to fish in the event of a break off. I have recovered rigs with lead clips that I have had difficulty pulling apart with my hands so a tired, tethered barbel would have no chance.
Tried and tested
Over the years I have tried numerous adaptations on a theme and have made all the mistakes that everybody else makes but, I have kept experimenting. I now have a rig that I haven’t changed for two or three seasons which means that I am quite happy with it. It ticks all the boxes and I believe that it is just about perfect – the only one I and hopefully you, will ever need.
The hook and leader are adaptable to conditions, more of that later. The important part for me is where the lead connects to the hooklink. This area is where we have to place most consideration to the fish’s welfare as a fish towing a lead is in severe danger. Also, and of great concern to me, was the number of times I lost a fish when the leader wrapped around the lead link. A barbel in full panic flight will make short work of most leader materials if they are tangled around a lead or link swivel, recovering a short, broken hooklink is usually a sign that this has happened.
I tried beads, sometimes two or three in a row between the swivel and link swivel to create a stand off effect and this usually worked but not always, the same is true of tail rubbers. Using a link swivel is always liable to create a tangle just by virtue of the amount of drop from the main line. Any movement of your lead as it rolls along the bottom, something we often do to provoke a take, is likely to tie the whole lot into a knot.
THE Barbel Rig
So, let’s get to the point – Korda anti tangle sleeves (Kats), the answer to the barbel angler’s prayer. The pictures will show what I am on about. Immediately it is apparent that the stand off effect is exaggerated which helps us no end. But the clever bit comes when we eliminate the swivel from the link to the lead. By taking the swivel out of the equation we remove most of the problems associated with tangles.
By using just the link and attaching it directly onto the Kats we create a semi-fixed, self-hooking rig that is generally what we are looking for when barbel angling. The taper of the sleeve allows us to fine tune the amount of tension on the link and, in the event of the fish snapping you off and by carefully attaching the link at the correct point on the Kats, the lead will easily slip off and the fish will not become tethered. It really is simplicity itself and works with leads and feeders.
But, I hear you ask, what about when I want to use a running lead? Easy, just slide the link off the Kats and away you go, a running lead.
If you want to be cute and, in true Boy Scout manner, prepared, simply add a bead above the Kats when you set up. Now, if you are roving and altering your approach in different swims, you simply reattach the link above the bead which will stop it from riding up the Kats and give you a perfect running rig. You can even tease the bead over the end of the Kats for a neater set up.
You can even do away with the swivel at the end of your mainline and use a quick-change link. This allows you to switch and swap your terminal gear as well as going from fixed to running lead with the absolute minimum of fuss.
My last bit of fine tuning is to cover anything shiny (usually the link which can become shiny when its been on gravel for a while), with bits of modelling clay which will stay in place as there are no moving parts such as you have when using a link and swivel.
For the bit between the Kats and the hook, well that’s a whole article in itself. I am certain that many of you have your own opinions of hooklinks and I have tried them all. For the record, I generally start off with a length of Fluorocarbon which gives me a hooklink that will sink and sit well on the bottom. This may go directly to the hook or, when I feel it is necessary, I will form a combi-rig by attaching a short braided hooklink to the fluoro via a mini swivel.
There you have it, a simple rig with minimal bits and pieces needed to construct it which means less odds and ends to carry with you. If you stick to this simple set up you will find it efficient and adaptable to all of your barbel fishing needs.
Written by Dave Burr