Helicopter Rigs

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.

Sliding over second piece of shrink tube

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).

Lead clip

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.

Finished tubing and bead

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.

Loop to Loop

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.

Finished rig

There is also a swivel version of each leader for use with in-line leads or lead release clips.

Lead Clips and In-lines

Without doubt, the most popular method of lead set ups in use in the UK at the moment is the lead release clip.

Use Pin to attach to swivel

A lead release clip can also be used safely with leaders but, unlike the heli-rig, the leader will remain attached to the rig should a breakage occur.

Remove hard plastic inner

The principal behind the release clip is that pressure from the front (hook end) of the rig will pull the clip free of the lead should it snag up on anything.

Replace with soft inner

I personally prefer that the lead can detach with just a sharp jerk of the rig and submit my rigs to the same test as I use for the heli-rigs, if you can’t jar it off with a little flick then I am not happy with it!

A lot of carp anglers are paranoid that adjusting the clip so as it is more sensitive (safe) will mean lots of lost leads but remember that they can only detach when the rig is pulled from the hook end. Occasionally when the lead hits a shallow feature at speed it can ‘knock’ the lead free but it is a small price to pay for piece of mind, isn’t it?

On very weedy waters the clip can be trimmed back by cutting the arm back with scissors or just pushing the tail rubber lightly over the clip and, by using a heavy lead, it will discharge as soon as a fish hooks itself. After a fish looses the lead they tend to rise to the surface a lot quicker and it’s not unusual to strike and get an instant boil on the surface of the lake, even in fairly deep water.

Lightly attach tail rubber for easy ejection

When I’m carp fishing, the Zig rigs I use I take one step further and trim the clip back quite severely and, also, I only push the tail rubber up so that it actually sits just under the arm, rather than trapping the arm shut. With careful casting and a slow lowering of the lead to the bottom it will stay on the clip perfectly but, as soon as a fish takes the zig, the lead will fall off. I do this because playing fish on a long hook link where the lead could be left swing around six seven or even ten feet away from the carp can often lead to hook pulls.

For the lead to pull free of the clip; the clip must not be able to pull free of the rig swivel or else the whole lot, lead, clip and all; simply slides back up the line and can cause all sorts of problems during the fight, especially if weed is involved.

This is where the pin system on some lead clips comes in handy as it holds the clip in place on the swivel, I would never consider using a clip that didn’t actually fix to the swivel in one way or another.

Most lead clips are a plastic component and plastic will wear and tear in use, especially if you are catching a few fish or fishing at range with big leads. Keep an eye on the tail rubbers and replace them at the first sign of splitting at either end. A spilt at the pointed end will result in tangles as the hooklink will have something to catch on as it spins around the rubber. A split at the fat end of the tail rubber will seriously affect the pressure needed to release the lead and you may well start dropping leads on impact when you cast.

Also the arm that the lead is mounted on, in time, will weaken slightly and this should also be checked regularly, the clips are not overly expensive and you get ten in a packet so replace them as needed.

If your preference is for an in-line lead set up, which in reality is the most tangle free of all, then I would recommend removing the hard plastic insert and replacing it with a softer safety sleeve, these can be bought in packs of ten and are not overly expensive, they will add to the safety of the finished set-up. A lot of in-line leads are supplied with ‘hard’ plastic inners and most of these fail to pass my ‘bounce’ test for safety, I find the soft versions far safer. Obviously though, as with a helicopter set up, the in-line lead will always stay attached during the fight and, because of this, I wouldn’t recommend either in extremely weedy conditions as the lead can snag up and hinder the fight.

A recent big mirror taken on a zig and quick release lead


How to tie a solid PVA bag

Firstly I’m going to start with the rig; it’s not too complicated but I would suggest you  use in-line leads for the rig to be more effective, rather than a lead clip set up or helicopter set up, because you want the heaviest end of the lead to bed the hook in the carps mouth.

The components you will need to tie this rig with are:

  • Nash fang twister size 10
  • Fox micro rig rings,
  • TFG putty,
  • Korda shrink tube
  • Korda supernatural 18lb
  • Nash Triggalink

Rig Tieing components

Any other braided material, hook, putty, can be used in this rig, but Nash Triggalink is a must as it is the only stretchy braid on the market that I know of, and is what makes the rig so effective. When the fish picks up your hook bait and feels the weight of the lead, the carp will try and drop the hook – but the stretchiness of the Triggalink will act as a shock absorber and will reduce the chance of the hook pulling.

To tie the rig, you start by cutting off 4 inches of korda 18lb supernatural braid, then tie a hair for your chosen bait and place your bait on the hair. In this case I’m using Celtic baits 14mm Le Crunch boilie tipped with a bit of pink fake corn.

Once this is done, slide on a fox micro rig ring, followed by the Nash fang twister. Do a overhand knot to secure the rig ring in place, then do a knot-less knot; I tend to do 5 to 7 turns up the shank of the hook.

Cut off 6 inches of Nash Triggalink, then grab the tag end of the korda supernatural braid and  tie them together by using a double grinner knot, making a combi rig. Cut off the tag ends to neaten up the rig, then slide a bit of korda shrink tube up the braid to your hook. Tie on your swivel before steaming the shrink tubing,  as the Triggalink will retract when it comes in contact with water and make it difficult to tie it to the swivel.

Your rig is nearly complete, but the Triggalink has poor camouflage. This can be overcome by grabbing a bit of TFG putty and rubbing it up and down the Triggalink, this will make it darker in colour and also give it some weight to keep it to the deck (so making it harder for the carp to detect).

Completed Rig

Solid PVA Bagging

I’ve been messing around with this a lot recently, especially in France, and caught some nice fish whilst using this tactic.

The components you will need are:

PVA Bag Components

My preferred size of PVA bags are 70mm x 200mm; these may seem big, but I prefer them as they give me enough material to work with.

Grab a PVA bag then start filling it. I tend to fill about half an inch to an inch of bait, with a mix of ground-bait, boilie crumb micro pellet (the smaller the baits the  tighter the bag).

Mask your hook with a bit of PVA foam, so your hook won’t get any bait on the point whilst filling your PVA bag.

Hook masked

Next, push your hook-bait down the side of the bag and hold up the lead; continue filling the bag until you get halfway up your rig, then pack it down and place your lead in the bag. Continue to fill and pack until you’re happy with the size of the bag.

The reason I like to use big bag is because it can be fiddly using small bags and tying the bags tight. Firstly spilt the seams down the side of the bag, then do one overhand knot on one side of the TFG leader and another overhand on the other side. One more again on the other side, pull down tight, and cut the tag ends to tidy up the bag and make it as aerodynamic as you can.

Final bag and rig

Perform what I call a ‘lick and stick’; lick and stick the edges of the bag and fold them in tidily so you can cast the bag in a straight line and long distances if needed.

One of the carp caught in France with solid PVA bags (34lb 6oz)

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at dan@celticbait.com, or visit www.celticbait.com.

Back to Barbel

I didn’t get to do much barbel fishing last season, but having just acquired a ticket for a pike lake which also has a stretch of river with some prime barbel fishing, I thought it was time to get back out on the banks and try out some new fishing rods like the TF Gear Classic.

Now I may be shooting myself in the foot a bit here, but with the popularity of commercial carp fishing at the moment our riverbanks are almost deserted so finding good fishing isn’t a problem. I’m lucky in that I live only a short distance from some superb barbel fishing, maybe not the record breaking fish of the Ouse but plenty of double figured fish if you put the work into finding them.

Coarse Fishing Tackle Used


I try to keep as mobile as possible so keep the tackle down to a minimum. Most of my barbeling these days is done on the river Wye and I find the Tfgear new Classic barbel rod is spot on for this. Most of the time the 1.5lb test curve is great, sometimes I’ll up it to the 2lb test curve when I need to use a bit more weight to hold bottom, sometimes upto 5oz. I’m not a great fan of carp rods and bite alarms for barbel fishing and this is just a personal choice.

The Author with a Barbel

The Author with a Barbel


I use a baitrunner type reel for my barbel fishing which can be set to give line on the take, barbel takes can be very savage at times and the baitrunner type reel can prevent the rod from being dragged of the rod rest. A good drag system to one of the most important features that any barbel reel can have and I find the Tfgear Force 8 GT free spool perfect.

Main Line

I have to admit that I’m a fan of TFGear grunt braid for most of my barbel fishing except were there are a lot of rocks and snags on the river bed I would then go for TFGear red mist monofilament in 10lb which has great abrasion resistance.

Rigs and Bait

Again I keep things simple with my rigs, a standard running rig with either a braided or fluorocarbon hooklink to a hair rigged hook. Bait wise halibut pellets are still top of the list and have incredible pulling power; I generally decant some of the mixed halibut pellets into a smaller container, just enough for a session. Small mesh pva bags are made up on the bank and just nicked onto the hook. Another great rig is Matt’s time bomb feeder.

Retaining Barbel

One last and very important point, barbel have no place in keepnets but it is also very dangerous especially after a prolong fight to release the fish straight back into a fast flowing river. I always leave the fish resting in the margins in the landing net for a few minutes to let it regain its strength.

A Barbel

A Barbel