Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

10 January 2008

More 'rigs' - Heaven help us!

My last piece on using circle hooks written by Peter Finnis evoked a follow up from my pal Nigel Bevis. I knew that Peter would be like to see it but I though it was also of general interest so here are Nigel's words of wisdom. Both of these pieces talk a lot of good fishing sense so I only hope and pray that this is not the top of the slippery slope to the 'carp rig' syndrome. I'm sure that the readers of my website are much too sensible to get involved in all that nonsense (mind you - it does seem to sell magazines).

Hi Mike,

It was really interesting to read the comments from Peter Finnis on circle hooks. His observations confirmed some things that I had begun to believe my self and throws doubt on others.

As you know I have spent many hours squinting into the darkness from clean (ish) shingle beaches, with all manner of baits lobbed a short distance behind the breaking swell, sometimes with success more often without. It is the truth though that when Neptune smiles on me he usually gives up a better than average bass (5lbish upwards). That said, these nights could never be described as hectic - not by any stretch of the imagination - with the fruitful session producing a single (or very occasionally two) fish. If I have learnt anything from these long contemplative trips is that; if you want to catch bigger fish then give yourself “the edge” by fishing a bigger bait. It’s not that bigger mouths won’t eat a small meals, its just that more often than not the “small portion” is completely devoured by a piranha-like smaller mouth of eel, rockling or pout before anything else gets a look-in.

As the “better” fish do not exactly seem to be “thick on the ground” anywhere I fish and the takes induced by bigger baits are often violent and almost always happen just at the point when my mind begins to wander (if not actually Log off and close down), hence solid “hook ups” cannot be taken for granted. A bite to hooking ratio of about 3 to 1 seemed to be about right when I used a single J hook (4-6/0) in say a whole mackerel fillet. The real problems came up when using my all time favourite bass dead bait - a mackerel head and guts hooked through both lips so that point and barb exited through the top of the “nose”. When fished on a very light ledger a H&G certainly produces a lot bass attention but getting the hook to transfer out of the hard bony bait and into the lip of the bass is the Devil's own job. Giving loads of time for the run to develop usually results in a dropped bait or a very deep hooked fish. My natural progression then, was to Pennell rigs, the advantage being that the second or “top” hook is never “masked” by the bait and when a H&G is lip hooked by the bottom hook only and the top hook slid down to just touch the fish head it is completely outside of the bait. Fished like this, a H&G seldom fails to hook up, providing the target fish is big enough to engulf the bait (not that huge when it comes to bass). The first fish I had on this rig was a little-un of about 2lb or so which hit the bait so hard and fast that when I came look in its mouth I couldn’t even see the bait or top hook and it appeared to have swallowed most of the trace as well.

This brings me neatly on to circle hooks:

Our early experimentation with circle hooks for pike and my own inability to consistently and cleanly hook bass on dead baits spawned my “big hook/Small hook” rig, almost identical but nowhere near as neat and refined as Peter’s (I’ll attach a piccy at the end), incidentally I am reluctant to call it a 'Hair Rig' as this implies that bass and carp have something in common other than H2O and fins.

The advantage of a small fragile "bait holder” hook tied close to shank of a large 'hooking' circle hook, either with a knotless knot and a bit of electrical shrink tube like me, or the professional way with Dacron and witchcraft like Peter, is that the 'hooking' hook is never masked so it is free to do its job and being a circle hook, even if it is taken deep it invariably slides out to neatly grab the lip or scissors. I particularly prefer a smaller circle hook (say a size 1) as the bait holder as these are still more likely to hook in the lip than anywhere else if the larger hook fails to and are generally strong enough to cope with better fish (within reason!).

This rig works equally as well with live baits as it does with H&G’s, although I would recommend crushing the barb on the big hook to aid unhooking but leaving the barb intact on the smaller hook to discourage live baits from escaping. Like Peter I occasionally use this rig for side hooking a dead whole fish or squid, in which case I too impale the bait on the small hook in the region of the pectoral fin then secure the bait with elastic or W.H.Y. so it lies head down on the trace. However, I believe (but stand to be corrected) that most predators turn their prey to swallow it head first (direction of least resistance), I therefore want my hook to be the first thing that goes into the fishes mouth, in which case it needs to be near the head end of the bait, not the tail as Peter prefers. For dead baits of this type it’s easier if the small bait holder hook is a J type as small circles are tricky to push into the side of a bait fish.

I have also put together a wire pike trace (pic 3) with short wire loop instead of a bait holder hook, the idea is to use a boilie type baiting needle to pull the loop through the top lip of a live bait and secure with a “stop” (half a match stick) through the loop. I have only tried it once and it proved very fiddly with cold hands, I didn’t have the right kind of baiting needle or indeed any matches. On the plus side the live baits seemed to swim of freely none the worse for the experience (more thought is need here or is just over complication I ask myself?).

Nothing is new is it? When looking for one of my big hook/small hook traces to photograph (pic 1) I came across a livebaiting trace (pic 2) I must have tied in the early 80’s for fishing Chesil or similar. It too has a big hook and a small hook, the difference here is that the small hook is intended to be baited with a worm or small fish strip to catch an “in situ” live bait like a small pout or poor cod. I seem to remember that this small hook proved to be irresistible to dogfish – very useful!.

Regards Nige.

He then added.


Feel free to use this on the site or pass on to Peter and to edit or use you wish, I also have some thoughts about free rotation of hooks with in–turned or out-turned eyes but I’m tired now. I leave that for another day.

All the best Nige

I'm all agog for the next episode. My pal Phil hotton then sent the following comment.

Hello, Mike,

Having read your recent posting re live-bait/large dead-bait rigs, here is one that I was taught by a skipper several years ago in order to increase hook-ups when using live launce. Apologies if you are familiar with it already! Hook one is snelled onto the trace - a clockwise loop with a diameter of 1.5 inches being laid along the shank and the tag-end being taken over and through it 6-8 times, then pulled tight up to the eye. Ideally that should leave a tag of 4 or so inches, to which the second hook is attached. The launce/whatever is then lip hooked using the 'up' hook, as it were, and the 'bottom' one lightly nicked through the skin some three inches back from the head, positioned as it would on a shad. The slack in the line to this hook allows the bait to swim naturally [or more naturally, anyway]. Using this method, success rate with takes is significantly increased.

Best regards,


Forgot to say that the 'up' hook should not have the line through the eye when being snelled - which allows the hook [and the bait!] to move much more freely.


I don't suppose that this is the last word about live/deadbait rigs but there must be enough to show anyone the way to get going.

Nigel's bighook/small hook rig.

Neat and obviously effective.

Old style.

tied up in 1980 for ? cod fishing.


I can see how it might work but I expect I'll stick to 'liphooking'.

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