A rig (also called a trace) is simply the end tackle (hooks, swivels, links and so on) which is attached to the line and cast into the sea. Rigs are made up of various items of terminal tackle with anglers either creating their own rigs or buying them ready-made from a tackle shop or an online retailer.
Reading sea fishing magazines, books or some websites can give the impression that making rigs is complicated and difficult but this is not the case. Very simple rigs can catch fish, and simple rigs will often outfish complicated ones. This page considers the different types of rigs which can be made and used in UK sea fishing and includes links to components for sale on Amazon or Sea Angling Shop which will open in a new window.
Making Rigs and Components
There is a huge range of ready-made rigs available to anglers from online retailers and fishing tackle shops. However, most anglers will build up a supply of terminal tackle and use this to tie their own rigs, allowing them to make rigs to their own specifications and exactly tailored to the species of fish they are targeting and the marks they are fishing.
The key terminal tackle items used in making rigs for UK sea fishing are listed below:
- Top Swivel – This provides a point to clip or tie the rig onto the mainline and also eliminates line twist which can damage and weaken line.
- Link or Clip – This is used to clip the weight onto the rig and is also essential as failure to include this link would lead to line damage and safety issues when casting.
- Rig Body Line – The rig body should be made with strong line (of at least 60lb breaking strain) to resist abrasion with rocks and the seabed and to ensure that the rig is strong enough to take the power of casting. Furthermore, if crimps are used they can damage line weaker than 60lbs breaking strain.
- Snoods (also known as hooklengths) – These are lengths of line which branch off from the rig body and terminate in a hook. Generally, sea fishing rigs have one, two or three snoods. The best way of attaching them to the rig body is with a trapped swivel, although in cheaper, simpler rigs a dropper knot can be used. Line such as WSB Specimen Mono is a good choice for snoods as it is memory free, meaning it stays straighter and is much less likely to tangle than normal monofilament.
- A range of other components and accessories can be added to a rig such as impact shields, cascade swivels, bait clips and rotten bottoms/weak link releases. These are considered in more detail below.
Types of Rig
Rigs are either flapping (with the snoods and hooks free to flap around during the cast), or clipped down (where the hooks are clipped behind an impact shield or bait clip). Flapping rigs are used when fishing close in, for example when casting into deep water from a pier, or when fishing from a beach for species which come into shallow water such as flounder. When fishing over clean ground flapping rigs can include up to three hooks as this will create a stronger scent trail and allow three different baits to be used. Clipped down rigs are used when anglers want to reach maximum casting distance, such as when fishing from a beach where long casts are needed to reach fish in deeper water.
When fishing from a rough ground mark anglers generally use simpler rigs with fewer components as this means there are fewer terminal tackle items to get snagged, and if rigs have fewer components they are cheaper to construct meaning losing a lot of rigs to snags is less costly to the angler. In rough ground rigs the link is often replaced with some kind of rotten bottom or weak link release such as a Breakaway Escape Link, Gemini Breaker or another form of rotten bottom clip. Weak links and rotten bottoms cut down on tackle losses by allowing the weight to break free if it is snagged and the rest of the rig (and any hooked fish) to be reeled in.
General Advice on Making Sea Fishing Rigs
Swivels and hooks should be tied to the line using the uni knot, as this is the simplest, strongest and most streamlined knot that can be tied with monofilament line. When it comes to attaching snoods to the rig body the trapped swivel method is the most commonly used. This involves gently pressing crimps in place on the rig body line. Specialist crimping pliers should always be used as they are specifically designed for this job and using normal pliers runs the risk of damaging the line. As stated above crimps should not be fitted to line less than 60lbs breaking strain as they can damage weaker lines. Many rigs also feature a sequin and neoprene stop knot on the hooklength. This is because impact with the water can sometimes force baits up the hooklength and away from the hook – a stop knot and sequin ensure that this will not happen, and the sequin also offers added attraction to fish (click here to read how to make stop knots with neoprene). More information on other components and accessories which can be added to rigs can be found on the terminal tackle page on this website, while further information on hooks can be found on this page.
Many anglers do not have the time to make their own fishing rigs and therefore buy ready-made rigs, whereas some people who are new to fishing begin by using ready-made rigs and then start to make their own once their knowledge increases. There are a huge number of ready-made rigs on the market with a rig available for almost every sea fishing situation. The cost can vary considerably. Simple, single hook paternoster rigs can be fairly cheap but the price rises for more complex rigs which incorporate bait clips, impact shields or cascade swivels. Many anglers are happy to buy pre-tied rather than making their own and rigs from reputable manufacturers are high-quality and reliable and proven to catch fish. The range of Cronus Sea Fishing Rigs – all hand-tied in the UK – are available at Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.
Rig Damage and Re-using Rigs
All rigs are designed to be re-used. However, after even a single fishing session a rig can become damaged and can even become unsafe to use if the line is damaged. The type of fishing also plays a part in how much damage a rig takes as fishing a rock/rough ground mark which will take more of a toll on rigs and terminal tackle than fishing on a clean, sandy beach. It is therefore important to check each rig after a fishing session to ensure it is still in usable condition. Rinse the rig in cold water (to remove salt which will clog up swivels and corrodes metal) and dry off excess water with kitchen roll. Check all of the line to ensure there are no nicks, cuts or abrasion damage and if any are present the rig should not be used again – a snood snapping could lose a good fish, while a damaged rig body could snap and send a weight flying down a beach. After this check all hooks to ensure that they have not become bent when pulling out of snags or over rocks and ensure that the points are still sharp and haven not been blunted by being dragged over sand or rocks. If the rig is in good condition it can be placed back into the rig wallet to use again once it is fully dry. Partially damaged rigs may be repairable (i.e. trying on a new hook snood if this is the only part needing replacing), but with rigs with a lot of damage, it is best never to use them again. If this is the case then all of the usable components such as swivels, hooks and links can of course be cut off and used to construct a new rig.
Components and Tools Needed to Make Rigs
The following tools are useful when making and storing rigs:
- Line Clippers – Either specialist line clippers or a set of small scissors or clippers are needed to cut line to the right length and clip away tag ends after tying knots.
- Crimping Pliers – An essential tool to safely and securely press crimps to line. As stated specialist purpose-bought crimping pliers should be used.
- Knot Puller – An inexpensive tool which can be used for pulling knots tight when it is awkward to grip or hold a swivel, hook or other item of terminal tackle.
- Rig Wallet – Very useful for storing rigs once they are completed and taking them on a fishing session. Rig winders – foam discs that have rigs wrapped around them – are becoming a popular alternative (or addition) to using rig wallets. Sets of ten Rig Winders are available from Sea Angling Shop for £4.79.
- Terminal Tackle Bits Boxes – Larger boxes can be used to store terminal tackle components at home, while smaller boxes can be used to take a selection of clips, links and hooks fishing.
Most anglers who have been sea fishing for several years will have built up a supply of terminal tackle components which they can use to make rigs. The following list is far from exhaustive, but having all of the components listed below will allow every single rig featured on this website to be made. Clicking on the links will open a new window to Amazon or Sea Angling Shop to view and purchase the product.
- Very large hooks: For anglers fishing for the largest species such as skate, conger and top anglers may use hooks up to size 8/0, such as Cronus’s Dark O’Shaughnessy hooks which are available in sizes 5/0 – 8/0. Alternatively, WSB Tackle’s Mono Conger Trace consists of a size 8/0 hook attached to a length of 200lbs monofilament.
- Large/strong hooks: When fishing for species such as cod, big bass or pollock large and strong hooks should be used such as Cronus O’Shaughnessy hooks, which come in sizes up to 6/0. Kamasan B950u Uptide Hooks are another pattern of hook which is strong and reliable and favoured by anglers fishing for large species.
- General sea Fishing hooks: Size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks are the best choice for general sea fishing as they are small enough to catch fish weighing around 1lb such as small bass, coalfish and whiting, but can also handle any larger specimens which come along. Kamasan B940 Aberdeen Hooks are ideal hooks for this purpose, as are Cronus Silver Aberdeen Hooks.
- Smaller hooks: Rigs for smaller species such as flounder, dab and pouting should be made with size 1 hooks. Cronus Black Aberdeen hooks are lightweight but strong and would be a good choice.
- Mini species hooks: When targeting small species such as rockling, topknot and poor cod Cronus Flatfish hooks in sizes 4 – 6 are ideal.
- 60lb breaking strain line for rig body – Trace Builder 60lb Clear Rig Body Line is a good choice for making sea fishing rigs.
- 15 – 30lb b.s. memory-free line (for hook snoods) – Amnesia Snood Line is an excellent memory free line and is popular with UK anglers, as is WSB Specimen Mono.
- 10lb breaking strain line for weak links.
- 10lb breaking strain power gum/neoprene rig tubing – for stop knots.
- Large swivels (size 1)
- Medium swivels (size 2 to 4)
- Small (snood) swivels (size 6)
Cronus Black Nickel Swivels are ideal for rig making. They are high quality and available in the above sizes, with prices start at just 79p for a packet of twenty. View and purchase by clicking here.
All Other Terminal Tackle items (with links to purchase):
- Cronus Teardrop Links – essential for clipping weights to rigs.
- Simple Rotten Bottom Clips – for making cheap rough ground rigs.
- Crimps – needed to trap swivels when making rigs.
- Micro rig beads (3 – 4mm) – used to trap swivels.
- 8mm beads and 6mm beads can be used as attractors or to trap swivels.
- Sequins – used as a bait stop and attractor.
- Breakaway Impact Shields – used to clip down and protect baits.
- Bait Clips – a cheaper way of clipping down baits.
- Pulley beads – an essential component in the pulley rig.
- Cascade swivels – used to clip down multiple hooks in a rig.
- Drilled Bullet weights or Cylinder Weights – used to add weight in float rigs, or to add casting weight to a light jelly lure.
- Sea Fishing Floats or ready-made Float Kits – if summer float fishing will be carried out.
Sets and Collections
Sets of terminal tackle which contain a selection of different terminal tackle items are available from Sea Angling Shop. As well as providing a saving compared to buying all of the items individually these terminal tackle sets allow anglers to quickly and easily acquire the items necessary to make a range of rigs:
- Sea Angling Shop New Filled Component Box – This set contains nine different terminal tackle items including Cronus sea fishing hooks in a number of different sizes, teardrop links, rig beads, attractor beads, crimps, snood swivels and top swivels. This allows anglers to make their own rigs or to top up their terminal tackle collection with new terminal tackle products. Available for only £6.49.
- Sea Angling Shop New Hook Selection – A wide range of hooks from sizes #4 to 4/0 are included in this set, meaning that anglers will have everything they need to catch the wide range of species found around the UK. The patterns of hook featured in this set include Cronus Aberdeen, O’Shaughnessy and baitholder hooks and Angling Works circle hooks. In total seventy individual hooks are included in this set. Available for only £7.49.
- Sea Angling Shop Complete Terminal Tackle Collection – This set contains a total of eighteen terminal tackle items including Trace Builder rig line, WSB Specimen snood line, Cronus hooks, links, rig beads, attractor beads, clips and bait shields. Indeed, this set contains everything anglers need to make all of the major rigs used in UK sea fishing. Available for £24.99.
Many anglers start out purchasing ready-made rigs and then move on to buying their own components and slowly building up a supply of terminal tackle items so that they can build rigs to suit the species they target. Most anglers take a selection of rigs with them on a fishing trip so that they can change and adapt their tactics depending on how the fishing session develops. For example and angler may start fishing with a rig using a size 4/0 hook to catch cod, but if they are not biting having a supply of rigs will allow him or her to swap to a multi-hook rig with size 1 hooks to target smaller species such as whiting or flounder which may be present. Conversely, an angler being plagued with small species such as pouting taking the bait he or she has cast out may switch to a rig with a size 4/0 hook or larger in the hope that smaller fish cannot take this bait into their mouths and it will instead attract a large bass or cod. Creating a selection of rigs and then choosing the correct rig for a given sea fishing situation is an important aspect of sea fishing and one that all anglers enjoy developing over the time they go sea fishing.