A Technical look At Snag Fishing

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting all day, all night, all week or whatever the case may be for a run and then to lose a good carp in snags. In using the term snags, I am referring to things like submerged branches, branches hanging into the water from trees on the waters edge, bouys, old fences, lilies, anchor chains from boats et cetera, which will cause us carp anglers a problem but, will create an area of interest for our quarry.

It’s highly likely that if there are snags in your chosen venue then the carp will often visit and can often be found in the vicinity, chances are they will, and do, feed there regularly too. Both in summer and winter, snaggy areas are a good place to start looking.

So how do we increase our chances of extracting a big carp on a bottom bait from a snaggy situation ? Well, over the course of the next few paragraphs, let me try and give you some food for thought which may well result in a few more fish safely banked.

Location / Accurately Marking The spot

I guess that many of us automatically assume of snags as branches, overhanging trees, or obstructions that can be seen from the surface. Although this may well be the case in many instances, there is often an awful lot going on beneath the surface that we need to know about, both in areas where some of the snag can be seen above the surface and in areas where nothing can be seen at all.

It is essential that areas are plumbed and leaded thoroughly to ascertain the exact extent of the snag and just how solid or bad it is. This may well result in a few lost leads, but it is far better to know what you’re up against, than to lose or risk unecessary damage to a fish.

In one water I fish there is a submerged car in about 20 feet of water, on its roof is an excellent location to present a bait and has seen the downfall of many a big carp. However, put the bait past the side of the car and you stand no chance of getting your rig back, let alone a fish !! We know its a car as we used a boat and diving mask one summer to take a look. Incidentally, did you see the article by Dave Lane on use of boats in the March 2000 Carpworld? Excellent.

I will not worry about sketching a standard plumbing set up as 99 % of us know what it is and how to set it up plus, it has been well documented before in Carpworld.

Another way to check for snags is utilising an echo sounder, this is my preferred method on the continent, for the purposes of this article I will assume we are fishing UK waters where generally boats are not allowed.

It is worth briefly mentioning that once you have done the hard work identifying a snag, it needs to be marked in some way. This can be done in several effective ways ; a) By using an actual marker float attached to your spare rod and then casting your baited hooklink into the position. Retrieve the marker float. b) Placing an actual stand alone marker or catapulting a magic marker to the position. Remove when session over. c) Identify a permanent feature on the other bank / horizon, cast your lead to the snag position and then place an elastic band over the spool, retrieve the lead. Tie on hooklink et cetera and then cast the terminal tackle back towards the snag, which should be easily aimed at with your pre recorded position on the other bank / horizon. The elastic band will stop the line when hookbait reaches the position, be careful not to cast too hard or the rig may ‘bounce back’ and be further away from the snag than you wish. It is possible to feather the cast as the rig approaches the target, this comes with experience so don’t worry if it doesn’t go right on your first cast!

It may also pay to fish your hookbait initially slightly away from the snag utilising a baiting strategy to draw the fish away from the snag. I have found the best way to do this is to put just a few free offerings close to the edge of the snag, increasing amount as you draw nearer the hookbait which is say 3m from the edge of the snag. If this doesn’t entice the fish then of course you will need to move nearer the snag.

Once we have identified the snag and marked it as mentioned above, we need to select the best area to tackle the snag from. For me the best swim will be the one which offers a direct and short line to the hookbait, and thus a direct pull on the fish. Normally this will be the area directly opposite the snag. On busier waters you may well be limited by swim availability and I would suggest, rather than risk losing and possibly damaging a fish just for the sake of a run, that if the only swim available does not allow you to get a direct pull on the fish, forget it.

I don’t like to fish over snags, but in some instances this cannot be avoided. By ‘over’ I mean fishing to a clearer area past obstructions such as tree stumps which will result in a fish being drawn back through obstructions if it is played from a bankside position. Playing a fish from above by boat is a different matter, and very effective in this scenario.

When Leon Hoogendijk first wrote about his methods utilising ping pong balls for fishing in / past bad snags, such as tree stumps at Chantecoq & Orient in France, I’m sure that many of us laughed it off as an April fool ! Having known the guy for many years now and having fished with him at Orient whilst he’s used the method, I can reassure you that it’s no wind up and is a very efficient method to help overcome fishing in / past serious snags. However, with the no boat rule on many waters in the UK as we mentioned before this technique is obviously unusable, so is probably best suited to France where it was born. I know Leon won’t mind me briefly explaining the method again for those of us off to the continent who may encounter similar situations so, in laymans terms and with aid of a sketch, here it is:

Ping pong balls over snags

Place the ping pong balls, constructed as the sketch, directly on the main line above the lead As the hookbait is taken to position put the two ping pong balls at equal distances from the rod with the final ball being say 5 metres from the hookbait. This will ensure that the mainline is kept above & free from the major snags below it. It is clearly shown in the sketch.

Rods / The anglers position

First thing to do is turn off your baitrunner and set your drag tight, I’m not advocating hook and hold tactics, I’m being sensible as you don’t want that fish to bury itself in the snag before you’ve even picked your rod up!

Fishing in this manner, it is important that your rods and set up is solid. I use the Nash Titanium goal post type set up, or indeed single banksticks, to avoid any possible movement if a take occurs. This is used in conjunction with Fox rodloks on the rear rests to avoid any chance of rods being pulled out of the rests.

Leave your bite alarm receivers at home (if you’re lucky enough to have them!), you need to be sitting on top of your rods literally. Sit yourself in a position where you just need to lean forward to sweep up your rod and wind down into the fish. At night you need to make sure your bedchair is close, with your butts poking throgh the bivvy door along side you, so in a single quick motion your onto the rod.

Rigs For Snaggy Situations

As a general rule of thumb, it is advisable to step up your terminal arrangement including the mainline. This is to counteract the increased initial loading placed on the tackle once a fish is hooked, as opposed to an open water situation where a fish can be allowed some degree of movement. Fish caught close to snags will often exert significant bursts of power too as, I guess, they think their chances of evading capture by getting to the sanctuary of a snag is far higher.

In-line set ups are better for snaggy situations as they are obviously more streamlined and less prone to catch on a snag a than the helicopter style rig, which leaves the lead standing exposed from the mainline.

The Nash ‘Top Liner’ range of leads is excellent for this type of fishing, as the lead is able to discharge itself from the mainline if it gets caught up. I like to use big leads, as in all my carp fishing, 3.5 & 4oz being favoured. In this day and age I don’t need to harp on about safety rigs, or do I ?? I still see some very worrying sights, especially abroad, use some common sense please.

I read with interest the recent few articles by Jim Gibbinson on ‘Mono Multi Tests’, concerning Jims own tests on the more popular mainlines available at the moment. For many seasons I’ve used Trilene Big Game Line 15lb bs for most of my fishing in snags and medium range applications, it has proved to be a very robust line and reliable. I note Jims comments about the Fox Soft Steel being of excellent abrasive quality, so I will be having a closer look at this line next time out.

In Europe I’ve used braided mainline fairly extensively and caught well with it in snaggy / rocky environments, 50 lb bs with zero stretch has proved very effective. This sounds crude I know, but at Orient and Cassien it has proved invaluable in safely landing some very big lumps. This type of braid is not yet too popular in the UK, maybe in time I don’t know.

Kryston’s Quiksilver is very useful to use for abrasion resistance, available in 25, 35 & 45 lb bs. I’ve used it in both the shockleader type position and as a hooklink in its 25 lb test. To be honest I prefer it in the shockleader position and to use conventional 25 lb Kryston Silkworm or mono as the actual hooklink itself. If I’m using Quiksilver I like to keep the shockleader long, say 6 to 8 metres, this helps if the fish does get into the snag and avoids quick cut offs. I do not agree with those who believe a shockleader should not be used fishing in snags as the knot is a weak point, if your knot is tied and protected correctly it should not be any problem.

Kryston’s Granite Juice is also a useful addition if fishing in really bad snags, coat the last few metres of line in it and to quote Kryston "up to 300 % improvement in abrasion resistance". It does work and a useful addition to your snag fishing tackle box.

I have sketched below the arrangement I use for most of my snag fishing, it is self explanatory and I have detailed my choice of hook & hooklink, which are very important in these instances.

Snag Fishing Rig

Effective snag fishing is an important part of the carp anglers arsenal, do it correctly and you will surely bank extra fish. Do it incorrectly and not only will you lose fish, you will risk damaging fish.

I hope this article will be of some use the next time you come across a snaggy situation.

Good luck,

Chris ‘Essex Man’ Woodrow

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Chris Woodrow

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