Kayak rigs for downtiding

There are two main methods of fishing baits from a kayak, uptiding and downtiding. Downtiding will be covered here, uptiding at a later date.

Downtiding:
This is a technique that lets you "drift" your bait away from the boat with the prevailing current. It is also used to allow bait presentation outside the boat's "scare area". Given the lead has to fight the current to reach the bottom, the rigs are far heavier than those used in uptiding. Clearly this does not make detecting bites at depth any easier, so a braid main line is a key if you want to downtide successfully.

A conventional boat rod, with a fixed spool or multiplier reel is the order of the day. My own preference is for a short 6lb class rod and a good multiplier reel like a ABU 6500C3.


Downtiding in strong currents can turn even relatively small fish into monsters, in that you have to fight the current as well. Ray and skate will use it to their full advantage by "kiting" with the current. Cod will open their mouths and gape into the current in order to increase the pressure and it can get enough to break strong lines. Check the current and tides, as you may have to wait for slack water to get a big fish aboard.

Running Ledger

The simplest rig, and probably my personal favourite is the running ledger rig.


The rig couldn't be simpler, a lead a bead and a snap swivel/zip slider. The diagram above shows the lead attached to the main line directly. I consider this ok for lighter leads with an inbuilt swivel, otherwise I'll either attach a snap swivel or a zip slider, the latter being my preferred option. A single hook trace of 2 or 3 feet is best though some anglers prefer to use a two hook trace. I vary hook size from a size 4 (for flatties, etc) up to a size 6/0 (Cod) dependent on the species I'm hoping to catch. This rig will catch most species. though is best suited to cleaner fishing grounds.

Wishbone Rig

A simple 2 hook which can be easily adapted to suit the running ledger mentioned above. Due to the construction and layout of the trace its shape is that of a wishbone, hence the name. The wishbone rig allows you to use two hooks, offering two baits of the same kind or a combination, you can also have different hook sizes enabling you to target different species but at the same time creating a larger scent trail. I find this rigs works very well for whiting, dogfish and flatties. Beads can be attached to the hook length for attracting plaice, etc.

Plaice Rig

As mentioned above Plaice tend to respond well to attractors above the hook bait.


A combination of a small silver or white spoon with a string of coloured beads can be used to construct a trace that'll prove effective for Plaice. The rig above is a 2 hook rig, though it's probably simpler to use a single hook setup.

Use a weight that is heavy enough to hold the bottom, but do not use excessive weight. Carefully lower the rig and bait into the water, allowing the tide to straighten the bait away from the weight. Very slowly let the line out so that the rig and bait are lowered to the bottom without twisting. You will feel the line go slack for a few moments. It is important to go slowly with this, as tangles from going down too fast must be avoided. A whole drift may prove to have been a waste of time if the rig comes back in a tangle. Let the boat drift away from the rig on the bottom by about 30-50yds. Then hold the line and let the rig be dragged by the boat movement across the bottom. When you feel a bite, instantly let about ten more yards of line go from the reel and then hold and let the boat take up the slack. You should then feel the weight of the fish on the line. Do not strike. Always use a net, or you may loose the fish.

Smoothound Rig

Basically this rig is an up-rated version of the running ledger rig mentioned earlier. Smoothounds have very abrasive skin and will destroy lighters lines very quickly leading to lost fish. I find 30lb trace line is sufficient, though should be replaced once a smoothound has been caught as the line will have suffered quite some damage.


The rig above shows an extra swivel to prevent line twist as these fish can get quite acrobatic in very shallow water or close to the kayak. ALWAYS fish with the reel either in free spool with the ratchet engaged or with the drag lightly set. These fish tend to pick up the bait and make powerful runs. Engage the spool the set the hook a few seconds into the run. By far the best bait is crab, peeler/hardback crab is preferred, though squid will also produce fish.

2 Hook Flapper Rig

This is another simple rig which allows different baits to be used if desired. The lower hook can be placed close to the lead effectively fishing one bait hard on the bottom and one just above. I find this rig most effective during the winter months when the whiting are prolific, double hook-ups can be common place when the fish are on the feed. I normally keep the hook size around a 1/0. It can also be effective for bream when baited with fish/squid strips.

For more delicate bait presentation such as for flatfish the line strength should be suitably reduced. To keep all baits close/on the seabed the main line should be kept a little slack.

Bass/Thornback Rig

Basically this is a variant of the running ledger rig mentioned earlier. The line has been suitable uprated with the addition of a swivel to prevent line twist. Hooks are best being the forged variety. The trace should be connected the same as a standard running ledger, i.e via a bead and lead/zip slider.

Best baits are probably peeler crab for bass and mackerel fillet/sandeel, the latter being suitable for both species. Bass takes can at times be vicious so drag should be suitably set.

Tope Rig

Again, another variant of the basic running ledger. A long flowing trace of heavy nylon finished off with a short length of nylon covered wire trace. Very heavy nylon in the range of 150-200lb can be used in lieu of the wire trace. When using wire or heavy nylon the line should always be suitably crimped.


The use of bronze finished hooks is the singularly most important factor in the release of hooked sharks, as any hook that has to be left in a fish will dissolve rapidly. A large hook, size 6/0 or above, is recommended, either barb-less or with the barb crushed to facilitate the unhooking process. As lip hooking significantly reduces the likelihood of a hook being left in the fish the use of circle hooks should also be considered. As with Smoothound, Tope tend to pick up the bait and run, hence fishing in free spool with the ratchet engaged is a must.

The old books used to say, “Strike at the start of the second run”, but this will usually lead to a deep hooked fish. Once the tope has started the familiar screaming run, count to six on a big bait (full mackerel or flapper) or three on a small bait (fillet size) and wind down firmly into fish. It is imperative you wind quickly at first to get rid of the bow before lifting the rod to set the hook.

Conger Rig

This type of tackle is suitable for catching conger over rougher ground, though it'll suit cleaner ground just a well. Basically, it is very similar to a basic running ledger except that the hook link it made out of 80-100lb nylon covered steel wire. Nylon can be used though it would need stepping up to 150-200lb. Wire line and thick nylon lines are to be suitably crimped. Trace length should be around 2-3 foot.

Conger can put up a fantastic fight and strong tackle in the 20/30lb class range is required. Conger seldom give a good bite and many bites can go undetected. The reason is simple enough, the conger is g enerally on home ground when it finds the bait so it has no need to pick up the bait and make off in search of cover. Instead it will slither out of its hole and gently suck at the bait. This is registered at the tip as a faint dragging pull or short sharp taps. Whole mackerel or mackerel flappers are excellent baits.

Please feel free to comment.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well thats a lot of information to take in,
is it better to make up your own rigs or buy the pre-made rigs.
but great post thanks Rob

justin

Rob said...

I always make my own rigs, bar mackerel feathers as they're so cheap. It's worth purchasing the terminal bits required to make rigs in large packets as it works out very cheap. The average shop bought rig costs £2 or more, my rigs cost an average of 20/25p!. dont buy cheap rubbish as you'll regret it. A lot of stuff, can be freshwater washed after a trip, broken down and re-used.

Anonymous said...

some great info found here and as you say making your own rigs is cheaper than buying and its easy to do them and great to get a few good fish on a rig you made yourself!
great blog rob!

paul stilgrove said...

great info i also like to keep rigs as simple as possible