Author: Zach Testa

Order of The Carp – 2017 Austin Team Championship

With another great event in the record books and a sliver of free time, it’s time to put together my (Zach) 2017 Austin Team Championship experience. This year I was teamed up with fellow Big Carp News contributor Evan Cartabiano. Having never fished with him before is a little nerve wracking as you never know how you’ll get along with someone on the banks. I feel that we hit it off pretty well and I’ll enjoy further time on the bank with him. The Big 6 format I think is a big improvement over an overall weight as it give everyone a chance to pull out a win or upset/comeback. It’s not as daunting going into the second day with only 1 or 2 fish on the board because a good second day can put you right in the top!

Due to family commitments I was not able to get down a day early so that left me driving straight thru and arriving after 5 pm on Wednesday the 22nd. Here’s a tip for anyone that is heading down. DO NOT go to the Walmart that is near the hotel to get your fishing license!!! I do it every year and I now average probably over 2 hours to get a license. This year the system was “down” and I had to go to a different store. Last year it took over an hour to find someone in the store that knew how to do it. Every year I think I’ll be fine going there and every year I get the same results and next year I will not be trying it! After securing my license and getting back to the hotel it was time to mingle and partake in a few drinks before hitting the bed for the early peg draw in the morning.


Day 1.

1st peg drawn. We pull the old power plant, a peg I have caught fish before (broke my pb 35lb 9oz) and if worked can produce some decent fish. 2nd peg drawn is 18. The is a down from I35 bridge and is in a pretty unassuming area behind some luxury apartments. This is the peg we return and ends up being put back a handful of times. It also ends up producing the big carp and 1st place in the event for the team that finally chose it!! Talk about upsetting. We grab our stuff and head to the old power plant. It’s not a long haul to carry any gear and the car is withing 50 yards so it is convenient. As the sun rises Town lake returns to its river roots and is ripping current. The issue with this peg is that it’s a narrow area and we needed 6+ ounces to hold bottom as well as being loaded with snags. I lost more tackle in the first few hours than I lost all of last year. Evan managed to pick up a few grass carp from out of the current while I caught a lot of tree limbs and rocks. He struck with the first carp of the day at a lovely 23lb even. After having a bit of time to think I decided to take a rod to place it on our far right next to the old power plant building. There was an area of slack water and we knew it would have to produce a fish. After placing my rig and some bait in the area the wait was on. The rest of the afternoon was pretty quite by us and while we were sitting on the grassy hillside chatting away we hear a faint bite alarm and had forgotten that we had put the lone rod just at the edge of hearing range. The area the rod was in was quite tight for 12ft rods and I had regretted not leaving my 10ft Nash Scopes in my van. After a pretty stressful fight we got the carp netted and weighed in at 21lb even. It sure felt good to get a fish on the board and know now that I would not blank (unlike last year!).

We did the normal BCT thing after the first day and headed to the Clay Pit with a few friends. Luckily this was a pretty easy, hilarious (thanks to Mark), and sober evening which is not always the case at the ATC. We managed to get our heads down relatively early for the next morning.

Day 2.

This morning we pulled Peg 18 again, which we put back the prior morning, and was 1st place after day one. We also drew one of the I-35 swims which had zero action the day prior. It was obvious which one that we would choose. Peg 18 is a nice easy peg to fish. Located behind a luxury apartment complex with a nice running/walking path makes for easy access. The 2 “issues” would be the lack of a bathroom unless you went quite a walk to the gas station and the kayak rental place down the bank which could be a hassle if it were the weekend. We only had one lady get into our lines which for Austin is amazing. We had a few fish crashing at distance while we were setting up and we managed to hold a few in the area when we started baiting. I had the first run of the day pretty quickly. Just as Evan scooped my catch into the net his rod peeled off. Now I had to scramble to unhook and retain my fish while Evan battled his. We were totally prepared with only setting up one net as well. In quick time we had Evans fish netted and retained. We were lucky because as we netted the second fish Kevin just happened to be walking by so we were ready for photos. My fish definitely had been eating bait while swimming around as it decided to relieve itself not only inside the cradle but all over my arm when I raised it for the photo. The morning looked quite promising with a brace of 20’s. Unfortunately no matter what we tried we could not get another run and spent the day watching the scenery and talking about all things carpy and some things that weren’t.


The fishing had come to an end and we headed back to the hotel to regroup and freshen up for the banquet. The restaurant was pretty awesome and I’ll have to go back one day. The hospitality is one of the selling aspects of the whole event as everyone feels like family. I wish I could have more positive things to say however I started to suffer from an extremely painful migraine and headed back to the hotel to crash as early as I could. I am positive that everyone had a blast at the banquet and after, I unfortunately could not join them.

All in all it was another awesome year at the ATC and the organizers were top notch again, like always! We hope to see you down there next year!

New to Hair Rigs? Info, setup, and the basic tackle you will need.

There is a ton of information available to the new carper it can be overwhelming and almost off putting. While there are probably hundreds of rigs you will come across they almost all got their start from the basic hair rig and evolved over the years. We receive questions almost daily about what tackle is needed to start using a hair rig. The purpose of this article is to give a basic list of the items needed (at end of article) , a little advice, and setup of the bolt rig.

Let’s start with a photo of a basic hair rig which is tied with the “Knotless Knot”. This creates the Hair in which the bait is placed. There are thousands of “how to” videos on tying the hair rig such as this one from our fellow contributor Brian Wingard.0f4fc2bf6cb39487477f7c188bbd86ef

That is the basic hair rig and over time you will learn to adapt hair length, rig length, material, and the other factors that can make you more confident on using it.

Next we move onto the lead setup. The weight of the lead can be up to you based on how you like to fish as well as the distance you are casting.  The basic setup can be achieved in two different styles. The first is called a running rig. This is the same as a Carolina rig that you would use for bass. Instead of the lure you would tie the hair rig onto the free end of the swivel and the inline lead would slide up and down your mainline. carolina-rig

The second setup is called a Bolt Rig. This is done the same way you do the running with with the only difference is the lead is semi fixed so the lead does not easily slide on the line. Using this method with a 2 ounce or heavier weight will accomplish setting the hook when the carp takes the bait resulting in very hard runs.  This can be achieved by using leads that have a plastic or rubber insert through them that allows the swivel to be held inside the lead (by friction) until force is applied then the swivel will pop out of the lead.

Example of an Inline lead bolt rig. Before casting out the swivel is pushed into the bottom of the lead.

There are a few other setups such as lead clips and helicopter setups which you can look into however the two methods shown are the basic setups. Make sure when using either rig that fish can take line from the drag of your reel. If the drag is to tight the fish will pull your rod into the water!

Now to put bait onto the hair rig. This is demonstrated in Brian’s video and I’ve added the following photo to reference. It’s true that you can use a straightened out hook as a baiting needle however a made for purpose baiting needle makes the process a little easier as the hook has a larger barb that can tear the bait apart when sliding against it.Baitingupthehairrig


The last item you need is a bait stop. This is placed at the loop in the hair and the bait it pushed against it to hold it onto the hair. This can be a piece of grass or heavy mono. The ones you can buy make it very convenient as you wont have to find something random to use.

Each card has plenty of bait stops.
Each card has plenty of bait stops.


Now that you have a understanding of the basic hair rig  and its setup I’ve added links to where you can purchase these items. I’ve linked to pre-tied hair rigs as well. Buying a few different ones can help you get a grasp of how they work.





The basics of fish handling

I wanted to touch on a subject that comes up almost daily, carp care or fish care for that matter.  The fact that we carefully handle carp in America is something that is not seen outside of our community as carp anglers. According to the US Fish and Wildlife services, in 2015 there were 28,463,499 licensed fishermen in the US. The niche that we have as carp specific anglers is only a few percent of that total. An overwhelming majority of the anglers in the US have never heard of or seen a unhooking mat/cradle or fish friendly mesh nets. It’s true that many species of fish could benefit from the carp care gear that we use. I would much rather see a large catfish resting in a cradle than a dirt or gravel bank as I am sure everyone would. I’ll approach the subject in the most basic terms as I can. Carp care also falls into rig safety which Iain has covered in this article. Let’s move onto the first item, Nets.


A fish friendly net is key to not only keeping the protective coating of slime but is the start to taking great looking photos. The slime coat acts as a lubricant while the fish is swimming however it’s more vital role is to protect the fish from any bacteria/virus/infection from attacking the fish. The loss of this slime coat can lead it a whole multitude of injuries and infections which you may not see on the bank however the fish may become ill and die within a few weeks which is the opposite objective of catch and release fishing. The “knotless” mesh nets do not scrape or damage the slime coat unlike the knotted nylon nets that you can readily purchased at any tackle shop. The chances are that if you have a net with the damaging nylon net you can retrofit a fish friendly mesh onto your existing frame and go on fishing. The euro style nets with the large arms can take practice to use and it’s inevitable that it will break if lifted incorrectly which many new users do. Rubberized nets can also be used however I personally prefer the softer, fish friendly mesh. The focus is to get the fish safely into a fish friendly net to move onto the next item,an unhooking mat.

Fish friendly net


Unhooking mats are something that almost no one outside carp fishing have seen or used. There are folks in the US that think everyone should know and have one when they are first starting. That is a very big demand for them to know of something that they have probably never knew existed. Beginners can become very discouraged when attacked for not having a mat or holding a fish safely however it is something that must be taught and learned as there is no standardize test when you purchase a license that covers fish care. I have personally spent an unknown amount of time politely informing people of better fish care and not just for carp. I’d bet that unless you started carp fishing with someone that had one, there’s a photo or memory (you may not admit it) of you handling a carp with poor technique, I know I have and I’ve been specifically carp angling over 20 years.

I’ve gotten a bit off topic so I’ll come back to the unhooking mats. The unhooking mat is a padded mat that is laid on the ground (see the first photo of the butterfly koi) to protect fish from dirt, gravel, sand, pavement, etc.. from damaging the fish while it flops or removing the slime coat. You will want to put some water on the outside of the mat to aid in the slime coat not getting damaged. If you have a fish friendly net and then lay the fish onto the sidewalk you’ve lost the fish care battle.  A mat can be made from a yoga mat or even a pillow that is put inside a garbage bag for a quick fix. There are plenty of cheap mats available for around $10-$15 that will take care of the basic needs. No need to buy into an expensive mat when you are just getting started.

Basic unhooking mat


Another version is the cradle. These are designed to keep the fish elevated off the ground to reduce and damage from flopping around as well as protect the slime coat. Cradles come at a high cost (size and weight also) but when dealing with larger 25+ pound fish they excel and give you peace of mind that the fish isn’t going to slip or jump off the mat and get injured.

36+ filling the cradle


Depending on your situation and how you fish one may be better than the other. If you carry all your gear, then a regular unhooking mat is the way to go. If you don’t mind hauling a larger and heavier one, then cradles cannot be beat. I personally would opt of a cradle all the time but times like stalking do not make carrying one very easy so I take a mat.

One of the final pieces are weigh slings. These come in many different forms and prices. Some are no more than a fish friendly sack while others have bars with floats to retain the fish in the water while getting the camera setup. It depends on your situation and how you like to do things on which one will be the best fit for you. They are used to hold the fish safely without damaging the slime coat (there’s a trend here!) and aids in getting the most accurate weight possible. I like to get it wet and let it drain the extra water off. Next I put it on the scale to zero out the weight of it. Then I transfer the fish into the weigh sling as seen above. Then zip up the sides so the fish won’t slip out and you can accurately weigh your catch.sanctuary_retention_sling1


I’ll mention the fish care antiseptics quickly. These are available through several companies and are used to protect and help heal wounds. Not only the area where the hook was but also any damage such as missing scales or injuries that you may see on a fish. They work like Neosporin that you would put on yourself after an injury. While you may see this as slightly extreme when it comes to the life of an old, large fish it may keep them healthy or may save a young one that has an infection from a run in with a boat for example.



Now that we have transferred the fish safely from the net and onto your mat/cradle with its slime coat intact we can get ready for a good-looking photo. It’s always good to have a small bucket or water container on hand to pour some over the fish before you lift it to wash off any leaves, grass, or debris that has gotten onto the fish. This gives the fish a clean shine for the camera as well. I’ve used this photo (credit to Carpology) to show you the best way to hold the carp however it’s the basics for holding any fish safely and in a great photo pose.



Following some basic ideas of fish care you’ll not only have better looking photos to show and remember but you’ll also be keeping the fish healthy for years to come. After all the photos and memories will be seen for years to come so why have the photo of the fish of a lifetime to have dirt and grim ground into the fish and it looking unsightly when you could take a few extra steps and have a beautiful photo.

A few things not to do with carp:

  1. Carp have soft mouths without a jaw structure. Lipping or using a Bogo grip type device will damage the mouth.
  2. Holding a fish vertically, especially large specimen, can damage their organs. Their bodies are not made to counter the effect of gravity and not designed to support their weight outside of water. Holding them vertically pushes all their internals down and can injure them.
  3. Do not hold any fish by the gill plates that you are releasing. This will cause damage to their gills and cause mass bleeding.

A quick note to those that practice good fish care already. There are many ways to approach the topic with someone without coming off as confrontational. I’ve seen it many times over the past 20+ years. When you attack someone that does not know how to handle a fish correctly they shut down and do not want to listen to anyone after that about fish care. They are excited about their catch and want to share it. No need to crush them because they don’t have the knowledge. It’s our jobs as ambassadors to the sport to inform and influence them to change their ways. You’ll find a much better response if you don’t start a fight because they are uninformed (like I would bet you were at one time) about the proper techniques.

Ridgemonkey Modular Hookbait Pots (Video)

  • Ideal for storing all kinds of pop-ups, wafters, bottom baits, imitation plastics and much more! With each section featuring a high-quality seal so all manner of glugs and flavouring can be used without fear of spillage.
  • Bait storage just got organized! No more loose jars rattling around in your rucksack with one of these – designed to screw together with a twist of the hand, the system comes complete with removable internal glug cages and a hard-wearing carry case.
  • 4x  150ml Hookbait Pots
  • 4x Glug Cages
  • Carry Case
  • Approximate dimensions: 220mm x 70mm

Available at Big Carp Tackle

What’s in your box Zach? (Video)

I’ve had a few requests to see what I take on sessions so I made a short video. I said the wrong thing a few times such as the first black box being Ambush when it is NGT. The second was the Solar baiting needle does not include a gated needle. Guess I need to write myself a script! Links are provided in the description of the video to several of the items I personally use.

I have used the Nash Tackle hooks and hook lengths with great success (see my Idaho article). The Rig Station is great as it doubles as a bivvy table with adjustable legs. The JAG hook sharpening kit is vital for super sharp hooks which convert into more hookups.

Fox Easy Shelter Review

If you are looking for an awesome and quick to setup shelter then take a look at this one. Very light weight and packs down small the Fox Easy Shelter fits the bill.

• Hard wearing Polyester fabric (2000mm hydrostatic head rating)
• Styled in unique Fox camo pattern
• ‘Pop-up’ frame design ensures rapid erection and also makes it very fast pack away
• Can fit inside bedchair when packed away for easy transportation
• Front peak gives protection from rain when door is open
• Can be pegged to the ground for maximum stability and making it ideal for use as a day session shelter when not carrying a bedchair
• Solid front option features three vertical toggle fixings to allow you to roll the panel up in sections and peg out further to give increased coverage when in use.
• Supplied with zip-in mozzy mesh front panel
• Large mozzy mesh panel at rear to aid air flow
• Both front panels feature letter box style door
• Designed to fit most standard sized bedchairs
• Rod strap on the right side of the door
• Supplied with three support ribs and heavy-duty pegs

It may not be the greatest in a storm however it shines as a simple shelter in fair weather. Remove the front panel and it converts into a day shelter to keep you, the kids, and/or the gear out of the sun.

Creating your own leadcore leaders

There have been several inquiries on creating a how-to on creating leadcore leaders and how to splice different materials. This is something I do quite often as I do like using leadcore when the situation calls for it. Purchasing the leadcore in bulk spools can help save a little bit of money as well as letting you create longer lengths than the pre-tied leaders.

First step is to get the items you need together. For splicing leadcore or other materials you will need a gated needle. Using a regular gated baiting needle can work however using a specific splicing needle makes it quite easier as they are much finer than a regular needle. For this demonstration I used the Solar Micro Splicing needle which come 2 in a pack.

leadcore 1


Next you need to pull back the braided material to expose the leadcore. The amount of lead to cut off will be up to you and after some practice you will find what works the best for you.

Leadcore 2


I will create 2 different connections that I use. The first is attaching a swivel/link clip to one end. You will now take the splicing needle and tread it onto the braided section which is now hollow from removing the lead from the center. Like before this will become easier with practice and you will figure out the best for you situation. Leadcore 3


Next is adding the swivel to the tag end of the braided section. You then latch the tag end with the needle and start to pull the tag end back through the hollow braid with the needle.IMG_2317IMG_2318


It takes a little bit of work to pull the tag end though the rest of the braid. Just continue to work it until the tag end is fully inside the braid. Depending on how long the tag end was you may be able to pull it back through the hole that the needle created where you inserted it.IMG_2319


The final step is to tease the material so that you get a smooth transition from the thicker section to the main part of the braid. This connection will have the swivel directly in contact with the leadcore and there will not be a loop for free movement. This is how I prefer my connections to the swivel.



The second method I will show you will create a loop in the end. You can still attach a swivel with the loop or create it to have a loop to loop connection with your mainline.

Everything you need will be the same except you will need an item to create the size of loop that you require, most of the time I use a tail rubber. The first few steps are the same. Remove the inner leadcore and thread the needle through the braid.



As before latch the needle to the tag end. This time you place your item, tail rubber in my case, into the looped section and pull the tag end back through the braided section.IMG_2324


Tease the tag end through the braid once again until you can pull the needle out and finish the splice. Now you have an open loop to use for a loop to loop connection. If you wanted a swivel/clip attached to the loop you would thread it onto the tag end before placing the tail rubber and pulling the tag end though.IMG_2325


I hope this article will help you if you ever need to splice leadcore. It’s something that is very easy and once you do 2 or three of them you’ve pretty much got it figured out.

Tight Lines,


JAG Hook Sharpening Kit Review by Josef Raguro

Well I’m retiring my Berkley hook sharpener. After seeing Zach retouch his hook points on the bank I decided to get a JAG hook sharpening kit. It comes in a small pouch. The kit includes a vice , jeweler file ,2 polishing stones , jeweler’s eye / magnifying glass and the solution marker for coating the exposed hook.
I like sharpening my hook trokar style for one reason. I don’t want the tip of the hook breaking off in the fishes mouth. By doing this style the hook will actually go through with less resistance. It’s like a hypodermic needle.
How I sharpen the hook. I get my hook of choice which is a size 2 Korda wide gape hook for demonstration. Put on the supplied hook vice. I start out with the jeweler’s file .I tilt the vise up and start doing passes at a 45°angle on both sides of the hook point till I get my desired trokar style shape . Then I finish I up with the two polishing stones. Afterwards I’ll coat it with “the solution ” marker to make it rust proof again. Most manufacturer’s use water proof coating from paint to teflon. Or you can use petroleum jelly or chap stick. Do your self a favor and get one. It can give you a better “edge” on fishing.