Any conger in to double figures will really test the strength of your rigs. Get it wrong and a big eel will quickly find the weak spot and be lost. With this in mind I’m constantly rethinking my rigs for big rough ground conger and this is my current favourite conger pulley rig that I’ve used constantly through last year. It also works well with rough ground huss too.
It’s designed for total straight through strength but incorporates two swivels to limit the conger spinning on the trace. A conger’s natural defence relies on its slim body profile allowing it to disappear in to cracks and holes out of harms way when pursued, but if it gets grabbed by another predator it instantly starts to spin violently with the intention of forcing the biting fish to let go. This is why conger spin so much when hooked and held against the rod or hand.
It’s also a rig that allows the changing of a blunt hook when necessary without needing to change the whole rig, or re tie the hook on the mark.
The rig body needs to be a single length of 100 to 120lb clear mono about 70-inches long. When fully tied up the actual rig will be about 60-inches long. To one end tie on a size 3/0 Mustad oval split ring using a 5-turn Grinner knot.
Above this add a large bait clip. I make my own bait clips from 18-gauge stainless steel wire available in coils from Veals. Big clips are necessary to carry the bigger baits need for conger. The clip should be about 1½-inches long and turn the end up to stop the clip sliding through under pressure. The tubing for the clip is insulation tubing from electrical copper wire 1.75mm in diameter.
Leave a 5-inch gap between the split ring knot for the bait clip to slide in, then tie in a figure of eight stop knot. The stop knot avoids the bait clip travelling too far up the rig body when casting full force with a big bait and aids clean release of the bait when the lead hits the sea. In line over 100lbs a tied in stop knot, as described, does not incur any undue weakness in the line when casting.
Now slide on a 5mm bead, a Fox Pulley Rig Bead, another 5mm bead, then tie in another figure of eight stop knot positioned to leave at least 22-inches of hook trace.
To the end of the hook trace add a size 1 or 1/0 swivel again using a 5-turn Grinner knot. Take a Fox or Gemini lead clip and open the round eye a little with long nosed pliers, just enough to allow the swivel eye to slip inside the clip eye, then close the clip eye carefully and fully tight using the long nosed pliers.
The hook, ideally a Partridge Sea Beast size 6/0 with its ultra sharp point as I’ve found them the best for consistent hook-ups, or a Mustad Viking or O’Shaughnessy in the same size. The hook clips inside the lead clip below the swivel.
The shock leader is tied to the eye of the pulley rig bead, or you can add a split ring or lead clip to the eye of the Pulley Rig bead if you want to double patt and trade a retrieved rig for a ready baited rig each time to maximise fishing time.
HOW TO FISH THE RIG
The split ring at the base of the rig is the basis of the weak link system to the lead to allow a snagged lead to be broken off limiting overall tackle loss and without losing a fish.
I make my leads with a simply downward angle in the long tail wire, tie a section of weak line to the main tail of the lead and the other end to the split ring. The tail wire angle then sits inside the split ring when casting to take the strain of the cast, but freely releases when the lead hits the water providing the line between rod and rig is slack just like a normal bait clip will.
Alternatively, if you prefer eyed lead weights, then do away with the split ring, tie a large loop in the end of the rig using a double granny knot, then pass the loop through the eye of the lead and secure with a short section of wire or a panel pin. The panel pin will fall out when the lead hits the sea or when it hits the seabed. The section of weak line is tied to both the loop and the eye of the lead to retain as many leads as possible.
The Pulley Rig bead has two advantages over a standard swivel. First and foremost it allows the rig body line to slide smoothly with minimal friction through the bead. The slim wire diameter of a normal swivel eye forces the line through and over it at a sharp acute angle creating much more friction and shy eels will feel the difference and often drop the bait.
The Pulley Rig bead also adds another swivel that helps reduce the twist effect when the eel spins when being fought and retrieved.
The swivel at the end of the hook trace is of prime importance, so use a top quality one like a Mustad Rolling swivel or a Berkley barrel swivel. If an eel takes the bait, moves slowly away, feels the resistance of the lead, especially if the lead is snagged, the eel will start to spin rapidly. This is not always seen on the rod tip either. The swivel minimises the eels spinning action from twisting up the hook trace and weakening it. This swivel advantage also works in your favour when grabbing the trace to lift the eel shore. The eel can spin freely without twisting the strong trace line around your hand and potentially cutting it.
The lead clip attached to the swivel is there to allow hooks to be changed easily without requiring re tying or a replacement rig. The slimmer Gemini and Fox type clips are ideal as they are slim and will feed down inside a bait easily, but of course cantilever on the swivel eye to retain a softer movement in the bait when it’s picked up by a shy eel.
I personally prefer single hooks for conger fishing. However there are times when a two-hook Pennel type system with two hooks in tandem can allow an early strike aimed at lip hooking shy feeding eels.
By adding two more lead clips below the lead clip already attached to the swivel, you can add one hook inside the lead clip at the top by the swivel, and a second hook to the lowest clip to achieve instant tandem hook presentation. Again this gives additional security putting the hooks well away from the hook trace, but puts two hooks close together so that with either end of the bait in the congers mouth, a successful strike is that much more likely.
The added length of the lead clip or clips results in hardly any congers biting you off too, which avoids leaving them with the hook still in their mouth which can easily be the case with big fish that seem more than capable of chomping or wearing through even heavy mono quickly.
As a matter of course, when using this two-hook system the hooks have their barbs flattened with a pair of flat-nosed pliers to allow the hooks to fall out freely should an eel inadvertently be lost.