Recently I've mentioned upper and lower hooklinks on my barbel rigs. I thought that as there's been a lack of photos recently I'd brighten the blog up with some pics of my barbel rig and a description of how it's put together and why.
The first thing threaded on the line is a large eye swivel. This could just as easily be a small eye swivel, but the large eye's ones are cheap. This is followed by a 6mm rubber bead, and a size 8 Power Swivel is tied to the end of the line. A paperclip is attached to the free eye of the running swivel. The paperclip is a weak link should the lead or feeder snag up on the retrieve or when playing a fish.
To the free eye of the Power Swivel I tie either a length of 15lb Amnesia or 35lb Tiger Braid to form the upper hooklink. On the rare occasions I am fishing mono mainline instead of my usual 30lb Power Pro this upper link might be tied from a length of mainline. How long an upper link I use is pretty random. It's never less than three feet and can be almost six feet. The longer it is the more I can cut it back if it gets damaged. A Power Swivel completes the upper hooklink.
The lower hooklinks are tied up in advance to suit the baits I'm using at the time and are stored on the rig board in my Korum Rig Manager. All bottom links terminate in a loop tied using a Sensas Easy Loop. The link material is usually 35lb Tiger Braid, sometimes 20lb Tiger Braid and occasionally 15lb Amnesia.
You can use whatever lines you like for constructing either of the links. Coated braids, fluorocarbon, anything you get on well with. I just happen like braided hooklinks and have found Tiger Braid to be as abrasion resistant as any braid (the 35lb is tougher than the 20lb though) - and it sinks. It's also a damned sight cheaper than braids sold for making hooklinks!
The thinking behind the rig is simple. You get fewer line bites with long hooklinks than you do with short ones. I have found I catch more barbel using them. Most damage to hooklinks occurs close to the hook - usually within three or four inches. If you use a long one piece hooklink it's difficult to cut it back and retie if using the knotless knot to attach the hook. It soon ends up shorter than required, and this is wasteful. Having the hooklink in two sections cuts down on waste as the upper section lasts a long time. This is less so if you use mono for the links as I don't trust knots to last in mono and after losing a fish due to knot failure I recommend using a fresh upper mono link at the start of every session. If it wasn't for this I'd used Amnesia all the time for the upper link. Braid can be left on for ages without any worries. So I stick with it. If you do use Amnesia give it a stretch to take the remains of any coils out before casting out.
The swivel to which the lower hooklink is looped serves not only this purpose, but also pins the last few inches of the rig to the river bed. Although I use a sinking braid a one piece hooklink can still loop up and result in foulhooked fish. The weight of the swivel almost completely eliminates this.
I don't claim to have invented this set-up. I did arrive at it independently though, through a process of evolution. It's easy to swap from straight lead to feeder. It's almost as easy to swap lower hooklinks. If needs be I use my hair needle as a knot unpicker. I have used a snap link in place of the lower swivel, but they are more expensive. This is a consideration if fishing where tackle losses can be high. A snap link isn't as heavy as a swivel either. I suppose it could be covered in tungsten putty, but I like to keep things as simple as possible.
If you prefer to use a semi-fixed lead then there is an easy and cheap way of rigging that too. Just replace the rubber bead with a tail rubber and jam the large eye swivel over it. A convenient advantage of this arrangement is that when breaking the rod down the lead doesn't need removing. The large eye swivel is easily slid off the tail rubber so the lead slips neatly in the pocket of the quiver like a running lead does, and doesn't rattle against the blank half way up the rod like it would on a conventional semi-fixed clip.