Rigs, baits, lead set- ups and leader types; the options are endless when it comes to perfecting the optimum set- up. But is there really such a thing? Each lead arrangement has its advantage, some are more suited to certain situations over others, but is there one type to do it all? For a number of years, the Helicopter has been used by a multitude of top anglers, in a variety of situations, but what makes this ‘old school’ type set- up so popular, well, it boils down to one thing: adaptability.
The helicopter comes into its own if you are an angler who fishes a multitude of venues, but wants the ease and reliability of one leader arrangement. On of the biggest advantages of the helicopter rig is the ease of switching to fish different lakebeds. By simply moving the top bead up, the one that the hooklink runs up to, you can effectively fish on most presentable lake beds from silt, to light weed and gravel. From an angling perspective, this means that moving onto showing fish and changing spots becomes much easier, as you can set the top bead to what you believe the lakebed to be on the given day.
The set- up is simple, but can be used on a variety of leader materials from leadcore to on the line ‘naked’ style. Unlike a traditional lead clip/ inline set- up, the lead is at the forefront of the leader, with the hooklink mounted behind, running very similar to a ‘chod’ rig type set- up. At the lead end, either a helicopter sleeve or piece of silicone tube can be used; this acts as a buffer for the link when playing a fish. If the venue you are fishing is very weedy, you can drop the lead using a heli- safe, which can be mounted in the same way.
You can then thread on a swivel, which you will attach the hooklink to, before placing a bead that grips the leader above the swivel. It is important, that if a break did occur in the line, that the top bead can move up the leader and pass over the knot, allowing the hooklink to become free.
Lead size is important to consider when fishing in a variety of situations, the bigger the lead, the greater the chance it will plug further into the lakebed and as a result, the top bead must be moved further up. Changing the size of the lead will indefinitely affect the distance that the hooklink will need to travel to sit on top of any debris.
It is best to have a few leaders tied up with varying lead sizes, for fishing short and long range, or when casting to showing fish making minimal amounts of disturbance is key. If you change the lead regularly, you can simply loop to loop a quick link which will allow you to simply switch leads at the drop of a hat!
For weed and silt fishing, it is imperative that your hooklink and bait is presented, which can often be tricky when fishing other lead arrangements such as inline and lead- clips. Weed and silt can vary greatly in depth, sometimes being completely unfishable when the weed is up to the surface during the summer months. The best way to determine the depth of lakebed makeup is by feeling the lead down and gauging how severe it is. Some silt will be much firmer, whereas other types of silt will be soft and quiet deep. As a result, by simply adjusting the top bead and gauging the depth, you can ensure that the rig settles nicely on top, allowing the link and hookbait to sit proud and well presented.
With all lead arrangements where the hooklink is free to move in any direction around the lead, casting and ensuring it is tangle free is essential. This is best achieved through feathering the line on the cast or using the line clip to ensure that the link is straightened out on impact. Another important point to ensure that you can effectively present is your choice of hookbait, especially when fishing over debris on the lakebed. A critically balanced bait will allow the link to kick out and settle neatly over any weed, silt or leaves that may be present, while the lead plugs in. To achieve this, a super- buoyant hookbait is key, applying just enough putty for it to sink slowly.
The helicopter is the perfect alternative to the lead- clip or in- line arrangement and due to the nature of this unique set- up, lends itself perfectly for fishing over debris or light weed on the lakebed. On many occasions, it can be near on impossible to find clean areas to present, especially in the summer months when the weed is high. As long as you get a drop and can work out the depth of the debris or silt on the lakebed, the helicopter can guarantee that you are presented effectively every time!