The Origins of the Bolt Rig
A Personal History of the origins of the bolt rig, by <b>Ron Clay</b>.
A modern version of the bolt rig (hooklink is tied to ring)
The origins of the bolt rig
Jeff Woodhouse, a prominent contributor to FishingMagic has asked me to detail the events, which led up to the late Eric Hodson stating in print that it was I who introduced the "bolt rig" to England. In doing so I hope I do not sound too arrogant when describing my experiences; they are after all only based on observations, as you will see.
In 1967, I emigrated to South Africa. For the first 9 months of living there I did very little fishing, I was too busy getting married and getting organized with job and home. However by the summer of 1968, after joining the Rand Piscatorial Association based in Johannesburg, I stated fishing earnestly, especially for carp. I was keen to try and catch the legendary monsters this country had become famous for and armed with all the latest Walker technology, I felt certain I was going to teach the locals how it should be done.
And certainly when I saw the locals fishing for carp, I thought beating them would be a piece of cake. The gear they used seemed crude, and the terminal tackle reminded me of what would be used to catch cod off Filey Brigg in Yorkshire.
Virtually every weekend would find me patiently free-lining with bread paste catching nothing, whilst the locals hammered the fish out in quantity under my very eyes. In 1970, we were joined by Don Wittich, an ex-member of the Coventry Specimen Group. Now Don was a top class angler having grown up under the separate wings of Billy Lane on the one hand and Merv Wilkinson on the other. He cheered me up somewhat by bringing out a few new ideas from the UK, but they were still based almost wholly on the Walkerian concept of free lining.
After spending a few bite less weekends with Don, I spent more time listening to Trevor Babich, the chairman of the Rand Piscatorial Association. This resulted in him tying me up a few rigs, which were in turn tied to the end of my line. Out they went, baited with boiled maize, sweet corn, or a paste made from maize meal that had been boiled up. Large quantities of maize were often used as groundbait. In some waters, ground baiting was banned, so to overcome that, many local anglers used to mould a fair dollop of cooked crushed maize around the not inconsiderable lead that was often cast out at ranges up to well in excess of 100 yards.
A few words on the tackle used by many successful South African carp anglers in those days.
Rods: 12 to 15 feet long in hollow fiberglass in one piece, that's right in ONE piece! These were transported around by tying the butt end to the rear of the vehicle and then bending the rod over the front of the vehicle and tying the tip to the front bumper. Can I see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief?
Reels: Very Popular was the Grice & Young "Orlando" and "Seajector" reels, which allowed the spool to be removed and then stuck on a spindle at the front of the reel. This allowed them to be cast in the way of the fixed spool reel. These days of course, the "Big Pit" reels are all the rage.
Reel Line: Anything between 6 and 12 lbs bs. Maxima Chameleon in green was by far the most popular.
And now to the terminal tackle
It consisted of a two-hook paternoster system using 3 way swivels. Generally the first hook was some distance from the lead and the second hook about 6 inches above the first hook. The hook links were quite short, normally about 3 inches, although sometimes the bottom hook link was quite long, so that the bottom hook bait could be pressed into the crushed maize that surrounded the lead.
The idea of the crushed maize "method feeder" system was two-fold, one, to attract the carp to the hook and two, to prevent the lead sinking too far into the silty bottom which is common to many carp waters in South Africa.
Hooks used in these far off times were generally Sealey's or Mustad "bent" hooks, size 4 to 10 with the deeply incurved points. Circle hooks by Owner are very popular these days.
Rig line was almost always heavier than the reel line!! If you were using an 8lb reel line you used a 12 lb line to make up your rig.
Baits: Probably the most popular bait for big carp was a single grain of cooked maize or even a single grain of sweetcorn available from a can of course. This was stuck on the hook with just the point showing; the hair rig not being around in those days. The hooks were honed to needle sharpness. Other hook baits consisted of paste made from brown bread, paste made from cooked maize meal and ordinary flour dough. Flavours and dips (glugs) had just started to get popular by the early 70s.
Anglers are not allowed to use more than two rods at a time in South Africa. Both rods are put into fairly long rod rests. I noticed that the rod rest design popularized by Walker, which prevented the line being trapped, had been used for many years!!
After casting out, the line is wound taut, the reel is put on check and a heavy bobbin bite indicator is put on the line beyond the rod tip. This keeps everything tight and provides the preliminary indication of a bite, much like the swingers do in modern bolt rig systems.
What generally happens when you get a fish is that the bobbin will drop slightly, then lift and the reel will scream as the fish hooks itself! The whole idea is that the fish hooks itself by sucking in the bait which is tight to the hook and a considerable resistance, causing the fish to become alarmed and bolting, therefore hooking itself.
This concept was the complete antithesis to what Walker was preaching in England. But I think it is only fair on Dick to say that by this time he was not into carp fishing at all. In fact I think that the last time old Dick Walker ever picked up a carp rod in anger was in 1957.
The first time I used this set up I caught 30 odd carp up to 22 lbs in the weekend. I was impressed! A little after that, I had a weekend with Trevor Babich. I caught over 40 carp for a weight of over 400 lbs and Trevor had a nice fish of 24 lbs, amongst a fair few too.
The years passed and our little group caught lots of good carp from Vaal Dam, the Vaal River, Hartbeestpoort Dam, Bloemhof Dam and many other large still waters all over the country.
In 1970, Eric Hodson made me a member of the BCSG. I exchanged ideas with members of the BCSG on several occasions. I was also severely criticized on a few occasions when they saw my rigs. I remember Dick Walker also having a go at me too, in a friendly and constructive way of course. In 1973, I decided to write an article about the way we were fishing and what we had discovered about South African carp. I sent the article to Colin Dyson who at that time was the editor of a much-condensed Angling Telegraph. The article was published in full in the May edition in 1974. Sections of the article were also published in the magazine: Coarse Angler.
I entitled the article "The Mealie Pip Trap" - Mealie Pip, being the Afrikaans for a maize grain. Colin entitled it: "A Corny Way to Catch Carp." It was a trap of course and was rigged that way. It was meant to eliminate the infuriating habit of carp causing twitch bites. It meant you could go to sleep after you had cast out your rig, only to be woken by the sounding of an alarm, proclaiming that another big carp was on the end of your line. What some South African anglers used to do was rig the line between two contacts, which were connected to the car hooter. I can assure you that the noise from many car hooters around some of the local fishing waters was deafening when the fish were biting.
This published article actually caused a bit of a sensation in South Africa. The Johannesburg Star made quite a story out of it, as due to certain political constraints, news coming out of South Africa, other than how bad it was, was never normally published in a British newspaper.
The South African Bolt Rig is used quite a lot in England. It is the basis of the two hook "bow string effect" paternoster feeder bolt rig used for big roach in still waters.
My belief is that this rig was derived from sea fishing rigs used by the first white settlers to South Africa. It has of course been responsible for the capture of some very large South African carp over the years.
These days, modern carp rigs are now very popular in South Africa and standard boilies are used together with the hair rig and knotless knot. But the basics have been there since the Siege of Mafeking. Those same basics being described in an article I sent to my old friend the late Colin Dyson, and which another of my old friends the late Eric Hodson was convinced changed the course of carp fishing in England forever.
By the Same Author
- Press Manor Trout Fish-In 2010
- Book Review - Pole Fishing - A Complete Guide
- Last of the Further Thoughts on Fly Fishing
- Further Thoughts on Fly Fishing
- Thoughts on Fly Fishing
- The Origins of the Bolt Rig
- Eric Hodson - A Giant of the Angling World
- The 5th Press Manor Fish-in 2008
- A Night with the Don Valley Specialist Group
- Fenland Magic