The helicopter rig is a brilliant setup to use when carp fishing in lakes with weedy or silty bottoms. If rigged correctly, it can prevent your hookbait from sinking into the weed or silt and give you the perfect presentation that no carp will be able to resist!
Setting up a helicopter rig is pretty simple and straightforward. All you need is a leadcore, a top bead, a quick change swivel, a carp lead, and your rig. This type of setup is best used on soft lakebeds, as it allows your rig to sit on top of the weed or silt, while the lead sinks down into the bottom.
This article teaches you everything about the helicopter rig; how it works, how to use it and in what venues it works best.
Pro Tip: Here is a list of the essential tackle you’ll need in order to set up a heli rig (with links to Amazon, if you need to grab some tackle):
- Ready-tied leadcores (saves time and energy)
- 2oz grippa carp weights
- Anti-tangle sleeves
- 20-30lb braided hooklink material
- #4-6 carp hooks
How Does The Helicopter Rig Work?
As the hooklink is attached to a swivel on the leadcore, it can spin around the leadcore freely when the rig is cast out, hence the name “helicopter” rig. Often, this rig is also simply referred to as the heli rig.
Having the weight on the end of the rig implies that it can sink into the weed or silt without pulling the hooklink down with it.
Thanks to the little top bead on the leadcore, which can be adjusted according to the depth of the silt or weed bottom you fish on, the swivel with the hooklink and hookbait can slide up the leadcore and hence always position itself on top of the lakebed, while the weight sinks down into the bottom.
So, no matter if the soft bottom you are fishing on has a depth of 2 or 10 inches (or even more than that), you will always be able to present your hookbait in the most effective and perfect way. It’s one of carp angling’s most brilliant solutions to fishing difficult venues.
What Tackle Do You Need To Make a Helicopter Rig?
If you are new to carp fishing or helicopter rigs, or simply don’t have much time, preparing your own leadcore can be quite the pain and splicing it the wrong way can actually cost you fish.
That is why I recommend using ready-tied leadcores. They have a really high quality and you can fish them with confidence. It also saves you a lot of time, as you don’t have to rig up everything yourself.
It is also pretty rare to lose helicopter rig setups, which means that investing a little extra money in ready-tied leadcores is absolutely worth it.
Korda has very good leadcore systems for a decent price. Check out Korda’s high-quality leadcores on Amazon here.
When fishing the helicopter rig in weed or silt, using gripper weights is strongly recommended.
A gripper lead allows you to decrease the weight of your lead, as it will hold on to the bottom it is surrounded by, and hence can achieve the same bolt effect as a heavier weight could.
Hence, a gripper weight of 2oz is more than enough for a helicopter setup. You can find top-quality grippa weights on Amazon by clicking here.
In order for your hooklink not to get tangled up in the leadcore when casting out, putting an anti-tangle sleeve on the hooklink can be a very good idea.
The free rotation of the rig around the leadcore does decrease the risk for tangles significantly, but it still happens that your hooklink and/or hook will end up on or around the leadcore, which can impact your presentation negatively.
An anti-tangle sleeve is a cheap and simple insurance for a tangle-free cast and a perfect presentation!
I prefer Korda’s Anti-Tangle Sleeves because you get 25 of them for a very decent price. This quantity will last you for a very long time! Take a closer look at Korda’s anti-tangle sleeves on Amazon here.
Braided Hooklink Material
If you are making your own rigs, you will need to buy some braided hooklink material. This is needed for making both conventional hair rigs and pop-up rigs for your helicopter set-up.
I have used the Korda Dark Matter (20lb and 30lb) for many years and have never been disappointed by it. It is really good quality and one spool (20m) will enable you to make dozens of hooklinks of various lengths.
Another advantage of the Dark Matter is that it comes coated, which means that you get 2 options here; a naked or a coated hooklink, as you can strip off the coat quite easily. You can purchase the Korda Dark Matter on Amazon here.
Finally, you’ll also need hooks if you’re making your own rigs. Strong and qualitative carp hooks can really make all the difference and will land you many more carp than mediocre hooks will!
Depending on the size of your hookbaits, you will most likely need a size 4 or size 6 hook, where the bigger size 4 is for larger boilies and pop-ups of 18-20mm, and the size 6 for boilies or pop-ups of 12-16mm.
My go-to carp hooks are without a doubt the Korda Wide Gape X. These are ultra-strong hooks that will never break or bend, no matter how big that hooked carp may be! Take a closer look at the Korda Wide Gape X on Amazon here.
How to Set Up a Helicopter Rig
1. Tie the leadcore to your mainline
The most secure knot you can use here is the improved clinch knot. It will make your leadcore a safe and natural extension of your mainline.
2. Attach the weight to the end of the leadcore
Now, attach the carp weight to the little quick-change swivel on the end of the lead core leader.
3. Pull the sleeve over the weight’s swivel
Once that is done, pull the rubber sleeve halfway over the weight’s swivel. Do not pull it over all the way, as this will impact the weight’s ability to move around freely. If it can’t do that, it may not sink perfectly into the silt or weed, which then can impact the bolt effect of your rig negatively.
4. Attach the hooklink to the quick change swivel
Now, take your hooklink and attach it to the quick-change swivel on the leadcore leader. It is on this swivel that your hooklink will slide up the leadcore in order to lay itself on top of the weed or silt.
For inspiration, please check the section on the best rigs for the heli rig further down in this article!
5. Pull the anti-tangle sleeve over the quick-change swivel
Next, simply pull the anti-tangle sleeve, which you’ve already put onto your hooklink, over the quick-change swivel. The sleeve will make your hooklink somewhat stiffer at the base, reducing the risk of tangling to almost zero.
6. Adjust the top bead according to bottom depth
You are basically done now! All that’s left to do is to adjust the leadcore’s top bead according to the depth of the weed or silt you are fishing over. If you have a silt bottom of 5 inches, then all you’d have to do is to slide the top bead 5 inches up the leadcore.
When you cast out your rig, the weight will land in the silt first, sinking down those 5 inches into it. Meanwhile, the top bead will allow the hooklink to slide up those same 5 inches and thereby lay itself perfectly on top of the bottom, giving you the perfect hookbait presentation.
And that’s about it! Congratulations, you have now set up an entire helicopter rig! Great job!
Make sure to check out the related YouTube video I made to learn even more helpful tips and tricks about the helicopter rig:
When to Fish the Helicopter Rig?
The most suited bottom features for the helicopter rig include:
- debris (branches, roots, tree leaves)
If the venue you are fishing in includes any of the above-mentioned bottom types, especially if there is deep and very soft silt or thick weed present, the helicopter rig is definitely your best choice.
Similarly, when making really long-distance casts, the helicopter rig is a very good choice, as it is a highly aerodynamic rig to cast. This is mainly due to the following two reasons:
- The upside-down nature of the helicopter rig, with the weight on the end of the leader, gives it perfect aerodynamics during a long cast
- The totally free and unhindered spinning motion of the hooklink around the leadcore reduces rig tangles to an absolute minimum
Best Rigs for a Helicopter Setup
The pop-up rig would be my first choice for helicopter set-ups. It allows for a very good presentation that is very close to the bottom.
Make sure that you use as light a split shot or tungsten as possible so that your pop-up will not be pulled down by it. It should just barely drag it down. Balance it as critically as you can!
It does not matter at all if the pop-up sinks to the bottom extremely slowly. If anything, that is a good thing, as it will ensure that the hookbait will lay itself nicely and slowly on top of the weed or silt.
If you don’t know how to tie the pop-up rig, this article will teach you how to do it in no time: How to Tie a Pop-Up Rig (Simple Step-By-Step Guide)
If the bottom isn’t all that soft and allows for actual bottom baits, you can safely use the conventional hair rig. This is a very easy and fast rig to tie and you should definitely resort to simplicity and time saving, if circumstances allow for that!
If, on the other hand, the silt bottom is too soft and deep, you should stay away from pure bottom baits and instead go for pop-up variants. You just can’t know how much the hookbait will actually sink into the silt. Perhaps, it will even disappear entirely, which can cost you a lot of takes, as the carp will simply miss.
If you are unsure about how to tie the basic hair rig, this article will help you: How to Make a Hair Rig (An Illustrative Guide)
This is another very popular type of pop-up rig, which, however, is set up differently from the conventional pop-up rig.
The chod rig is made of a very short and stiff fluorocarbon hooklink that implies that this rig can be presented above any weed, silt or debris on the bottom (sometimes more than the normal pop-up rig can).
So, the chod rig is a really good alternative for lake beds with heavy and think weed or lots of debris (such as branches, roots or plenty of tree leaves).
However, it is not the easiest of rigs to tie for beginners or people who aren’t familiar with it, which is why I recommend using ready-tied chod rigs. I use Korda’s Chod Rigs, as they are simple, cheap, very effective, and professionally tied. Find them on Amazon here.
Do You Have to Use a Leadcore With a Helicopter Rig?
You don’t have to necessarily use a leadcore leader in order to fish the helicopter rig, even though it is recommended.
A possible alternative is to use a rather long anti-tangle rig tube (3-4 feet in length) instead of a leadcore leader.
The hooklink can slide up and down the tube as much as on a leadcore and the tube material ensures full protection of your mainline. Find a suitable rig tube material on Amazon here.
So, instead of tying a leadcore to your mainline, you simply have to run the mainline through the rig tube and then tie it to the weight on the end of the tube.
You would also have to put a rubber sleeve for the weight’s swivel, a quick-change swivel for the hooklink, as well as a top bead on the rig tube in order to get the same kind of setup as with a leadcore.
This setup implies a little more work and a few extra items to put together. But, if you prefer this setup over a leadcore system then this is definitely the way to do it.
Essential Tackle Tips
If you’re looking for solid and reliable carp fishing equipment, these tips might be useful for you.
The following tackle is of top quality and sells at a very decent price on Amazon.
I have been using this setup myself for many years and have caught plenty of big carp with it.
Rod: Daiwa Black Widow
A very strong and beautifully made 12ft 3lb carp rod with a ton of backbone and a great bend. Casts anything up to 5 oz extremely well and lets you navigate and control your fish smoothly and effectively. Fits both open and snaggy waters.
A reliable standard-sized baitrunner reel that works great for short to medium-distance carp fishing. Loads around 200 yards of 15-18lb monofilament mainline. Handles any wild run very smoothly! Fits the Black Widow rod perfectly.
Mainline: Daiwa Sensor 15lb
One of the strongest and most durable monofilament lines out there! Sells at a very good price and will last you for many fishing trips. Has just the right amount of stretch to perfectly hook and fight every fish.