How to Master the Hair Rig

Hair rigs have become a worldwide sensation for targeting slow-swimming bottom feeders. Its simple set up and ease of functionality paired with its tremendous effectiveness make a hair rig a great choice for beginner and expert anglers alike.

What is a hair rig?

A hair rig is a simple set up that can be modified and tailored to the fisherman’s needs. A brief explanation of what a hair rig is just a bare hook with a free hanging bait or lure attached to the tag end of the knot used to attach the hook to the line. While there are more sophisticated rigs, this original setup is most popular.


 There are five main components to a hair rig: the rod, reel, line, hook, and bait.

Rod and Line

The most effective style rod and reel is a spinning reel with a high sensitivity rod. A 7-foot, medium-action rod is the best choice when using a hair rig. The reel isn’t as crucial as it could be any medium to large style spinning reel.

The line however should be more carefully chosen. Braid is best for holding the bait securely on the line without losing it when casting.

Hook and Bait

A size 6 straight-eye hook should suffice for any species you plan to target as it is strong enough to hold large fish but still small enough to not be visible. Lastly, the lure, known as a boilie, is highly important and can vary from species to species.

Many boilies come in premade packages, but you can easily make your own. Two factors in choosing carp bait are the tackiness and the scent. It must be tacky enough to hold together and not fall apart and have a scent strong enough to attract fish downriver.

A weight should be added to the line as well. A good way to do this is to connect the main line and leader with a barrel swivel and put the weight through the main line so it can move freely but stops before it gets to the rig.

Also worth checking out is our guide to the best tackle for carp fishing.



The hair rig is primarily used for carp fishing. Once mass production of the rig started, it revolutionized the carp fishery across the whole world. With carp feeding by using scent and their whiskers, they are incredibly hook shy and do heavy investigating before taking a bite. Previously, a kernel of corn on the bare hook was once the preferred method. Today that tactic has taken a backseat to the highly effective hair rig.

Other Species

 Outside of the carp fishing world, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find this rig in a sturgeon or cat fisherman’s tacklebox. This is not a shock since both of these species’ feed much like carp, scanning the bottom of the lake searching for an easy meal. While not the preferred method, you can find some success when targeting trout. During spawning times, trout may mistake a small boilie for an egg and strike hoping for an easy meal.

How to fish a hair Rig

The simplicity of the method to fishing a hair rig is what appeals to beginner anglers. While more experienced anglers take depth, current, and structure into consideration, the way to fish the rig is to throw it out and let it sink to the bottom. It is important to keep a tight line when the weight is on the bottom of the lake. This will ensure that you can detect a bite no matter how small or subtle the bite may be.

Depending on the type of hook you are using, the hookset may be different. When using a circle hook, let the carp take the bait and just start reeling. When using a straight hook, set the hook like fishing any other rig and fight the fish quickly before it runs to cover.

Best Bait to use with a Hair Rig

The best bait to use with a hair rig is any high-quality boilie. Made from fishmeal, protein extract, grain, and other substances, this concoction is boiled down into a paste. Preservatives are usually added for a longer lasting lure.

Depending on the area you are fishing, different scents may prove to be better. Two popular scents are garlic and corn. Since corn was once the main bait used for bottom fishing, it is no wonder why the corn scented bait is incredibly popular. If available, select a boilie with neutral buoyancy. Too buoyant and the bait may not look natural to the fish and if it sinks too heavily, it could get covered up in silt or mud.

Luckily, a high-quality corn or garlic scented bait with neutral buoyancy is mass produced and widely available in many sporting goods stores.

Tip: Know your Knots

Tying the knot that attaches the line to the is a crucial component to the set up of a hair rig. While there are multiple knots that can prove to be effective, the knotless knot is the one that anyone should tie.

A knotless knot is quite simple to tie and is incredibly strong.

Here’s how to tie a knotless knot:

  1. Take about 12 inches of braided line and simply run the line through the eye of the hook and leave roughly 3 inches of the tag end out.
  2. Tie a small loop on the end of the tag end, this will be used to hold the bait.
  3. Take the opposite end of the line and wind it around the hook and tag end of the line 5 to 7 times, moving down the hook without overlapping any of the wraps.
  4. Lastly, take the long tag end and pass it through the eye of the hook and pull tight.

Once the knot on the hook is secure, tie an overhand loop knot on the long tag end, this will make it easier to attach it to the mail line that is coming off the reel. Some anglers use a swivel or o ring for this. If you use either of these, a simple improved clinch knot is strong and small enough profile to be effective.

Wrapping up

While this rig is simple and effective, take time to learn as much as you can so that you can catch more fish in different conditions. Don’t let the simplicity of this rig fool you, there are many ways that you can improve this highly productive lure. 

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