This advice falls into two categories:
personal safety while building fishing rigs; and
building safe fishing rigs to prevent the potential serious injury of other beach users.
The main risk of injury while building rigs comes from the hooks. A lapse in concentration, or an ill thought out working method can easily see a razor sharp hook embed itself deep into your hand, face, leg or arm. First aid books will tell you how to remove a fishing hook from a hand, but in reality, when using larger sea fishing hooks with substantial barbs, the removal really is a job for you local accident and emergency department.
The most likely times to injure yourself while rig making are:
How to safely tighten a hook knot:
The most important thing here is to ensure that the hook is securely held at all times when tightening the knot.
My preference is to use a cheap carabiner (above). I can securely grip it and keep my fingers away from the hook point at the same time. The rounded edges of the carabiner prevent damage to the hook.
Well lubricating the knot with saliva will also help everything to tighten up smoothly.
Building Safe Rigs
There are some basic rules when rig building which should be adhered to.
Always use a shockleader
A shockleader is a length of strong mono which is tied in between the main line and the rig. The purpose of it is to take the huge pressure generated by the lead during the cast, preventing the rig and lead from parting with the main line. It also offers protection from the abrasion of rocks etc on the sea bed.
A shockleader's breaking strain should be at least 10lbs for every ounce of lead. For example, 40lbs breaking strain shockleader for a 4oz lead or 60lbs shockleader for a 6oz lead. As a general guide, a 60lb shockleader will cover most situations.
What is also as important as the shockleader's breaking strain is its length. A shockleader which doesn't reach the spool, or has insufficient turns around the spool, is useless. It must have around 7 or 8 turns around the spool during the cast to prevent the shockleader slipping and separating from the main line. When tying a shockleader, make sure that there are 7-8 turns around the spool, that it goes up to the tip of the rod and then back down to the first (largest) ring.
Choose the right breaking strain for the rig body
The rig body should never be of a lower breaking strain than the shockleader, as this would create a weak spot during the cast. Knots in the rig body, the inevitable abrasion and over-tightened crimps can also serve to weaken it. With this in mind it is a safer option to use an 80lb rig body with a 60lb shockleader.
Crimps should be lightly pinched on to mono rig body using toothless pliers or a crimping tool designed specifically for the job. The crimp should be pinched in the middle to prevent the ends from cutting into the line.
A correctly tightened crimp should look as follows:
Using toothed pliers, over-tightening and pinching the end of the crimp can all weakened the line, creating potentially dangerous weak spots.
The photograph below shows a commercially produced rig, given to me as part of a goodie bag at a large fishing competition. Unbelievably, it has been over-tightening and pinching at the end of the crimp using a toothed tool. The result is a dangerous rig.
The bottom crimp is completely crushed out of shape, but the top crimp is potentially of more concern. The close-up image below shows that the use of toothed pliers/crimping pliers has created a sharp crease in the crimp.
Below is an extreme close-up of the crimp. It is clear to see that the edge of the crimp has cut into the line. This has created a weak spot, which could cause the line to separate, and 5oz of lead to shoot off down the beach at up to 100mph. The result could be fatal for another beach user.
There are a number of effective alternatives to swivels.
Choosing the right size swivel
Swivels come in a range of styles and breaking strains. It is essential that any swivel you use between the running line and the lead is strong enough to safely take the pressures generated when casting.
Lead links/clips are essential
A lead clips/links primary purpose is to prevent abrasion to the knot or rig body, which does occur if the lead is tied directly to the rig body. This abrasion can cause the lead to separate from the line and shoot of down the beach, endangering other beach users.
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