Twig Update - by Barry McConnell
TWIG UPDATE… A useful bit of info for new members
I tried various rigs such as resistance rigs and greatly reduced deep-hooking but I did not completely eradicate deep-hooking until I put a twig on the trace. One rig does not fit all situations but the twig can be put on all rigs to make them 100% safe to the eel. Nowadays with a 100mm-long twig on the trace all my rigs are 100% safe. Even if you are zipped up in the bivvy or giving an eel time to mouth a big bait, the twig will prevent the eel from swallowing the bait. No UK eel can swallow a 100mm long twig as the dynamics of the eels’ mouth is such that they can’t swallow something this size. I used a larger 150mm-long twig for the larger Australian longfin eels in 2019 with 100% lip-hooking success.
To position the twig, push it up the trace until it is ½ inch or less away from the hook, leaving only a small gap as a bit of wiggle room. This max distance of ½ inch has been calculated from a study of the eel’s anatomy. Its main artery is just at the back of the throat, only a short distance from the corner of its mouth. If the hook severs this artery the eel will bleed to death. I am now confident enough with using a twig to fish with it butted up against the hook with no gap of wiggle room. Eels still take the bait. Worms will wrap themselves around the twig, trace and any surrounding vegetation or detritus such as rotting leaves or windfall twigs that may litter the bottom. The worms will cling on so that the eel will have to prise them free. This happens in nature too where all the invertebrates that eels feed on have got either a hook, claw, sucker, leg or similar mechanism with which to cling on to its surrounds so that the eel has to prise them free. As such, finding worms clinging to a twig must seem quite natural to the eel.
Development of the twig started off with a v-shaped metal rod on the trace. Trials were then done using various objects such as plastic buttons, cork balls, plastic discs, T-bars and curved bars until over a couple of seasons it gradually morphed into a straight length of hawthorn twig attached to the trace. Results were promising- it was efficient. Next came the hard part – to try and popularise the twig. Knowing what fickle tackle tarts anglers can be, I made the original twig very thin, short and nifty (50mm long, 1mm diameter) so as not to put anglers off. The twig turned out to be too short and though it had been 100% effective on the small-mouthed eel water where I did all the trials, when it was tested on bigger baits and different venues some eels swallowed the twig making it not 100% safe.
Moving on to today and the bigger twig – 100mm long and 3mm diameter – I stress once again that the dynamics of an eel’s mouth are such that they can’t swallow a twig this long and so it is 100% safe.
Does it work? By heck yes it does. In 2020 season I got lucky and caught several 4’s, three 5’s, a 6.04 and a 7.08 using a 100mm long twig. OK so I got lucky but the point is not about how lucky I was to catch such fish but the fact that I had a big twig on the trace and I still caught. Therefore, when I am not catching and I start doubting the twig and wondering if it is putting the eels off and I am tempted to discard the twig, I no longer have an excuse not to use the twig because it does not seem to detract from my success at catching.
And then today as I was hand writing this article on 30/06/2021, my 64th birthday, at 7.45pm the rollover suddenly lifted off and a 5.11 eel hooked itself against the baitrunner.’Happy birthday’ I thought, the big twig scores again. This was also a milestone occasion as it is the 50th eel I have ever caught in the UK weighing 5lbs or over
A cork ball acts as a good twig with a legered livebait. This is Nick Duffy’s legered livebait rig that he has been using for years on the canal without ever deep hooking an eel.
The 100mm long 3mm diameter twig I use is clear acrylic rod. You can buy it online already cut into 100mm lengths. Just google search ‘clear acrylic rod 3mm diameter cut to size.’
I attach the twig to the trace with clear plastic tubing, the type used for aquarium pump airlines.
Remember that one rig does not fit all situations but the twig can be put on all rigs to make them 100% safe to the eel. Stay safe – use the twig.