Helicopter set up by Tom Jehu
The helicopter set up has undoubtably become the go to lead arrangement for most anglers in recent years. With the mass advertising it has received in the past 3 years from most companies in the angling industry, it’s easy to see why. Although the lead clip and inline set ups have their place, the helicopter is most definitely the most versatile of these and for that reason it suits most anglers’ requirements. Although the helicopter has its benefits there are a lot of people who use it because it’s what they have seen in the most recent videos released by large companies in the industry, while they don’t actually understand why it is suitable for certain situations.
My lead setups of choice are always, a helicopter for fishing in silt or weed, a lead clip for firm bottoms such as sand, clay and gravel or an inline system for solid bags.
The main benefits to using a helicopter are that it very rarely tangles, it’s easy to cast, with the lead being at the end of the set up the ability to feel the lead down is exaggerated more than with other lead systems and it’s easy to present your rigs over a range of different lake beds when used correctly. By simply adjusting the position of the top bead on the leader, you can ensure that your hook link is always going to present on top of any debris. With the helicopter setup your hook link will always sit against the top bead throughout the cast, allowing a set amount of separation between your rig and the lead. When fishing in silt your lead will always penetrate into the silt no matter what size lead you use, but thanks to your top bead being set a few inches higher than the depth of the silt your hook bait will always be presented. The same applies when fishing in weed also. As a general rule of thumb, I always try to keep my rig as close to the lead as I can get away with, while still ensuring that I can present my rig above any debris. I do this to ensure that the fish comes into contact with the lead as quickly as possible to help set the hook and minimize the chance of being done. For shallow silt I tend to keep a few inches between the lead and top bead, for deep silt and light weed I tend to move it further up. I never fish my top bead any higher than 1m when using a leader, the only time I change this is when I am fishing heavily weeded waters and left with no choice. In that situation a naked helicopter setup will always be the best option. In this situation I make sure that the buffer bead is placed only a few inches below the top bead, I do this to minimize the amount of movement of the rig before I get any indication on my alarms. This style of fishing is very difficult, and indication is normally minimal, sometimes a single beep is all you get. it pays to watch the rod tips when fishing in deep weed as you will always need to fish locked up and because of this you will often see the rod tip move toward the spot before the alarms sound. I would not recommend doing this at night for obvious reasons.
A helicopter system can seem rather complicated when you have not used it before, but it is in fact very easy to setup. To start with I take a Fluro leader, remove the swivel from the end and replace it with a Quick Link and a sleeve to cover the link once the lead is attached. Next I add a tapered sleeve and a bead to use as a buffer, followed by either a QC ring swivel or a standard ring swivel, a tapered sleeve and then the top bead to finish. I moisten the top sleeve before placing the bead onto it to complete the set up. All you need to do from here is add your rig of choice but be mindful that you will need to use a buoyant bait to get the most out of this setup, which brings me into my next point… hook-bait choice.
For this particular system, your hook-bait choice is equally important, if not more important than anything else. This whole system has been designed around the idea of presenting your bait over areas where other setups are unable to do so. The simple answer to this is a balanced bait, which simply means you should always use a bait with an element of buoyancy in it. For anyone who is unsure, the term balanced is generally used to describe a bait which has a neutral weight in water meaning it sinks very slowly onto the desired area and this is achieved by adding small amounts of putty to the rig until it just starts to sink, then it’s perfect. This does take time, but it is worth the effort to get results. Personally, I have only ever used balanced pop ups, but others opt to use a balanced wafter and they also work to great effect. When fishing over silt or weed, a bait that falls too quickly will end up partly, or in some circumstance even fully, submerged in silt or weed which defeats the whole idea of using this setup. Whereas a bait which is balanced and falls incredibly slowly will tend to rest on top of the silt and the weed giving you a much higher chance of catching fish from these areas. It’s also worth mentioning that a stiffer material like the Armored Chod from Hobo Armour will always be a better option for your rig material with this lead system as it aids in presentation. This coupled up with a balanced bait is, in my opinion, the perfect choice when using a helicopter set up.
To recap, the helicopter is without doubt the most versatile of all the lead systems and will undoubtably add more fish to the bank for any angler who decides to use it, but it is still important to use the right lead system in the right situation to ensure your chances of success are as high as possible!