Decoy rigging is an easy task, but you can easily underestimate the importance of rigging decoys correctly. Properly rigged decoys can make the difference between a great hunt, a day of chasing decoys, or fighting a tangled mess. You do not want to remain focused on your decoys instead of focusing on waterfowl. Decoy rigging must be light enough to transport easily, quick to deploy for the correct water depth, and securely hold decoys in place.
Anywhere there is water, you will find waterfowl, and they are hunted in a wide range of weather conditions and water depths. For waterfowlers, wind is both a blessing and a curse. Typically, waterfowl land into the wind. I have seen some ducks, especially teal, give little regard to wind direction when landing. This makes it fairly easy to predict the direction from which waterfowl will approach for landing, and it tells you the best decoy placement for your area.
Today, there are numerous companies marketing decoy rigging systems and system components covering a variety of water conditions, such as shallow water Texas Rigs, deep water gang rigs, fast water rigs, and jerk rigs. You have to realize that no single decoy rigging system works for all conditions. By choosing a rigging system that is quick and easy to change, you can put together a couple of different rigging systems to allow hunting a wider variety of areas and conditions.
To determine the best decoy rigging system for your type of hunting conditions, you have to first consider the depth of the water. If your anchor line will not contact the bottom, the rig is useless. At the same time, using a deep water rig in shallow water areas will cause problems from the excess line. In tidal areas, a shallow water system will have problems maintaining contact with the bottom, if the water level is rising.
The next consideration is anchor style. Different water conditions require different anchor styles. For example, if you hunt open water divers in rolling waves deeper than 5 feet, a heavy anchor designed to bite into the hard bottom will provide greater decoy security in stiff winds or choppy water. There are various commercially available anchors that meet these requirements, and the mini mushroom anchor is a great choice. If you chase mallards or other puddle ducks in the shallows, lead strap anchors and 4-8 ounce egg sinkers work great. Lead straps are great for wrapping around decoy necks and securing anchor lines, but egg sinkers are easier to retrieve from submerged vegetation. If you hunt heavy, fast currents or tidal waters, a simple one pound lead ingot with a small hole drilled through the center makes a great decoy anchor. Lead ingots and ingot molds are available from lure making suppliers, as well as reloading suppliers. Lead ingots are shaped like a long, flat-topped pyramid, with a wider base and narrower top. Attaching the decoy line with the wider base of the ingot towards the decoy and knotting the line on both sides allows the ingot to bite into the bottom and hold securely. When the hunt ends, this set-up will allow easy retrieval. For gang rigs, or long lines, decoys are “anchored” to a main line by decoy clips that are attached to a short, 3 foot length of decoy cord attached to the decoy with a heavy-duty snap swivel. The main line is held in place by a 3-6 pound folding anchor. This style of folding anchor allows it to take up less space when stowed. Its grappling hook design lets it firmly hold to the bottom when it is deployed. This style of folding anchor is extremely effective for jerk rigs, as well.
Just as important as anchor choice, the type of decoy line you choose could mean the difference of having to re-rig your decoys every season or not. Stout, high quality decoy lines are commercially available and are relatively cheap, and they are designed to resist abrasions and damage from gasoline and other petroleum products. For shallow water, heavy duty 250-500 pound test monofilament fishing line works great. The stiff, rugged mono reduces the risk of tangled decoy lines, as well.
For decades, decoy lines were simple, braided or twisted cords. Many of these lines were tar-coated to prevent rotting and increase their strength. To this day, tarred, braided lines are still the most commonly used decoy line for deep water rigs, heavy current rigs, and gang rigs. These coated lines are available through commercial fishing suppliers and decoy supply sources. Coated lines offer a lifetime of service and are darkly colored to disappear in bottom muck.
The length of decoy line should reflect the water depths you hunt. Typically, puddle duck decoy lines should be 3-6 feet long. For deep water diver decoys, it is fairly common to use lines up to 20 feet long. For gang rigs, a main line of 100-300 feet is standard. Jerk rigs are usually 100 feet long to accommodate various set-ups.
In this modern age of waterfowling, the Texas Rig has become the king of shallow water decoy rigging systems. This rig is very simplistic, yet very effective. It consists of a length of heavy, stiff monofilament fishing line, an egg sinker, a large, heavy-duty snap swivel, and two line crimps. Once you have determined the water depth for your location, cut the monofilament to the proper length. A good rule to use for length is 2 feet longer than the water depth. Now, take one end of the mono and pass it through one side of the line crimp. With this section, form a loop about the diameter of a D-cell battery, push the tag end of the mono into the other side of the line crimp, and squeeze the crimp with a pair of slip-joint pliers or crimping pliers, if you have them, to lock the crimp in place. Thread the other end of the mono through the egg sinker, the swivel, and one side of the other line crimp. Form another loop like before, push the tag end into the remaining side of the line crimp, and squeeze the line crimp to lock it into place. Your Texas Rig is now complete. Simply snap the swivel onto the decoy keel, and it is ready to hunt. For simple and tidy storage, slip one loop onto a carabiner and hang the carabiner on a wall hook. Your decoys are now properly stored and protected, and your rigging remains tangle free.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Decoy Rigging…….