Shamrock feather rigs are now available across the UK, but are they any good? Steve Souter takes them fishing and tells all.
Modern ‘feather’ rigs have evolved tremendously from the days when choice was limited to crudely bound white or dyed chicken feathers. Today’s packet feathers are constructed from all manner of wonderful stuff to form what are boat fishing essential items that no thinking angler would neglect to carry.
Switched on anglers know that the correct feathers will catch much more than mackerel for bait; everything from sandeels to cod and myriad other species besides are possible. There are thousands of different patterns to choose from, but prices, quality and effectiveness vary greatly from brand to brand. Some are absolute works of art just as likely to catch anglers as fish, while others leave much to be desired in the knot and component robustness areas. The trick is to whittle the choices down to a manageable selection of patterns and hook sizes that cover all eventualities.
Top Irish boat anglers Martin Kennedy and Paul Robinson are the brains behind the comprehensive Shamrock range of rigs, all of which have been extensively tested before going into full production. The likes of the ‘Bleeding Gloworms’ and the deadly ‘Kilmore Killers’ have proven their worth on the Irish competition circuit for a couple of years, and have a huge following. Until very recently these rigs where only available in Ireland, but High Octane Angling, UK distributor of the Calcutta brand, have now joined forces with Shamrock to ensure availability right across the UK. As someone who unashamedly works tackle hard, the Shamrock range was assured a proper workout. I picked out a varied selection, some of which I was already familiar with, and others that were new to me. My findings are the result of many hours fishing across a wide selection of venues.
The lure consists of a lime-green wrapped fibre body and blood red top/head. Gloworms are spaced 10 inches apart on 3½-inch droppers. Although listed as carrying size 1 hooks, I would suggest that size 4 is a truer reflection. These hooks are fantastically sharp and strong to boot. Small American snap swivels are used top and bottom.
An excellent general species rig, Bleeding Gloworms excel at thumping wrasse when baited with just a small section of ragworm. At the recent Home International Boat Championship fished out of Milford Haven for example, if you didn’t have Gloworms then you weren’t at the wrasse races according to team members. Codling, haddock, whiting and dabs are just some of the other species these beauties have hoovered up.
Number of hooks: 6 Hook size: 1 (eyed) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €1.99
Kilmore Killers, ‘Green’
A highly luminous elongated tubular body slips over a chartreuse fibre/silver strand body and pearlescent ‘wing’. A tiny yellow blade and two 3mm oval lumi beads ride in front of each lure. Lures are spaced 13 inches apart on 7-inch droppers. The hooks are a black Aberdeen-type of reasonable quality. They are listed as size 1/0 but are in fact almost identical in size to a 3/0 Kamasan B940 hook. Top and bottom quality rolling swivels complete the rig.
Baited with mackerel, these have real ling and cod pulling power. They have also proven very good for spurdog. Bite-offs from spurs were regular given the light line. However, because the Kilmores are built on eyed hooks, re-tying them to heavier mono is a straightforward option. Kilmore Killers are also available with an alternative red feather body.
Number of hooks: 3 Hook size: 1/0 (eyed) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP:€2.50
Shamrock’s version of the universally effective Hokkai rig, Limey B’s are an imitation bait-fish lure sporting the classic luminous head and further embellished with a large 8mm oval luminous green bead above. The body mirrors that of the Kilmore Killers, only smaller. The body and snood strengths/diameters are closer 40lb throughout, which is no bad thing on this type of rig. The lures are spaced 12 inches apart on 3-inch droppers. American snap swivels are looped on top and bottom.
Cod, coalfish, pollack and mackerel number among the fish these excellent little lures clobbered. I found them particularly effective on small tides, more so in clear water and in bright conditions on the drift. At anchor, Limey B’s work well when cast away and worked back to the boat.
Number of hooks: 3 Hook size: 2/0 (spade) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €1.99
Minihawk Mackerel Rig
Loud and proud body colours stand the rig out, otherwise Minihawks follow the Hokkai theme. A 3mm lumi green bead and Hokkai head is followed a dark pink and yellow feather body spruced with several silver strands. Lures are spaced 10 inches apart on 3-inch droppers. There are no swivels on the rig, and loops facilitate attachment of the lead and to the leader clip.
For species other than mackerel, Minihawks are best baited with worm, mackerel, squid strip or mussel. Cod, pollack, coalfish and haddock featured prominently when a small piece of bait was added.
Number of hooks: 5 Hook size: 1/0 (spade) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €1.99
Rainbow warriors Rig (Beads & Blades version)
Black feathers bound to the hook sit inside a high quality orange/chartreuse mini muppet. 3mm luminous green beads sit either side of a clevis-mounted miniature red blade, providing added attraction on each snood. The lures are spaced 8 inches apart on 5-inch droppers. Like the Kilmore Killers, hooks are a black Aberdeen-type. They are listed as size 1/0 but are closer in size to a 3/0 Kamasan B940 hook. A quality link swivel takes the lead, while a single swivel is tied at the top of the rig to facilitate easy attachment.
Trials found un-baited Rainbow Warriors hammered pollack on the drift, and took good numbers of cod when baited with worm or mussel.
Number of hooks: 3 Hook size: 1/0 (eyed) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €2.50
Bulls Eye Rig
Each lure is comprised of a feather body and a real fish skin ‘wing’. The feathers alternate in sequence between white, red and black on the rig’. Hooks are silver, and are in fact a standard size 4 rather than size 1 as specified on the packaging. Lure whippings are daubed luminous, and a 3mm oval lumi bead runs on the snood. Lures are spaced 10 inches apart on 4-inch droppers.
Bulls Eyes are absolute mackerel-machines! On a recent trip to Ireland it was hard not to pull up full houses on every drop. They have proven equally effective off North Wales, off the Scottish east and north coasts and on the south coast of England. Results alongside other bait-catching lures have been so good that several top boat anglers have installed these as their first choice bait-grabbing lures. Bulls Eyes don’t fall to pieces after a few strings of mackerel, and were found to be much more robust than Mustad Shrimp lures for example. One battered set of Bulls Eyes in my boat box have seen repeated action but are still perfectly serviceable.
Number of hooks: 8 Hook size: 1 (spade) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €1.99
Finally we’ve included a rig that we would label an attractor rig rather than a feather set. The Cod Caspers rig is a variation of a devastating Norwegian bait rig that is producing some phenomenal results around the UK and Ireland. At a glance it’s not kind on the eye and courts attractor overkill, but boy does this one take some fish!
Three short twisted wire booms are set 17 inches apart and 13 small pearl beads, 2 small silver blades and a 2½-inch lumi muppet decorate each 7-inch snood. Hooks are advertised as 2/0, but are nearer a regular size 1. There is a quality rolling swivel at the top of the rig, and a bottom lead clip. This is an indiscriminate species rig that racks up all sorts of fish. Cod, ling, gurnards, whiting, flatfish, haddock, big pout and dogfish are just some of victims claimed when baited with nothing more complicated than a piece of fresh mackerel.
Number of hooks: 3 Hook size: 2/0 (spade) Rig body: 30lb Snoods: 25lb RRP: €3.50
Shamrock rigs possess refreshing individuality. They are not the same old regurgitated crap copy items so often evidenced in ‘new’ products. Across the range, the lures are well constructed. However, the knots could be tidier and perhaps a little more considered. This is a criticism that can be levelled at just about all mass produced feather rigs, so it would be unfair to single Shamrock out.
Irish World Team member, Martin Kennedy tells me that the matter is already in hand as he constantly seeks to improve the shamrock product.
More than one of the profiled rigs has been granted space in my ‘feathers’ rig wallet. And if asked to sum up this range of boat rigs in a few words, I’d simply say: “Some rigs catch anglers, Shamrock rigs catch fish”.