Alan Taylor has been targeting some French giants...

The new XX range of hooks hit the shops this week, and big carp legend Alan Taylor was one of the first to get his hands on them earlier this summer during the product development stage.

Alan, a regular at Rainbow Lake in France and captor of some huge carp, was one of Korda’s first ports of call when it came to testing the latest range of big fish hooks. With years of experience in targeting European giants, we knew Alan would give the XXs a thorough testing! Here’s how his latest session went and his verdict on the Wide Gape XX and Kurv Shank XX.

On my latest trip to Rainbow, I had been given the privilege of fishing the right hand side of peg 6, I had fished in 6 before but never on the right. On the right side there was a large area of open water directly in front of me which lead right up to a large opening leading to swims 11 and 12, with islands and bars to the right, and a channel leading up to peg 5.

The left hand side of the swim was a little more tricky - a narrow snaggy channel, a few close in islands and lots of humps and bumps. I had a plan, which was to only fish half way up the open water onto a nice big plateau, to allow the fish to move through and around the swim without cutting them off by fishing to the limit of my swim with lines all over the place, as I have said before they love where there are no lines and feel a lot more comfortable.

The plateau was about 8 foot in depth, which seemed perfect considering all the extreme hot weather they had been having making the water temperature very high. I had a good prod around on the plateau, finally finding a lovely bit of bottom to place my hook bait - a nice big hand rolled Hybrid bottom bait with plenty of the right stuff in - so that I could leave it out as long as is necessary.

I pulled the boat back off the plateau and gave it a real good scattering of boilies. The other rods I fished in likely looking spots in shallowish water with a handful of baits around, just enough to get a bite, once again a nice big hard bottom bait lowered onto the chosen spot with a PVA Hybrid stick mix, glugged up with the usual goodies for added attraction.

Unbelievably, after two months without a sprinkle of rain, on the first night we had a massive thunderstorm, one tree on the lake was hit by lightning, another was felled by the high winds blocking the track, and some sheer devastation occurred to those whom had erected gazebos, these were completely blown away or smashed to pieces.

The morning arrived and it looked bob on for a bite, I was well happy with my spots and the plateau rod felt like my banker rod, and fishing in fairly open water was a real bonus for Rainbow. To make matters even better, the French in peg 11 were out in their boats constantly, hopefully making a disturbance on the water will move a few fish my way. I was sitting tight now for a few days, until a bite or whatever.

I didn't have to wait long 6pm that evening I am away, that's an early one I thought after all the boat work and sure enough it was the plateau rod, into the boat and after a bit of a battle with no dramas a lovely looking scaly mirror rolls into the net, happy days I am thinking and not only a pretty one but a big one to boot. Back on dry land a quick weigh and photo it's 59lb - that will do very nicely, thank you very much.

I then had a 20lb-plus common and a barney rubble on the channel rod and a nice 44lb mirror from the plateau rod. The weather was nice and sunny again now, the peg 11 men continued to be constantly on the water but I didn't actually see them land a fish, they may just have been topping up their tans as they were both cavorting around in their "budgie smugglers" some people just can't sit still and stay off the water, I wasn't complaining as the plateau rod and another I had managed to 'fit in' the area were busy!

Twice I was in the boat sorting out fish and one of the other rods went. I had another take on the plateau rod but by the time I had got into the boat and out to the fish it had found an underwater snag. I believe my snag set-up to be the ultimate from the hook all the way through to the 50 lb Apex braided mainline, when I got close enough I could tell it was definitely snagged, I got right over the top of the snag and had a little pull on the 60lb nylon leader - sure enough it had swam under a cluster of branches.

It's obviously not coming back through all those branches so out with my little grappling hook, lower it down and try to locate my line exiting the other side of the snag, slacken off and pull it up, cut through the nylon, (it's easier to do it than describe it) on the rod side and pull the now slack line out of the snag and quickly retie it to the other end.

I am now free of that snag and ready to do battle, if the fish is still on that is. I move another few yards closer but it's snagged again, this time it's the old landing net handle trick, take the arms off the net, wrap the spreader around the leader and follow it down to the bottom, the fish is still on I can feel it now. This went on for sometime, in fact long enough for my mate to write in his log that I’d had a bite and lost it!

I could feel the line under another snag but the landing net trick, lowering the line under the snag, worked a treat - the carp was free and surging up the lake, chasing the fish up the lake and trying to re assemble the landing net head to the handle was fun! It felt a good fish and on first glance as it rolled ready for netting looked a nice forty, I quickly unhooked him in the net checked everything was ok, gave him a little rest and decided not to put him through the rigours of a trip back to the bank but to set him free there and then, as he lay on his side it I thought it looked like a mid-forty, but as he righted himself in the net it was very broad across the back and as he slowly swam out the net he got longer and longer, I thought to myself that he could have easily been a fifty!

I can't remember the last time I left any gear in the lake let alone in a fish, if the fish has gone I wrap everything round my pulling bar, and give it the big heave ho, I have raised a few impressive trees from the depths! And I have to be careful not to sink the boat at times.

The two patterns of hook I use are the Kurv Shank XX and the Wide Gape XX - the strength of these hooks is unbelievable, I have never had one break or even slightly opened one, even when connected to an immovable snag, they’re also very sharp straight from the packet. I don't find they need sharpening and would not risk messing anyway.

I use two hook link materials; either the Kamo coated hook link in 65lb or Duracord, which I splice onto the hook and the swivel (no knots), the toughness and abrasion is phenomenal. This is attached using a new super strong Kwik Link which I have been testing, then I use either Kable XT leadcore in 70X lb or Armacord 85lb approximately 4ft - 6ft in length, then a nylon leader XT Snag Leader in 50lb or 60lb in an 8 metre length.

This puts a tiny amount of stretch into the set-up, which I like when playing fish particularly from a boat and helps considerably if the fish becomes snagged as it does not cut into snags. Finally, this is all attached to Apex main line braid in 50lb. I believe this to be the ULTIMATE snag set up, that's why I have listed everything concisely.

The weather became changeable with some really hot days followed by heavy thunderstorms with strong mistral winds. I could have easily gone down to the two plateau rods, as the other two had completely dried up, and these two continued to catch come rain or shine. I had some nice commons from 40lb up to 48lb and other lovely carp of 58lb and one of 52lb – all on the new XX hooks. They haven’t let me down yet!