Maggot Masterclass - Martin Pick

Every year there comes a point when the fishing becomes extremely difficult and bites are very hard to come by. This period generally starts somewhere around December and finishes towards March time. In my opinion, maggots offer by far the best chance of bite, whilst we soldier on through this period of wide spread inactivity. In this piece I am going to discuss how I go about my maggot fishing.

During the cold weather, us as anglers go through a whole manner of different tactics in order to tempt a bite. The carp aren’t eating like they would be in the summer, their metabolism has slowed right down and a big feast of boilies is rarely the way forward. This leads to the use of single hookbaits, bright pop-ups and alike – the maggots offer a different angle though. Maggots don’t hold the fats or oils that many of our boilies do and this means we can present them with a banquet of wriggling little grubs, something the carp often find hard to avoid.

Once the carp turn onto the maggots the results can be truly devastating, in fact I’d go as far as saying you could out-fish your summer results if you get it right. Maggots offer a wide range of bite inducing attributes but one of their best has to be that ‘natural food’ appeal. This often leads to a scenario where the carp are absolutely troughing on them, at a time of year where this type of feeding is almost unnatural.

Many people will avoid the use of maggots due to the nuisance species present in their venue. I have used the little wrigglers a hell of a lot over the years without too much hassle at all, on venues with a high nuisance fish levels too. Things like bream and tench seem to calm right down in the winter and I am yet to have to have caught more than the odd few here and there so try not to worry too much.

One thing that I really like about using maggots is the way they behave once in the swim. If I introduce say a gallon of them upon my arrival, I know that even after a hectic nights action there will still be maggots about. They are wafted about as the fish feed, they wriggle around and bury themselves in the silt and are even filtered back out of the gills as the carp feed. This creates a continuing presence of maggots within the swim. It’s not like boilie fishing, they can end up rooting around for hours as they search out each and every single maggot.

One thing that really does seem to help is having a group of anglers using the maggots, just like when a few of you are introducing the same boilie. The carp begin to recognise and actively look for the maggots, before feeding on them readily. It is when you have achieved this that you can really start to exploit the use of them.

I have always liked to bait quite heavily when using maggots but this isn’t to say that you have to. I remember a time on Sandhurst where everyone was using them in large amounts, bait boat full’s at a time, and I was able to have equally as good results just fishing with bags. If the carp are regularly seeing and eating the maggots in large quantities then they will often accept a smaller portion without too much hesitation.

Although I do prefer to go straight in with around a gallon at the start of my session, I don’t actually put too many out after this initial hit. Like I said earlier, the little blighters manage to end up all over the place, so simply casting small PVA bags back to the area after each bite is often enough. This is partly why I like to use a Skywinder Spod rather than a Spomb, I like the slight spread you are able to achieve as it holds the carp in the swim for longer. Ideally I will create a bivvy sized area, rather than anything too small - landing all the maggots on the exact same spot isn’t what I’m aiming to do. I also find that a spod creates a lot less disturbance, being able to almost pat the spod down on its side is important as far as disturbance goes – the less I can make the better.

I will re-bait the swim once I’ve had a few bites but certainly not after every bite. Something I think is important is how you actually fill up the spod – I like to fill it just over half-full and then dunk it under the water before I make the cast, this adds weight and also helps to prevent unwanted spillage.

Something I have noticed, especially over at Sandhurst, was that the bigger fish were more likely to get caught over a bag of maggots than from over the top of a larger amount. This might be once the main bulk of the maggots had been eaten or simply as stand alone PVA bags, it was apparent though, for sure.

Looking after your maggots whilst on the bank isn’t too difficult and it is important. I always bring a bucket and a maggot riddle, which is quite big, being purposefully designed for the job. You need to keep your maggots dry when on the bank and in turn you need to be prepared. It is very important that what you introduce are in tip-top condition. Riddling the maggots so that the dead or not so lively ones are separate from the good ‘uns is well worth doing. Once you have done this you are left with what you know is good bait, to which I like to add some fresh (dry) sawdust too – there can be no downside to this.

As far as the rig I use goes, I put my faith in an IQ2/Supernatural combi-rig. It’s a rig that I used to use a lot in the winter some years ago but with fruity pop-ups. Since maggot fishing with it I have just shortened the hair length down, to which I now tie the maggots. The properties of both hooklink materials are ideal, especially the Supernatural which is perfectly suited to the lightweight nature of the maggots. It’s important for them to act naturally in the water due to the way carp feed on them. If you get the chance to witness this for yourself you will notice that the maggots waft all over the place as the carp eat. Having a hookbait that is anchored to the bottom will look out of place. I like to fish with a piece of foam beneath the maggots, which critically balances the rig and in turn, the IQ is able to push out and away from the lead.

I think that (six or seven inches of) 15lb IQ2 is ideal for achieving this kick away from lead, whilst still being supple enough to lay over small amounts of debris. Adding a small amount of putty to the hooklink also helps to ensure that the hooklink is pinned down and out of the way. This element of rigidity that the IQ boasts also helps to prevent any tangles that might occur with softer materials. Being a fluorocarbon, the hooklink also becomes almost invisible in clear water, another property that I really like.

As always, I like to use this rig with a size 8 Wide Gape, I think this size and pattern is ideal. I am often fishing for big fish and this hook strikes a nice balance between subtlety and strength. I know that I can trust my hook holds and give the fish a bit of stick if necessary (on busier lakes) without fear of them falling off.

The hair on this rig is something that I have played around with, adding a small piece of foam. This keeps the hook sat up slightly and also takes away some of the weight from the ball of maggots, making it act more naturally. This element of buoyancy also helps to keep the maggots separated and away from the hook, which stops them masking the hook. Once I’ve attached the maggots I will also sit the rig in the margin for a few minutes in order to cool them down and ease their wriggling. This eliminates the chance of the maggots tangling your rig up within the first few minutes of it being in the water.

When actually attaching the maggots, I like to use anything from 11 to 14 but never 13, as it’s bad luck and I’m superstitious. Some people like to use really large bundles of maggots on the hair but I prefer not to. I like to use an amount that is large enough to be noticed but not so big that it seems out of place – a ball of them looks weird enough as it is. The Medusa style presentations do catch fish, there’s no questioning that but I use maggots to give a natural appeal to my baited area and I like to keep things as close to that line as possible.

I like to use this rig in conjunction with a piece of rig foam and a small PVA bag, and for a couple of different reasons; further reducing tangles and adding appeal to the hookbait. When tying these bags, I now make sure to add a little boilie crumb before the maggots, this gives me a small area to nick the hook through – without fear of pricking one of the maggots and melting the bag. It’s surprising how many maggots you can squeeze into one of these little bags, it’s more than enough. I only use them small, a little less than the size of a golf ball but when you check them in the margins it is a real eye-opener. Once the bag melts there are goots everywhere.

Some people flavour their maggots, and again, I just don’t see the point – if you’re going to flavour them you might as well use boilies or something. Maggots have their own flavour/smell and I don’t want or need to taint this – carp can find maggots without even trying. As far as colour goes, I do tend use red and white but in all honesty I don’t think it matters too much. I think the red have the more natural appeal and white have the visual appeal, both seem to work just as well as each other though. The maggots I have in my bucket at the minute are a combination of a few colours, all of which work just fine.

The winter is always a struggle as far as catching carp goes but maggots can transform your fishing, they certainly have done mine. Whilst all else is failing, give them a go, I’m sure they won’t let you down.

Best of luck

Martin Pick.