tcf Editor Gareth Purnell ditches the pellets and pole to find out how commercial fisheries respond to a maggot, waggler and groundbait approach.

It dawned on me the other day that I hardly ever fish the waggler on a stillwater. In fact I’ve done so only once over the winter, and even then only for 15 minutes in a match.
Nowadays pole and feeder seem to dominate not only my fishing but those of my angling pals too. And that’s a shame, because while the pole in particular cannot be beaten in terms of precision, it’s not as much fun as waggler fishing. Not in my view anyway.
This month I’m to put that right for the Bait Guide feature. I remember when carp fisheries first hit the UK scene, it must be more than 15 years ago now.
This was before the pellet revolution and we’d buy a gallon of maggots and spray them at the float tip until the carp moved in. It was a rod-out-to-the-side job, keep feeding and wait for the rod to wallop around.
It was great fun. You’d catch silver fish too, until the carp moved in and barged them out, as they do
What pellet has changed is that is rarely catches the silver fish. In a match situation all your bites will be from ‘fish worth catching’ and so you minimise time reeling in smaller fish that don’t weigh much.

But today I’m a pleasure angler, and I’m delighted to be fishing maggot on a commercial fishery.

With regular feeding of small, soft balls the fish came up in the water within 40 minutes.

The water I’ve headed for is typical of many you will have come across the length and breadth of England. There are loads of carp here that can dominate catches in the summer, but also a big head of silver fish including bream and chub that aren’t specifically targeted all that often.
Well today I’m going to fish for them, with the possibility of hooking a carp in mind.
It’s quite a big chuck right across and I’m setting up a 3SSG bodied waggler from Maver with a lovely long, straight peacock quill antenna. It would make a good slider but today I’m fishing it fixed.
I’ve plumbed up right across and found it to be at its deepest down the middle, gradually shelving up after that as you move towards the far bank.

So I’m going to fish at the bottom of that slope, in the middle at about 25 metres.
My plan today is to feed maggots and groundbait with a view to targeting the skimmers. I’m guessing the groundbait might put the chub off – they don’t like the stuff on rivers so why should they just because they are living in stillwater.
Of course there is every chance that the groundbait will attract carp, and the trick I think will be not to feed too much of it. If I put in a little at a time I’m hoping I can get the browsing bream rather than pull in the much more aggressive, greedy carp, which would push them out of the swim.
My shotting pattern is very simple. Almost all of the weight is around the float with three No8s down the line. That should give me a slow enough fall to work out if there are fish coming off the bottom to intercept the feed as it sinks.
I’m going to start on the deck though and I’m fishing with about three inches of the 0.13mm hooklength on the bottom – skimmers prefer a stationary bait on the bottom and if I find it’s towing through a lot, I’ll be happy to have up to two feet of line on the bottom to slow the passage of the float and bait through the swim.

My groundbait for this session is quite important too. Skimmers love fishmeal but so do carp, so although I’ve got some green Swim Stim in it only makes up about a quarter of the mix. The rest is made up equally of the very sweet Sensas Bream 3000 and plain brown crumb.
I’m going to be feeding soft balls of groundbait through a catapult and how I mix this up is important. It needs to hold together as I fire it out, but land softly and break up immediately, so that the groundbait and what it holds is dispersing as it sinks. I’m adding water only a little at a time and once I think I’ve got it about right I push it through a groundbait riddle twice.
Feeding with groundbait and live maggots is impossible – the maggots break up the balls. So I’ve killed off some maggots exactly as shown on page 22. These dead maggots will feed the swim but they won’t break up the balls – easy. Hook bait will be double maggot on a size 17 Kamasan B711 – an excellent hook for commercials which has a very sharp point and is strong enough in the wire to handle carp, should I hook one.

Okay, we’re ready to go. The groundbait is in a bucket to my left and is mixed so that I can form a ball with a couple of one-handed squeezes.
To feed the groundbait I’m using the green Drennan groundbait catapult, which has a nice soft elastic and is the best I’ve come across for feeding smallish balls accurately up to about 30 yards. I say accurately but it’s relative. This is something I don’t do very often – usually only at World Championships, so I’m bound to be rusty.
I had a little session on feeding with a catapult with Fox consultant Derek Willan at last year’s World Champs in Portugal. What he drilled home to me is that accurate feeding cannot be done consistently by feel – as usual in fishing there’s method to making something that seems difficult much easier.

Groundbait In Yer Catapult

Live maggots would break up balls of groundbait in flight. You need dead ’uns.
Before adding to the groundbait, separate them by sprinkling on dry fishmeal.
They will now disperse into the groundbait evenly with a good mixing.
Gareth’s groundbait is a mix of brown crumb, Sensas Bream 3000 and fishmeal.
The plan is to feed small balls you can form with a one-handed squeeze.
They should be formed so that they easily crumble up and break up on landing.
Gareth recommends the green Drennan groundbait catty for feeding small balls.
The trick to getting the same distance is to keep your backhand in the same place…
… and to always stretch your front arm to full extension.
With the same trajectory, similar-sized balls should all go about the same distance.

As you can see from the picture sequence, getting more or less the same distance each time is all about fully extending the arm holding the frame, and keeping the hand holding the pouch in the same place all the time. It’s not that easy to get used to, but it is better.
Right, I’m fishing at last.

First cast even before I feed a ball and I get a bite. As I pick up the rod and strike the float comes up again – typical. I reel in and the second maggot, which is hooked upside down to stop line spin on the retrieve, is damaged,
Second cast I just have time to feed the first ball of groundbait and dead maggots when I get another bite and connect, but it’s a very small roach about 2oz in size.

Mmm. I hope I’m not going to be hitting those all day. I persevere and after a run of very quick bites for about 10 minutes, feeding a small ball a cast, they stop suddenly.
This I take as a good sign, as it probably means some bigger fish have moved in – I just have to catch them.
Sure enough the next bite is a nice, slow one and I connect with something that fights back. Soon a 1lb skimmer is in the net.
I catch four more and then the swim goes funny. I’m getting indications as the bait is sinking but not proper bites. Then, when the bait is on the bottom, nothing.

I reckon this means that either carp have moved in and barged the skimmers out – I have been feeding pretty often. Or they have moved up in the water.
Hoping it’s the latter I shallow up to half depth with only one No8 shot down the line and also I cut back on the feed for a while.
It works. Even though I’m only fishing four feet deep I start getting lovely, slow sail-aways and put together a run of good skimmers to nearly 2lb. They are good fighters and very healthy.

One of those days when the theory worked! About 30lb of big skimmers, all taken on waggler and maggot by feeding lightly with groundbait and dead maggots.

I’m also getting some very quick bites and when I do connect with these, which is by no means always, it’s a roach.
The session goes pretty much to plan from here. I do catch a couple of chub but as I suspected they don’t really like the groundbait. I reckon if I’d just sprayed maggots I could have had a netful.
I’m just musing that it’s amazing that I’ve not had any carp when ‘wallop!’. It’s not so much a bite as a Big Mac with Cheese as the reel handle is spinning before I even grab the rod.
It’s a big one too and charges right over to the far side – but the good thing about these man-made fisheries is that there are no snags and it has nowhere to go.

Side strain and patience are the keys as I gradually, oh so gradually tire the fish out. It’s certainly putting the Garbolino Super G 13ft Specimen Power rod I’m testing through its paces. The blank is performing beautifully – plenty of give in the tip section but enough backbone in the middle to tire him out.

Eventually I get a gulp of air into the fish and he’s mine. He’s a whopper at around 11lb. A great way to end the day.
I’ve finished with more than I expected. Usually you can’t use keepnets here, but the owner has let us for the feature. I reckon I’ve got 30lb of silvers plus the carp.
I would have probably caught a lot more pole-fishing for carp down the margins. But would have I have had as much fun? No way!