More and more, nowadays anglers are turning towards maggots during the colder weather and, in the right situation they can be an outstanding bait.
So, let’s first look at why the maggots can be so effective.
Being that maggots have little or no smell as far as we are concerned I am guessing that the ‘ammonia’ they give off is in some way attractive to fish and it is this that draws the carp in to investigate.
The colour of maggot you choose does not seem to make a great deal of difference and I choose to mix reds and whites just to give a contrast but I am sure just plain whites would work equally as well.
Obviously, once they find the bait then it appears to be a food source that so closely resembles their natural food, how can they not stop and eat it?
When a few anglers on one lake start to use maggots in quantities of a gallon or more each per session then the natural balance can be tipped and the fish seem to feed almost exclusively on the little wrigglers.
I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or not and I would imagine a carp would struggle to extract as much protein from a handful of maggots as it would from the same amount of boilies so, how they affect weight gain over the winter months remains to be seen.
So let’s assume you’ve taken the plunge and you’re walking out of the fishing tackle shop with a gallon of maggots in a bucket, what now?
Storage of maggots is actually a lot easier than you might think, having used them a bit recently I was amazed how simple it really is. The first thing they need to be is cold, really cold, as this stops them moving and I actually put the whole bucket into my bait freezer for a couple of hours as soon as I get them home. Once they are really chilled down I set about ‘bagging’ them up and I do this in strong freezer bags with no air remaining in the bag at all, this is very important.
You need to be putting between one and three pints of the cold, inactive maggots, in a bag and forcing out all the trapped air before sealing it up tight with a knot or (preferably) a plastic cable tie, maggots (especially if not cold enough) will crawl around a knot and escape, leading to messy fridges and even messier divorce proceedings!
Once you have them all bagged up like this they will last in a fridge for days and days on end, as they go into a sort of suspended animation and, although they may look dead they are just waiting for the return of air to re-activate, but they must be kept cold, this is the key.
Once you are ready to use them just open all the bags and tip them into a big bucket with plenty of room, give them a good shake and somewhere between two and four hours later they will be just like new, all wriggling around and full of life.
There are various ways of getting a quantity of maggots out into your swim, obviously the range you are fishing will be a big factor but spodding is probably the easiest way with live maggots. A lot of people are under the impression that they will crawl away when they reach the lake bed but, in reality, they hardly move off at all, especially in the winter when the water is cold.
You will need to either use a solid spod or tape up the holes to stop the bait falling out on the cast. Also it helps to use a small plug of ground-bait to stop spod spill. Remember that maggots are quite an expensive bait and every miscast spod, or spillage is costing you money!
As long as you are confident on your swim choice and not intending to move, then it’s a good idea to put out the bulk of your bait at the start of the session, saving about a third of the quantity for topping up the swim. I think that the carp need to find a big spread of maggots in order to throw caution to the wind and really get their heads down.
So let’s take a look at maggot rigs as, I think it’s wrong to go to all this trouble and then just fish a pop-up boilie over the top, also I think you’ll catch more by offering them something they will eat without even noticing, while they are pre-occupied munching on the maggots.
There is no real reason to deviate too far from whatever rig you usually use and are confident in, by using plastic maggots on a hair you can fish all sorts of presentations, in fact if you pre-tie some on a small sliding ring then it’s so easy to just mount this onto any hook you like.
Plastic maggots are easy to work with and you can create nice little line-aligner rigs by simply sliding one around the hook and over the eye and knot, utilise the kink in the maggot by twisting it around to bring the line off the front of the hook eye to create a flip-rig, this will enhance the hooking properties of the rig no end.
For pop up presentations use a simple cork ball instead of a boilie and then super-glue a few real maggots (or a mixture of real and fake) to the ball by doting the ‘blunt end’ of the maggot with glue and holding them for a second or two against the ball before casting.
The indication of a bite when using maggots will be very similar to any other bait but, whenever possible, it’s advisable to use a small drop on the bobbin to let you know if you are being pestered by small fish, particularly if you have live maggots on the hook as you do not want to, when fishing, reel in the next morning to find them all sucked dry by bream or roach.
Luckily the silver fish seem to be less of a nuisance in the winter months and, in deep water, I rarely have any problems with them at all.
One thing that I have found with maggots is that they seem a lot less effective when they are being used over weed rather than silt or hard clean lake beds. I think that this is mainly a presentation problem, as the fish still can be seen rolling and bubbling over the bait but I assume the rigs are not always presented so well and the maggots, by their light nature, will hang at all levels in the weed and the fish will not always need to forage below the weed (where your rigs are) as they might with heavier baits such as boilies.
So, in summary, I do think that maggots can be a very effective bait indeed, although they seem far more so in winter.
I think that they can be worth the extra effort but, without doubt they are more expensive, fiddly and time consuming than boilies. I am not convinced at all that the fish gain as much benefit from them nutritionally speaking but they can really turn a blank session into a productive one at times.