Maggots for many anglers are reserved only for winter fishing. Quite why this awesome bait has been pigeon-holed by carp anglers for so long I’m not sure, though I am obviously aware that everything else that swims loves the wriggling grubs. For me, I just rein them back a little for the summer. In the winter I might use a gallon through my spod mix – in summer it’s only half a pint. I just want the odd bit of movement in the swim – and what I especially want is a hookbait that moves.
Think about it: everything that a carp eats in its own natural environment moves. The bait we use does not – not unless there’s a good wind on. So having a hookbait that is moving – waving enticingly at the carp – well that’s something I want in my armoury.
It’s because of this that I have so much faith in a set-up I call The Jester. It looks a bit like a Court Jester and it has certainly kept me entertained with dozens of fish over the years. It involves pulling a small match hook inside an Avid Carp High-Lite. Not just any High-Lite either – the yellow/orange one has been by far and away the most prolific for me, despite experimentation with plain yellow, white, black and red. Nothing quite performs like the yellow/orange.
I don’t go mad with the amount of maggots. I use three because it’s my lucky number, and it also finely balances against the weight of the hook to provide a bait that is neither a pop-up nor a wafter. It’s both: a slow sinker, as it were.
The first time I used it on Baden Hall in Staffs, I’d just put 10kg of bait in. I left the swim to ‘simmer’ for an hour or so and then cast two Jesters out in the pond. I was catching within 20 minutes – they were homing in on the Jester like a magnet. I subsequently enjoyed a number of multiple hits at Baden using the rig and I continue to use it and continue to catch on it, whatever the weather.
It’s definitely related to the movement factor, too. When a Jester has been out in the lake for a while and the maggots have lost their mojo, it’s not as good. Loads of times I’ve made a re-cast with some freshly dancing maggots and it’s not long before a fish finds it.
I have experimented using maggot clips aloft the High-Lite and using big bunches of maggots, but it’s not the same. It seems that it’s more natural somehow when there’s just a few of them. It also helps the carp see that nice visual yellow/orange High-Lite, which is usually one I’ve soaked in Hinder’s Betalin.
The components I use to make the rig vary, but it’s usually some Avid Captive coated braid, one of the new super-sharp, curved or longshank hooks from Avid and of course the yellow/orange High-Lite. You’ll be hearing more and more about these hooks in the coming months – they are ridiculous. Trusted patterns with small tweaks that are mentally sharp. I used to sharpen my hooks all the time, now I rarely feel the need to bother!
I used to use a bit of silicone on the shank and still prefer this when the Jester is more of a wafter, but when it’s popped-up I prefer the rig ring, as it moves the foam away from the fish during the fight, for cleaner hook holds. You can experiment with different hooking arrangements, fish it on short bits of braid or long bits of mono – it’s all about the wriggling bit: the hookbait.
I fish the rig over big beds of hemp, particles and naturals, but it’s worked just as for me on other venues as a single hookbait cast to showing fish. In fact, if you were to ask me what single hookbait I’d put my life on to catch a fish – this would be it.
How to tie Mat's Court Jester set-up
You’ll need a small match hook with a decent sized eye. Size 14 PR29 is my choice, with Captive in 15lb.
Tie the small barbless hook onto a stripped section of coated braid. I use a Two-Turn Blood Knot for simplicity.
Take a High-Lite and pierce it at a slight angle. You want the hook point to be able to pull into the High-Lite.
Thread the High-Lite up the hooklink and pull the small hook inside of it. Make sure it’s securely inside.
I tie a small rig ring on the Hair and then slide it onto one these awesome new Avid Carp curve hooks like so.
Tie a Knotless Knot, then a small piece of clear silicone goes over the eye to neaten everything up as shown here.
Three maggots get carefully hooked onto the small hook, which is then pulled back inside the High-Lite like so.
The Jester in all it’s glory. A simple rig that works wonders any time of year, on any venue. Seriously, get on it!