Jester rig will put a smile on your face

Mat Woods’ Jester rig has been the rig of the moment at Staffordshire’s Baden Hall Quarry Pool. Check out this colourful presentation and why the Korum man believes it’s so effective.

Right. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about bait for a minute and think about what carp actually eat. Name some of the things they find in their natural environment. Snails, larvae, bloodworm – a veritable smorgasbord of crunchy and squishy delights.

What does everything a carp eats in its natural environment do that no man-made baits does? Think some more about what all these things have in common. It’s only one thing. Something we find very hard to replicate - movement.

Whether it’s a mussel or a caddis, all these things move around. Some swim, some crawl, some hatch and fly away. And yet we all chuck stuff in the pond that sits there, static and uninteresting. So from the carp’s perspective, things that aren’t moving are immediately going to be treated with suspicion.

It was something that really clicked with me last year at Baden Hall in Staffordshire, on the awesome Quarry Pool. The water’s usually pretty clear and you can watch their behavior quite closely. I watched fish tear the weed to pieces chasing naturals, and also watched them literally following flies as they buzzed across the surface trying to break free. While surface fishing I’ve caught plenty when I’ve been twitching the hookbait into position – carp will follow bait like a pike.

For this reason, maggots feature in my fishing for 365 days of the year. Many consider them a winter-only tactic, and on venues over-run with silverfish, I fully understand that opinion. But on venues where you can use them all year-around, I see no reason not to use them.

For me, it’s not about piling in gallons and gallons of the things. I prefer a nice bed of hemp and other particles through the summer – something to keep them revisiting the area – so I only use maggots liberally, to give the impression that the whole baited area is moving.

Most importantly, though, I use maggots on my hookbait.

The Jester Rig is a presentation that has accounted for loads of nice fish for me in recent times. I can’t take the credit for the idea, in fact I saw it in a tench fishing feature about 10 years ago, but the components have been tweaked and the combination I use now is so consistent it beggars belief.

Initially, the idea involved hiding a small match hook inside a grain of plastic corn. Attached to the hook were maggots. A dainty, but very impressive combination it was too. Even if fry stole your maggots, you were still fishing with a grain of plastic corn.
If you wanted a more buoyant presentation, offering the same thing, you used a plastic boilie, or a cork ball. They were okay, but with a larger hook there just wasn’t the buoyancy required. Something that is incredibly buoyant, however, is an Avid Carp High-Lite.

My initial explorations with the High-Lites was with the orange/yellow versions. I’d caught remarkably well on these at Weston Park and there’s definitely something about the clean lines of orange and yellow that carp home in on. With just three maggots wafting around on the top of one, it looked like a Court Jester. And so, the name was born.  Indeed, using red or white High-Lites wasn’t anywhere near as effective. It was all about the colourful combination.

I use a size 14 PR27 Preston Innovations hook to pull into the High-Lite. It’s the right size for the 10mm bait and extremely light in the wire, so there’s not much weight to it. The added bonus is the eye is large enough to accept the inner braid of Avid Carp’s Captive, making rig tying really simple.

I’ve used the same rig with Longshank hooks quite extensively, but due to there being lots more weed around this year, I’ve switched to the Avid CRV curved pattern. It’s a really aggressive pattern with a special ‘Reaction’ finish, so that it blends in to the lakebed surroundings really well.

You’ll see I prefer quite a large hook. As it’s a pop-up bait that also moves, I think the size of the hook is less important. I certainly have no qualms about using a size 4 when the situation requires it and will rarely go below a size 6 – there’s just no need.

A rig ring on the shank neatens the arrangement, as does a small piece of silicone or shrink tubing over the eye, to extend the hook and make the rig catch and grab hold more easily.

I like to balance the rig so it literally just sinks. I want the fish to take the Jester with the same amount of suction it takes to suck in three maggots, as that is what I believe the fish are expecting. What they won’t be expecting is the ridiculously sharp hook and 4oz of lead attached to it. Bang!

In the last fortnight the rig has accounted for 10 bites from Baden Hall’s Quarry Pool for me, with numerous gorgeous 20s and four double figure bream. In fact, I can’t get a bite on anything else right now. They love it.

So give it The Jester a whirl and remember – Court Jesters were employed to put a smile on people’s faces. Put this rig in your armoury and you’ll definitely have the last laugh.