It’s been fifteen years since I last fished Bowsaw Lake in Hampshire. Back then it was full of small silver fish but I’ve been hearing some good rumours that things have changed and the fish now fight back. Even better is it’s the perfect place to head to for some guaranteed cold water action as it contains lots of still water chub and I’m told the best tactic for these is the waggler and maggot, a technique that seems to have been forgotten about in recent years. Time to get the waggler rod out and go and see if the rumours are true?

Look for the snags

Chub, just like there river cousins, love snags and I’m told that one swim in particular here is a banker chub swim, as it has a bush partly in the water of the side of the island. My only concern this morning is its too mild, yes its February and I’m complaining about the temperatures which is into double figures, the problem being is I’m half expecting to be beaten up by the lakes population of carp. On the positive side their isn’t too much wind, which can cause major problems with not only feeding but casting alongside this snag. 

Feed, cast, feed, cast.

Fishing the waggler is all about feeding then casting, not casting then feeding as the chub are more likely to take the maggots as they fall through the water and my objective is to mimic these freebies with my hookbait. Once the bait is on the bottom, the chances are a carp will be hooked and potentially spook the chub for a while, so it’s going to be cast, cast, cast. Whilst setting up it’s a good idea to catapult a pinch of maggots into the swim from time to time as this will hopefully pull a few chub away from the sunken tree, get them feeding confidently and hopefully will provide me with some early action. 

Regular helpings of maggots are all you need for this method.

Use a loaded waggler that is heavy enough to easily overcast your spot.

The brilliant Hybrid Mono won’t let you down.

Keep it simple

Another very important point when it comes to waggler fishing, all fishing in fact, is to set up so you’re sitting comfortably, which means adjusting the legs of my Black Line Seat Box so its level, then positioning a rod rest so when the rod butt is placed over my knee the tip is just in the water. Balanced kit is also paramount and with the chub running to over 4lb and plenty of double figured carp that will barge in on the action you need tackle strong enough to strike, get them of balance and before they head to the snag, steer them into open water. The rod I’m using is an 11’Black Magic CFX Waggler, ideal for the job with its parabolic action and power in the middle reaches to land anything that swims here. I’m teaming this up with a 920 Sphere MgTi reel loaded with Cenex 0.14mm Classic Mono which is recognised as being one of the strongest fine diameter lines available. It’s all about keeping things simple at the business end, strong enough to deal with whatever’s hooked but at the same time keeping things finesse enough to get plenty of bites. Float choice is very important and I prefer to use floats with a built in loaded bulk at the base, ones that are almost self cocking, needing just a small amount of shot to drop the tip so it’s just showing. Not only do these types of float cast like a dark, the lack of shot on the line means that there are very few weaknesses. The float is locked on the mainline by two Xitan Oval Super Stoppers and either side of these is a single small shot. The only other shot is a small number eight around six inches from the Sphere CPF LS size 16 barbless hook which is connected to a Cenex 0.12mm Hybrid Power Mono hook length. 

Unbelievable action

Having plumed up and set the depth to the exact depth of the swim, around three feet, it’s time to make my first cast, and after sinking the line get ready to watch the float, but I only have to for a couple of seconds as it disappears and the first fish is hooked. In the net she goes and it’s my target species, a chub weighing around 2lb 8oz. I can’t quite believe what happens over the next two hours as fish after fish graces my net including another four chub, ten carp to around 14lb along with one tench and a radioactive goldfish! In total I estimate the catch at over 60lb, not bad for a couple of hours on a February morning! 

Waggler fishing is all about keeping things simple, being active throughout the session and more importantly, especially in the depth of winter, choosing a venue that contains the species that will respond to it. It’s been a while since I fished the waggler but I have to admit this has been, not just eye opening to just how effective this method is, but has also been one of my most enjoyable sessions for a while. If you have a venue such as the fantastic Bowsaw Lake near you, I urge you to get the float rod out and give the Wag ‘N’ Mag a go. 


Justin Watkins

The Sphere CPF LS Hook is my choice for the Wag ’n‘ Mag.

Keep casting – most bites will come on the drop, so give each cast no more than a minute.

The Sphere MgTi is my choice of reel for big fish, thanks to its awesome build quality.

The action is fast and furious once the fish arrive.

The average size chub today.

Expect big carp to also put in an appearance.

Justin’s Tackle

Black Line Seat Box

Sphere MgTi 920 Reel

Black Magic CFX Waggler

Cenex 0.12mm Hybrid Power Mono

Cenex 0.14mm Classic Mono 

Sphere CPF LS Barbless Hook

Soft Shot

Xitan Super Stopper Oval

2g Loaded Insert Waggler


Justin’s Bait

Red and white maggots

Just part of todays catch.