Jim Baxter shares his top 12 waggler heroes with us, and this time the spotlight is on Keith Hobson.
When fishing over many seasons on similar venues against a given number of anglers, it's curious how coincidence or fate places certain individuals close together regularly, yet others never seem to draw in the same section year after year.
Keith Hobson is one former Barnsley team mate and rival who I drew next to quite often. We have enjoyed some good battles on rivers and lakes, always conducted in a friendly spirit. But I'm rather glad I managed to avoid drawing below him at Burton Joyce back in the 1980s, as I'd have had my hands full. As the saying goes he was ‘on fire' for several winters then and, especially if feeding caster lightly, he'd pile in enough bronze maggots to reach your peg to give you a problem.
If ever I had to pick an angler to confidently attack a Trent swim and plunder 20lb of fish, my one-time Barnsley Blacks colleague would come very close to the top of my list of candidates. In the peak years of the Trent's big matches certainly, when the power station outfalls pumped warm water into the river and thousands of anglers lined the banks every weekend of the season, and large shoals of chub figured in catches, Keith was in his element on a waggler or stick float.
Anglers of a certain age can all remember the famous stretches that were solid with fish back then: Burton Joyce, of course, Radcliffe Viaduct, Clifton Grove, Long Eaton, Long Higgin, Fiskerton, Hazleford Ferry, Newton Solney, Burton-on-Trent and Swarkestone on the upper river; South Clifton, Dunham Bridge and several other hotspots on the tidal; the productive Holme Marsh weir field, Newark Dyke and the list went on. They all had bag-up potential whenever the river was in good shape.
Occasionally, feeding a swim lightly with just enough bait to hold a shoal of roach could be a good tactic. Pete Warren's style was drip-feeding less than a pint of casters coupled with a little groundbait for winning roach catches of 20lb and more, although using maggot usually required more bait than that. A few other anglers did well with a similar defensive feeding regime, but this style was all foreign to Keith.
Turning bronze into gold
The term ‘give em a gallon' (of bronze maggots) could easily have been coined by Keith in the 1980s when it became standard practice to feed heavily over five hours and get a bite every cast. This was when Burton Joyce was the Trent's main match attraction and the so-called ‘golden mile' lived up to its name. If the average feed per man was say two to four pints of maggots over the match duration, Keith would not shy away from ‘spraying it' with six pints or more.
Soar and Avon success
Keith did not just score well on the Trent, of course, he won the Soar Championship twice in consecutive years, and took both the prestigious John Smith's and Wychavon Championship titles on the Warwickshire Avon. He also won an Angling Times Winter League semi-final on the Witham, apart from contributing to many team wins with Barnsley Blacks and much more achieved over five decades. In fact, I could easily fill this article with his match victories, but prefer to talk about his method, as it was rather specialised.
Singles or doubles
Combined with Keith's natural inclination to feed heavily, he was always keen to try double maggot on the hook in preference to single. Now it is logical to me that if any fish is hungry it will be more inclined to seize two maggots than one, particularly a greedy chub. Keith capitalised on this by fishing the double if ever any bonus fish responded to it, though he explained to me how every match was different and both single and double maggot had their moments. To prove the point, he once caught a winning 16lb at Burton Joyce with several good chub taking single maggot and every roach taking double.
Allied to Keith's heavy maggot feeding and penchant for two hook maggots over one, the third element of his waggler style was dragging the bait well over-depth to slow it down. His best winning catch at Burton Joyce on this method was 26lb of roach from the Mangold Field, Shelford. He described to me how he'd begin a match in that period when I interviewed him for my book ‘The Rising Antenna'.
"I'd start by plumbing and finding the depth and if it was six foot for example, I'd then slide the float up at least a yard and fish at nine-foot deep. A bulk of three no. 6 shot would be placed just below half-depth, and two pairs of no. 10 shot pinched on below the bulk as droppers. The bulk would therefore ride clear of the bottom while the no. 10s would drag on to slow the bait down. The pair of 10s nearest the hook would usually sit 18-20'' away as a starting point."
Keith might have carried numerous wagglers in different sizes but he was ever faithful to a particular one at Burton Joyce. It was a home-made straight peacock, 9 inches long, with a small balsa body at the base. The quill was slightly bent but this did not affect its performance, said Keith. The beauty of dragging on over-depth, of course, is once the fish interrupts the bait's progress downstream, all the friction on the line gives the float a very positive indication. He would leave an inch of float showing on the surface and, bad snags apart, if all of it disappeared underwater at any point it could be relied on that a fish was responsible.
On the slower flowing Witham, he would fish over-depth in very similar fashion but shotted lighter, with a no. 6 and a no. 10 down the line only. Another trick of Keith's was to scale down to a tiny hook whenever bites were hard to come by. At a time when a 22 was considered tiny, one day he changed down to a size 24 Mustad 90340 pattern combined with 12oz Bayer line. He suddenly got lots more bites and won the match. "I never looked back from that day onwards," he said.
These days Keith, now in his late 60s, still fishes the Yorkshire match circuit on the Ouse and Calder, where he might as easily tackle a swim with long pole, sliding waggler or feeder. He is still regularly pocketing his fair share of winnings. Cajoled by Peter Dawson, he has represented Mirfield Angling Club in the National in recent years, stacking up around a dozen National appearances for the west Yorkshire team.