The Maver Match This Catapult System

If you compare the tackle you were fishing with over a decade ago to today, it's amazing how much progress designers and manufacturers have made since then. Take feeder fishing for example, back then we were using Emstatt frames or little coil feeders. Look at what we have now... specialised flat method feeders with different size moulds and hair-rigging systems... landing nets which have got lighter, tougher, easier to scoop through the water and mainly quick drying... baiting needles... quickstops... hollow elastics... pulla bung systems! The list of improvements is endless.

Yet there is still one piece of equipment in our armoury that has changed little over time... the groundbait catapult! The best catapults on the market in previous years have been the Drennan soft red and green feed-catapults, all unchanged up to now. For sure, some anglers had modified their own catapults with braid in order to get the elastics always set at the same distance, but the fundamental design of a groundbait model has remained constant since the mid-90’s! So it was refreshing to see Maver have a go at re-thinking and re-designing it. What I particularly like about their design, is that they took a closer look at the accuracy factor in a completely different light.

Many anglers previously focused on trying to get the elastics set to the same distance each time, in order to achieve accuracy. Instead, Maver looked at trying to get the feed balls the same shape and size every time, much like a method mould I suppose. The company worked on the principle that if you get the feed balls the same shape and size and, critically, the same weight, topping-up accurately would become much easier. The principle so far sounds logical, so let’s take a closer look at the product.

What do you get for your cash?
When you buy a Maver Match This Groundbait Catapult, you get a basic groundbait catapult, incorporating a plunger system at the base of the handle, along with a large and small plunger unit.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to assemble the pieces as the instructions were not that clear to me (it must be said that I'm far from being a practical person!). However, once I'd worked it out, I realised that the design is actually well thought out. Running down the inside of the catapults handle grip is a plunger rod and at the base is the groundbait mould which the the plunger fits into. All you need to do is squeeze groundbait into the mould, push the plunger rod down and a regular-sized groundbait pellet will pop out every time!

The rest of the catapult was fairly standard. The frame was extremely comfortable to hold and I liked the fact that the inclusion of the plunger attachment seem to add weight and substance to the frame, making it quite balanced when pulling the elastic back. The catapult comes with only one strength of elastic, just slightly stiffer than a Drennan green catapult. The pouch was OK, but I didn't like the fact that the grip at the back was made of plastic, not cord. During our field-test, with wet and sticky hands, I had a few problems with grip on the pouch folding over and becoming difficult to grasp. I have since added a bit of chord myself, but it seems a shame that this was not built in as standard. Overall, the package is well made and the plunger components are actually well designed and solid.

The catapult in practise
With anything new like this you can either sit in front of a computer and try to analyse the products performance, or go to a great big windy reservoir and try it out practically for yourself. Being the curious journalist that I am, I decided to venture forth with Dave Johnson to Ardingly Reservoir to put the product through its paces! Here is how we got on, warts and all!

The first thing to say about this reservoir is that it's a proper big venue where we had a strong wind gusting from right to left all day... perfect conditions for testing groundbait catapults. Dave J fished about 35 metres out with a 12 gram Cralusso Zero slider and I fished at 30 metres with a Scotthorne 6SSG slider. Dave opted to feed groundbait little and often whilst I decided to get a bed out there straight off and top up in bursts of 4 or 5 balls.

The first thing to say about the catapult was that it's not the best tool for getting 20 balls of feed out at the start of a slider session. The problem is that if you are going to get that many balls out effectively and efficiently, you require the feed balls to be made up in a bucket and ready to fire out quickly and accurately, once you acquire the range. As soon as you start using the plunger system, the pellets come out too slow to get the sustained rhythm, required to feed accurately, during any initial baiting period. Don’t get me wrong, you can use the catapult without any problems, I just found using the plunger was too slow at getting a load of feed out at the start of a session. So I gave up on it and made up my balls in a bucket to feed as normal, one after the other in quick succession!

Dave on the other hand had no such issues. He had chosen not to lay a bed at the start but rather feed a ball a chuck. This proved perfect, given the very tricky wind. Having started with the smaller plunger, Dave found that the smaller pellet they produced had a tendency to overshoot the float now and again. The one thing you never want to do when slider fishing in a wind, is feed PAST your float. This was soon remedied by a change to the larger plunger, which gave him a heavier pellet and consequently saw his feeding accuracy greatly improve over 35 metres.

I returned to using the plunger once it came to topping up. By now the wind was blowing stronger than at the start and was proving a real test of accuracy for the catapult! For comparison I had with me my favourite short range groundbait catapult with an excellent Stonfo pouch and strong elastic. I wanted to see how the plunger system compared with my tried and tested catapult. The result was actually quite remarkable. Let me compare the two catapults:

My favourite standard catapult
When I fired out the single-handed sausage-type of feed ball, that we usually make by hand for top-up feeding, I had problems keeping the balls straight in the gusting wind. This was a nightmare because the wind would take one in two balls to the left, causing me to compensate by firing slightly to the right... but a gusting wind is not constant, so the odd ball would be deposited away from my far bank marker. Round balls proved a bit better, but keeping anything on line in the wind was still a bit of a problem.

Maver 'Match This' catapult
What surprised me about the plunger shaped pellets of groundbait, was how they flew so much straighter in the wind. There was something within the pellet shape that meant that the wind was not picking these balls up so obviously. Once I got into the rhythm of making the pellets – squeezing groundbait into the plunger mould and popping the pellet straight into the catapult cup – it was easy to get feed more or less on line, certainly a lot easier than with the classic type of feed-shape. What I liked about the pellets was they way they seemed to fly very consistently. I think it was both the shape of the pellet and consistent weight from squeezing the feed into the plunger. that helped it fly much truer. The trick was not to touch the pellet after it came out of the plunger, just keep the shape as it was. I tried to see if the weight was the most important factor by squeezing the pellets in my hand, but these were no good as they yet again flew offline in the wind. So it seems the main factor of keeping a straight line may be down to the shape of the pellet, combined with its consistent weight.

It must be noted that I only used the big plunger and was firing the balls quite high to keep them on my shorter 30 metre line. But I was genuinely impressed with the performance of the catapult, especially as we were fishing in pretty extreme conditions throughout the session.

A cautionary note perhaps?
There remains the question of how legal a plunger system would be under continental match rules. On the one hand, they can be filled single handedly, but I am not sure what the ruling would be on using such a plunger mould on the continet. Would it be illegal to take a small pole cup and use that as a mould for groundbait balls? I'm not sure, so it would be worth checking before anyone starts using a plunger system in a FIPS rules match.

So to conclude, there is a lot of good in what Maver have produced. The thinking behind the catapult is fresh and certainly seems to make a difference in accuracy during feeding. The consistent weight and shape of feed balls gives a feeding accuracy that squeezing by hand simply does not.

What I was impressed with was...

  • The concept of the design... which was a fresh approach and which seemed to work extremely well.
  • The quality of the product... where all the pieces felt and looked solid and built to last
  • The balance of the product... which you got from the added weight of the plunger.

I feel there are are a couple of minor points within the current design that could be improved, like...

  • The grip on the pouch needs to be a chord, to help grip it with wet and sticky hands.
  • The can’t shorten the elastics. If you cut and shorten the elastics the plunger won’t fit into the pouch easily, so you only effectively have one strength and length of elastic. Therefore I would like to see either the plunger a bit shorter OR, a range of possibly three elastic strengths, to make the product even more versatile.

I believe all thinking anglers should try this product and judge for themselves the advantages of the plunger/moulding feed balls system. I'm positive this is a great idea  on the right track, so once again well done Maver for looking at things with a fresh and different angle!

Dave Ewing

Editor's comment:
It's not just for GB?
Having received two samples of the product from Maver, one of which went to my associate Dave Ewing, I had this thought at the back of my head that the system's use would not necessarily be confined simply to groundbait!

Many fisheries these days, find their catch rates governed by pellet, so my mind started to wander in this direction, after our initial outing to Ardingly Reservoir.

Why, for instance, can't the plunger system operate equally as well with pellets I wondered? I know it's all down to adhesion, but most of us soak our pellets before use anyway, therefore if you can get the right level of 'soak' into the pellet, then be able to compress it enough to fire 30 metres plus, feeding this way would seem very plausible indeed. There are now special additives on the market which help stick pellets together, so the idea's beginning to take on even more credibility! After all, don't many of us fish to 'features', at distance, where an additional ball of pellet-feed, like micro's or 4mm's, would reward our efforts even more?

I'm convinced that there is some merit in persevering with another trial along these lines and would hope to add these findings to this review during 2012. Perhaps our visitors might like to experiment along these lines as well?

Here are some video links to Maver's own promotion of the product, which you may find of further value to our own independant review:

Steve Mayo 1

Steve Mayo 2