If one species can be relied upon above all others to keep providing brilliant sport right through the winter it has to be chub.
Whether the rivers are low and clear, or high and murky, chub can be caught, although you have to be on top of your tactics to score consistently.
No other species can be caught on such a wide variety of baits and tactics as chub – you really could spend a lifetime getting to know each and every option, but here are some of my favourites that have been honed to catch chub both large and small whatever the weather may throw at us.
GIVE THEM A LIFT
If you have ever suffered from the frustration of ‘unmissable’ chub bites that have seen you striking into thin air then join the club!
This has long been part and parcel of fishing with larger baits, especially boilies, because the chub can easily pick them up in their lips, leaving the hook hanging outside the mouth.
This is especially true if you are hair-rigging, so my first suggestion would be to switch
to paste and bury most of the hook inside. Mould the paste around a piece of cork so that it only just sinks and you will hit a lot more bites.
A SINGLE MAGGOT
The colder and clearer the river, the smaller the bait I will use for chub. When it’s like this the fish won’t be inclined to gobble up a big bait, but feed regularly with maggots and you can get the shoal going.
To avoid spooking the chub by running a float over them, try a small Blackcap feeder coupled with a 4ins hooklength and a size 18 hook, with either a single real maggot impaled on it, or its fake counterpart fished on a short hair.
If I had to use just one boilie for chub it would have to be Scopex Squid – the unmistakable pong of squid powder really turns chub on.
Rarely, though, will I use a standard boilie on the hair. Instead, I wrap a 12mm wafter in soft paste to give it extra pulling power.
A small PVA mesh stick filled with broken-up boilies and bits of paste can also be added to supply some feed tight to the hookbait.
GO LARGE IN FLOODS
If the river is high and coloured then a big bait is going to score best for chub.
Go for a matchbox-sized lump of meat, a paste-wrapped boilie, a big lump of cheesepaste or steak.
Anything, as long as it is big and smelly, will put you in with a good chance of success. Forget about loosefeeding in these conditions and stick to just the hookbait.
PREBAIT WITH PASTE
Chub are suckers for light prebaiting in the days leading up to your fishing. I can’t think of any species that responds so quickly to an easy meal.
The only problem can be estimating how much bait to introduce, especially if other people are fishing the same stretch.
An easy answer to this is to bait up with paste, as this will last only a couple of hours in the water before it is either eaten, dissolves, or is eaten by small fish.
A dozen nuggets of bait per swim is all you need to make a difference.
TRY A DEADBAIT
Big chub grow fast on a high-protein diet that often includes dead fish, and a great many outsize fish have been caught on deadbaits meant for pike and zander.
Try a section of a soft fish, such as sardine, fished on a single hook.
A chunk of lamprey about an inch long is my most successful chub deadbait, and works particularly well on rivers that sustain a good migration of these creatures.
I know a lot of anglers who struggle using bread on the hook. Pre-packaged bread tends to have a very light texture, full of holes, that breaks down really quickly. By contrast, a proper baker’s loaf will be heavier and stay on the hook better.
The best hookbait of all, especially for trotting bread, is Sensas Paindor Bread.
This dehydrated bread needs to be soaked in water before use, but once prepared it stays on the hook fantastically well.
Lobworms can often be difficult to get hold of in the winter, just when they come into their own for chub.
Dendrobaena worms are a poor substitute, but try several on the hook or, better still, a large maggot clip, and your results will improve.
Four dendras on a clip will create a big bait that chub cannot resist.
MASH IT UP
Put a loaf of sliced bread in a bucket and soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes, before draining off the excess by gently squeezing it.
Mash the bread up and you have the basis for a fantastic feed that creates a cloud of particles as it breaks up and is washed downstream.
For deeper rivers, mix a small amount of brown crumb with the bread mash so that it holds together better and reaches the river bed before breaking up too much.
BAIT AND WAIT
Catching a chub too quickly can be the kiss of death on many rivers, as the rest of the shoal will spook, but it can be difficult remaining patient.
I overcome this by starting to introduce a pouchful of maggots as soon as I arrive at my peg and then keep a steady supply of grubs going in while I am setting up my gear.
By the time you come to make your first run through the swim the chub should have settled – expect that float to dip on the first trot through.