The best baits for early season river fishing | Paul Garner


by Tony Grigorjevs |
Published on

When it comes to flowing water, every angler has their favourite baits but it is clear to see there are certain winners when fishing for particular species.

Whether you’re looking to bank a PB barbel, a big haul of bream or enjoy a day’s chub fishing, bait selection is key. So, let’s take a look, then, at some all-time classics that will guarantee you the best chance of success, whatever species you decide to target.

YOU NEED ONE OF THE BEST BARBEL FISHING RODS TO HELP TARGET BIG BARBEL EFFECTIVELY.

Follow the tips in the article and you'll catch fish like this too!
Follow the tips in the article and you'll catch fish like this too!

Barbel

The first fortnight of the river season can be a great time to bag yourself a chunky barbel before water temperatures start to soar through the summer months.

Big baits, such as luncheon meat, can be instantly accepted at this time of the year, enabling you to cover numerous swims in the search for a new PB ‘Bertie’. Meat can, however, lose its effectiveness pretty quickly, but scaling down the size of this bait can extend its useful life.

My rule of thumb is to make use of smaller baits when the water is clear, too, once the initial few days of the season are over. Trundling a piece of meat along the bottom on a simple link leger is a great tactic at the start of the season. To avoid snagging, bury the hook right inside the bait and only strike when you feel a confident pull.

WANT TO CATCH A BARBEL? READ OUR EXPERT GUIDE FOR ALL THE BEST TIPS AND TRICKS ON CATCHING ONE.

Barbel do find it difficult to resist a piece of luncheon meat!
Barbel do find it difficult to resist a piece of luncheon meat!

River carp

Carp will often congregate around backwaters and dense weedbeds at the start of the season as they finish spawning, making them easy to locate and a viable target.

These fish will rarely see bait, so we need to use something that is instantly attractive, but which can also avoid the attentions of bream, which can often be found in similar areas.

The bait that really stands out for river carp is tiger nuts, because they are so instant. I have watched carp search out individual tiger nuts, such is their attractiveness.

Combine a handful of tigers with a couple of pints of hemp and you have the perfect combination for river carp – one that won’t attract smaller nuisance species.

YOU'LL NEED TO USE THE BEST CARP RODS TO HELP LAND POWERFUL RIVER CARP!

Tiger nuts will keep nuisance fish away.
Tiger nuts will keep nuisance fish away.

Bream

Big shoals of bream can lead to bumper catches in the first few weeks of the season, and often these fish will be easy to catch if your location is spot-on. Simple feeder tactics are all that are needed, especially on the larger rivers.

Try a pellet-based groundbait as the base of your mix, and add plenty of small pellets to the feed to hold the shoals of fish.

If the river is low and clear, then worms and casters take some beating for river bream. You don’t need a lot of this bait – keep most of it for the hook and feed with cheaper pellets.

CHECK OUT OUR BUYER'S GUIDE TO THE BEST FEEDER FISHING RODS TO USE FOR BREAM.

Casters are an all-time classic for bream fishing.
Casters are an all-time classic for bream fishing.

Chub

If you love to watch a float trundle downstream then why not target chub at the start of the season? A lump of bread flake underneath a dumpy loafer float works just as well in summer as in the colder months. Feed bread mash to draw the chub upstream and get them competing.

If small fish aren’t too troublesome, then maggots can really drive chub into a feeding frenzy. Be patient, and feed a pouchful of maggots every minute while you are tackling up, leaving the fish for a minimum of 30 minutes before making your first cast. Often, bites can be instant, as the chub chase down every passing grub.

If you like to adopt a more mobile approach, the wet spring has meant that every garden is full of slugs, which are a brilliant stalking bait for chub. Even if you can’t see the dark silhouettes of the fish, plop a slug into every likely- looking spot and sooner or later the line will shoot out as the gastropod is gobbled up by a hungry chub!

WANT TO CATCH A CHUB? OUR WHERE TO FISH GUIDE HAS YOU COVERED WITH SOME EXCELLENT STRETCHES TO TRY!

Go for maggots for chub
Go for maggots for chub

Zander

The first fortnight of the river season is a brilliant time to target zander. The bigger fish, in particular, feed hard before water temperatures rise in summer. If you are near a river that contains zander, why not try an evening ’s lure fishing , or leger a small deadbait on the edge of the flow into darkness for these enigmatic predators.

A 12cm (4ins) roach or rudd is the optimal deadbait for zander. Try slashing the body or cutting off the head to let out more attraction. Lamprey is another bait option, especially on rivers like the Trent, that have a run of these fish in the autumn.

Try packing a blockend feeder with chopped fish, or even halibut pellets, to attract zander quickly. I’m not sure if zander are attracted to the pellets, or whether they are drawn in by bait fish, but this tactic can often bring more bites.

USE ONE OF THE BEST FISHING CHAIRS IF YOU'RE FISHING LONGER SESSIONS, WAITING FOR THAT 'MAGICAL HOUR' TO COME.

A small roach deadbeat is the perfect zander bait.
A small roach deadbeat is the perfect zander bait.

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