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Catching Big Chub on Boilies


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Catching Big Chub on Boilies

In this, his first article for FishingMagic, Peter Hayes explains why he prefers boilies for catching chub.


For many people the sighting and subsequent capture of their first truly big chub proves to be one of the most exhilarating and unforgettable experiences especially if they are an avid hunter of big chub like myself.

My own experience is no exception to this fact and it's here that I would like to share it with you.

Setting The Scene

I had been fishing my local stretch of the River Ivel since the start of the season when every man and his dog was down there fishing for the barbel 24/7. To say it was heavily fished was the understatement of the year. People regularly fished 2-3 day and night sessions at a time. It was getting impossible to find a swim that was vacant.

You could even tell the most popular swims by the amount of rubbish left in them! Through those long hot summer days I regularly talked to the locals who were after the barbel and heard stories, and the occasional picture, about the odd nuisance chub caught accidently. A whopper of 7lb 4oz was caught on a large chunk of meat one night and this got me thinking – what would actually happen if someone targeted the chub instead?

For some reason nearly every single one of the barbel anglers were using very light ledger rigs. Some had caught, some had not. The barbel were getting very elusive and twitchy as the weeks dragged on and as the season progressed the amount of pressure decreased.  For 3 months I slogged away using every light ledger rig and every chub bait in the book (apart from boilies).

100928chubboily_132035312.jpgWith only a few small chub to show to my credit and after a lot of blank sessions I was wondering what I had to do to get amongst the fish. While on the subject of boilies everyone told me that boilies were no good for the barbel. All of the barbel fisherman who had tried them said they had not even had a sniff on them but something had to be eating them........

Success – At Last!

After all those blank and mostly fishless, frustrating sessions, I decided to give myself a few weeks lay off to really think about what I was doing and question my sanity. My self confidence was at rock bottom and I was getting more and more disillusioned as time went on. It was at that point I decided to completely change my style and approach of chub fishing and believe me it took a great leap of faith to change from old ways

I'd been itching to get out on the bank for a while and I awoke early that morning. The weather was warm and overcast with a possibility of rain with blustery wind. The river itself looked in condition with fairly clear water with a ting of colour, almost milky.

I had this strange feeling that I was going to catch something that day - something big. Call it what you will, a premonition, a gut feeling, but one thing was for sure, no matter what I did or thought about, I couldn't shake it.

I took a leisurely walk through the town and down to the river dressed head to toe in camouflage clothing – I must have looked a strange sight to the locals. I had pre-baited two swims three hours previously with 6 bait droppers full of parti-blend, pellets, hemp and broken and whole boilies hoping any fish in the area would be waiting for more. I tackled up well down stream with my trusty Merlin centrepin reel and 1.75lb Free Spirit Specialist.

This was the first time I had ever been chub fishing without a quiver tip which at first seemed rather “alien” to me after having used one for so long. My first swim produced no bites despite fishing for two hours in a rather nice gravel patch amongst the streamer weed. Here we go again another blank becoming the norm for me. In fact the only fish I saw was a rather large carp of 20lb+ that swam past me along the far bank. Was this a sign from Isaac Walton himself? Who knows, but it certainly gave me some much needed confidence!

Around mid-day I then decided to move downstream to my second choice swim. Secretly I was hoping that someone was not in the swim as they would be reaping the benefits of my pre-baiting. As I crept quietly down the steep bank, through the polaroids I spotted two or three average sized chub hanging in the slack water made by the far bank tree. It's trailing branches and shade providing much need refuge that chub love so much.


I started flicking in one or two broken boilies into the main flow so that they would wash down near the tree. Every now and then one or two of them would dart out to intercept my free offerings. It was like they treated them as sweets, each one a tasty morsel to be devoured with relish.

This feeding pattern was kept up for approximately ten minutes, each and every boilie was eaten with abandonment and each time they ate them their confidence grew – now was the time to cast.

A simple underarm flick was all that was required to land the bait around a foot from the branches. I quickly settled the rod in the rest with the line draped over my index finger and waited. As it happened I didn't have to too long. Almost immediately I had a twitch on the line, followed by an almighty thump as the top section of the rod hopped over alarmingly. The reel began to sing its sweet music as I bent into the fish.

The pressure of the fast flowing water and the close proximity of the nearby snags made the fight a memorable one. The chub knew every snag and as it quickly made for the underside of the tree I could feel the sickening grating of the branches against the line. I knew I had to get downstream of the fish so quickly grabbing the landing net I started to walk down the bank, all the while keeping the pressure on to stop the fish burrowing even further into the cover. This chub was trying every trick in the book and as I made my way downstream I saw a great big golden flash under the tree as the chub did its best to rid itself of the hook.

When I saw the flash under the tree I thought at first I had hooked a small barbel. All I knew was that I hooked something big and it was giving me the right run around. It became a tug of war between me and my unknown adversary but in the end there could be only one winner and I was so glad I had stepped up my tackle. I decided there and then I had to hold my ground and haul the thing out – sorry but no finesse here folks!

By keeping the constant pressure on I managed to swiftly extricate him from his watery home to fairly open water and then I saw it properly for the first time - I had hooked a very big chub indeed. In fact it was bigger than any chub I had hooked before and was muttering under my breath “Please don't come off, please don't come off!” After a few more attempts to get me into the nearby streamer weed the fish looked ready for the net, but at this stage I don't know who was more tired – me or the fish.

I placed the net in the water to land the fish, but the pressure from the water on the line was absolutely incredible and I had to use every bit of the rod’s power to force the fish upstream against the flow. Quickly slipping the net under the fish I bent down to pick the net up. Now normally I can pick the net up with one hand, but on this occasion I had to use both of my now trembling hands, and there she was, my prize, like a golden jewel, laying in the soft folds of the net.

100928Peter_433330333.jpgThe first thing I noticed was the immense size and length of it, it was quite simply the biggest chub I had ever caught. I was quite literally shaking all over at this point as I quickly removed the hook with the forceps and got the scales ready. The needle kept going and going and the Avons finally settled smack bang on 6lb. I even had to weight it twice more to check I wasn't dreaming but I wasn't dreaming -  I had done it!

Smashing my personal best chub by over two pounds wasn't something I hadn't even dreamed of doing any time soon. I let out an exulted “yes” as my fist punched the air and I have to say with a little embarrassment that I even had a little tear in my eye. That captured fish meant more to me than any other.  I quickly decided to pack up for the day then and there, to chance my arm for another big fish would be very lucky indeed and to be honest I was more than satisfied with what I had achieved.

I walked home in more of a dream, a daze, my feet going through the motions automatically as I plodding along the tarmac in my state of shock. Everything seemed so surreal. Did that all really just happen?

Hoping my 6lb'er wasn't a complete fluke and to prove my point even further on my second session hair rigging for chub I returned to my favourite swim 5 days later and landed four fish of 3lb, 3lb 8oz, 4lb, and 5lb 2oz all with the same rig and bait above. My results speak for themselves.........


In most normal chubbing situations I would usually opt for a light link ledger rig, but more and more these days I'm finding myself turning to the bolt rig/boilie combo.
My standard chub boilie rig consists of 10lb main line, a 1½oz running lead (flat pear), with a 9” hook-link of either Drennan green or brown Dacron to a size 6 Drennan Continental Boilie hook. While many of you may feel that this is rather heavy handed for chub my particular stretch also contains large barbel of 14lb+, dense streamer weed and a myriad of snags.

In the winter the only change I would make is to replace the flat pear lead with a 2oz-3oz grippa style lead to hold the bottom better in the stronger flows.


Probably one of the controversial aspects of fishing for chub is hair rigging. The majority of people would never use a hair rig for chub fishing. If you read various forums there is a definite bias against using a hair when fishing for chub. Even the experts say its a big “no-no”. I have to say that from my findings I have experienced no problems hooking chub using this method as long as the boilie is hair-rigged tightly as possible to the hook.

If you find it a problem getting the bait tightly to the hook then just wrap the hair round the hook shank a couple of times until you get it how you want. I feel this is of utmost importance as chub have a tendency to mouth a bait with their lips before picking the bait up and moving off. With the boilie hair rigged this tightly it has resulted in much more hittable bites without the presentation suffering – in fact it has improved my results dramatically.

As a comparison - when using a light fixed paternoster rig with a hook-link of around a couple of foot or less with bread, worms or cheesepaste, I would probably get on average 6 bites and only manage to hook one or two fish - if I was lucky. Since hair rigging and using a much heavier lead, I have converted this to hooking fish in 5 bites out of the 6. Bites on this rig are generally spectacular with the end of the rod being pulled round by even small fish.
100928another_chubPICT1347_687772008.jpgThe real test will be a full on head to head comparison on the Wensum this winter with my father. Him with his traditional baits and rigs – me with my heavy lead and boilie. Only time will tell. I have a feeling that we will both have our good days and bad days, but I know one thing – I can't wait to find out!

While purists may scowl at my methods and tactics there is no getting away from the fact that on heavily fished venues which have been extensively fished with light ledger techniques the heavy lead/boilie approach can prove to be devastating. At the end of the day if it puts more fish on the bank and is safe for the fish – I'm more than happy to us it.

Boilie Choice

Choosing the right boilie for the job is of paramount importance to me and I suggest you extensively research the boilie you intend to use before committing yourself. You could do worse than choose a company's best seller to start with, eliminating the chance of wasting valuable time fishing with a poor bait. There are even a few specialist ready made chub base mixes and flavours available these days from makers such as John Baker.

Specialist chub and barbel boilies have come on leaps and bounds in last few years and it's a sign of the times that bait company's have recognised and are now fully catering for fish other than carp. After trying a lot of different boilies from various company’s I finally went for DT Baits Pukka Fish & Oily Chicken boilies.

Why that particular boilie you ask? Well really it was for a number of reasons -

  • My thorough research indicated that it has a proven track record for big chub.
  • It's been around for years and it has been thoroughly field tested.
  • The base mix is of the highest quality.
  • A great all year round bait.
  • Most importantly of all – I have supreme confidence in this bait above all other.

At first I was a little sceptical about using a fish meal based bait that contains pure salmon oil especially in the winter. The general consensus is that the oils tends to congeal in very low water temperatures and the bait’s effectiveness is greatly curtailed. After doing a little more research I found that pure salmon oil is different from other oils in that it has a very low freezing point. Just pop some in your freezer and find out.

In my experience shelf life baits are just as good as frozen these days and for pure convenience they can't be beaten. The only time I roll my own now is when I want to put my own  “specials” together with unique attractors and flavour labels, or roll them smaller than the normal 14mm-18mm available.

When rolling my own I find meat, fish or spice flavours – or combinations of each to be most effective. Fruit flavours appear to be the least effective, at least from my own findings. The actual flavour itself is not the most important factor but rather the way it is applied and the quality of the base mix. The flavour you use merely gives your bait its own label allowing the chub to recognise it as a superior food source.

Of course even the best boilie in the world won't help you catch if the fish are not there in the first place.

Lastly a good boilie is not the be all and end all when it comes to baits -  it is just another  option alongside the more traditional chub baits such as bread, worms and cheese paste.

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