I have always enjoyed fishing for river bream. Catching a bream of more than 10 pounds is a really special experience, but it took me a while to get there. I have learned so much along the way and really managed to optimize my fishing strategies. So I wrote this detailed in-depth article on how to catch big river bream.
The most crucial step is to locate a river that actually holds large bream. Once you have found one, the best strategies to catch the river’s bigger bream are to locate the shoals and fish them intensively, to use more than one rod, offer a lot of groundbait and particles, and to avoid the river’s stronger currents.
Continue reading in order to find out how to implement these strategies, so that you can start catching those massive river bream in no time!
How to Locate Rivers With Big Bream Potential?
Ultimately, if you want to catch big bream, you will have to find and fish the right venue that actually produces fish of a certain size. You can spend session after session trying to catch a large bream in a river that only produces fish up to 6 lb. Quite naturally, you will never manage!
Instead of putting in all those hours on the wrong river, use that time to actually locate venues with potential for big breams. Here is how you can do that.
The internet has an unlimited amount of valuable information on any kind of topic, you just have to find it.
Google can help you find magazine articles on rivers that have produced big bream, interviews with fishermen who have caught large bream in certain venues, YouTube videos on rivers, competitions that list species, their weights and the venues they have been caught in, and so on and so on. The possibilities are truly endless, use them!
Social Angling Network
How many fishing mates do you have on Facebook and Instagram? Hundreds, thousands? And how many fishing groups and pages do you follow on Facebook? Your social angling network can definitely help you find those big bream rivers.
Right out ask friends who are bream fishermen if they have a tip for you. Or why not post a question and asking for some helpful advice in a fishing group? Facebook pages of fishing companies or professional anglers also publish content about specific venues and fish they have caught rather frequently.
If the internet does not provide any answers or hints, get into your car and visit a few rivers in your region. If they produce big fish, chances are good that you will meet a few local fishermen on the bank, or in a nearby village or town, who are willing to point you in the right direction.
If you want, you can buy them a pint if they do, or ask them to join you to the river, it will probably be much appreciated.
How to Find Bream in a River?
The first step is done and you have now located a river that holds large bream. Now, it is time to study that venue and find out where the bream are roaming about.
The common bream is an extremely nomadic fish and it can cover many river miles in search of food. Once again, asking the local experts, tackle shops or river keeper might reduce searching time, if they are willing to give up that information to a stranger.
Generally, bream can be found in deeper backwaters, along the edges of the river’s main current or in stretches that have a more gentle and slow flow.
There are a few sure signs that bream are present in a river stretch and that you should keep an eye out for.
The most certain sign that bream are in a swim is if you see them rolling on the surface. This actually means that they are already feeding, which is the perfect go signal for you to get your lines in the water as soon as possible.
Bream are rolling on the surface in order to clear their gills from bottom particles that they have sucked in while feeding. Their most active time to do so is late evenings and early mornings. So, if you arrive to the venue during these times of day, your chances of spotting already feeding bream will be much higher.
Seeing rolling bream in a completely new and for you unknown venue will also boost your confidence, which is a very important and positive thing when first trying out a new river!
This is a slightly harder sign to spot, but also a a very obvious one, if you can manage to locate such bubbles.
When bream, and other bottom feeders, are scanning the bottom for food and feeding off it, smaller bubbles will appear on the surface, which they release through their gills when sorting food from other particles. The bottom itself can also release small pockets of trapped air, if fish are digging into it.
Either way, moving, larger clusters of bubbles usually mean feeding fish. When it comes to bream, look for slightly bigger bubbles of perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch that do not stay on the surface for long.
Signs of Other Anglers
If you can’t find any signs of currently feeding or rolling bream, it’s best to look for previously well used swims. Those usually mean that a lot of anglers are using them to fish, which then can lead to the conclusion that such locations are more likely to produce bites. Such swims could include the following:
- cut or trembled down grass or reeds
- a wooden platform
- spots with dried groundbait or corn in it
- spots with makeshift banksticks
- spots with small holes in the ground (from chair feet)
- larger, usually round patches of dried or dead grass (from bivvies)
Insider tip: Bream tend to always go for the same spots and stretches of a river when feeding! If you have located them, keep fishing those same spots every time visit the river, chances are very good that you will, sooner or later, find the bream there again.
Pre-Baiting for River Bream
Now that you have located the bream in the river, it is time to start fishing for them. Before we get to the actual fishing methods, let’s take a look at how you should pre-bait your swim.
Use groundbait that is rich and a little heavier. You will want to get a lot of food out there. A bream shoal of 20 to 30 fish can vacuum clean your swim in no time! Big bream are hungry and in order for them to stay in the swim, you will have to keep feeding them!
Start with a couple 4 to 6 pounds of groundbait that you spread over a one or two larger areas of perhaps 10×10 feet, for example along the opposite bank of the river.
Try targeting a few different features and spots, such as overhanging trees, reed belts, deeper areas and shallower areas, as well as on the edge of the current. As bream are so spot-fixated when it comes to feeding behavior, you will have to find the exact places that they are going to feed at.
When it comes to flavors, you should use fishy groundbait that has fish meal, krill meal, or bloodworm extract in it. Sticky Baits offer an entire range of Krill-based baits and groundbait and the quality is superb!
Check out their entire awesome bait range on Amazon: here
Insider tip: Mix that fishy groundbait with 30-40% chicken feed, which will increase your bait quantity and decrease your groundbait costs immensely. Bream aren’t that picky and chicken feed combined with a more potent and smelly groundbait is a really good food source to put out there!
Big bream love all kinds of particles. These baits have the ability to keep a bigger shoal of bream in your swim for a longer period of time, which is exactly what you should be aiming at.
Don’t overfeed on particles though! Instead, pre-bait a carpet of particles ( a couple of pounds) before you start fishing and then cast out smaller amounts every other hour or so. Increase the frequency and amount somewhat if you are starting to get fewer bites.
You have to find that balance of giving them just enough free food, so that they will feed continuously and still be willing to take your hookbaits as well. So, don’t give them too little, but not too much either.
Some of my favorite particles for river bream include:
- Smaller pellets (4-6 mm)
- Maize or feed corn (have to be pre-soaked and boiled well)
- Hemp seeds (have to be pre-boiled)
You can buy all of the above in your local tackle shop or farm and animal feed store.
Insider tip: If there is a fish farm close to where you live, ask if you can buy pellets from them directly. Such places are usually willing to sell you there pellets for a very good price!
When it comes to boilies for river bream, I wouldn’t suggest only baiting and fishing with them, they are simply too costly.
It is however positive to introduce some boilies to your swim, as these can sometimes filter out the smaller bream in a shoal and produce those mega bream bites. So, boilies should most definitely be considered to be a part of your bait buffet.
Add a couple of handfuls to your particle mix when you pre-bait and shoot out a few close to your hookbait, if you are fishing with a boilie. To do so as precisely as possible, you can use a bait catapult.
The boilies you spread in your swim should be considered “special treats” by the bream, which means that they should basically be fighting over them. Hence, only offering a few, plus your hookbait next to them, increases attraction and the chance of getting a bite.
More on boilies and boilie flavors can be read under the section “Best Baits for Big Bream in Rivers” further down in this article.
Best Methods for Catching Big River Bream
You have now prepared your swim with some delicious free food and hopefully, there will already be a few bream feeding. Don’t worry if it takes a while though, they will come sooner or later.
Just get those lines wet now! The more you are fishing an incoming bream shoal, the higher your chances of catching a big specimen bream.
This is the secret of catching big river bream; to intensively fish a shoal and try to keep it in your swim. Because the only way of catching those bigger fish is through the shoal itself!
Bream shoals can consist of 10,20,30 or even 50 or more fish of various sizes. Among these will almost always be a few fish that can go beyond those magical 10 lb, making them the double figured breams that dreams are made off.
Fishing your way through such a shoal is your best chance of catching large river bream! And here follow the two best methods on how to fish for them.
The most active way of fishing for river bream is with the feeder rod. This method is ideal for fishing day sessions or shorter night sessions and is most fun when the fish are in a good feeding mood.
Fishing with a feeder rod and a medium sensitive quivertip of 2- 3 oz helps you detect even the most careful of bream bites. Here is a chart that helps you choose the rightly weighted quivertip for your river:
|Slow current||2 oz|
|Medium current||2.5-3 oz|
|Strong current||3.5 oz|
Trust me, for their size, those big bream can be extremely cautious when it comes to picking up your hookbait, so choosing the right quivertip is crucial!
That’s why I recommend feeder fishing only when you are sure to be most alert, which probably won’t be the case if you are doing an overnighter! But when you are fully awake and can keep your focus on your one or two rod tips at all times, you will most likely be able to land more bream.
You should certainly consider fishing with 2 feeder rods at the same time. This allows you to test different baits and spots simultaneously while still being able to closely watch both of your rod tips.
When feeder fishing, you can take it somewhat easier on the pre-baiting, as your feeder cages will deliver small amounts of food throughout your entire session. But if you are getting into a real feeding frenzy, try catapulting out extra particles in between bites, in order to ensure that the bream will keep feeding in your swim.
For feeders, you should use larger cages of 30 to 40g (1 to 1.5 oz) on either a paternoster rig or a running rig. Here is some visual explanation on how to tie such feeder rigs:
Pair that rig with a size 8-10 wide gape specimen hook, which allows you to fish both bigger baits, such as worms or a couple of large sweetcorn, and smaller baits, such as maggots.
Keep an extremely close eye on your quivertips, as bream bites can be super sensitive and tricky. Try not to strike on large tip bends, as those just never seem to hook the bream. Instead, strike on smaller bends, repeated twitches in the tip, as well as drop back bites that’ll make your line go slack.
Ledgering With a Bolt Rig or Method Feeder
Ledgering for river bream is a more passive way of fishing, which, however, has plenty of advantages.
For one thing, as shown in the above image, it makes it possible to use 3 rods simultaneously. With 3 rods, you can really cover an entire swim and catch plenty of bream out of that feeding shoal, increasing your chances of hooking the big ones.
For another thing, ledgering with a self-hooking mechanism allows you to fish at night without having to constantly guard your rods and quivertips. If you cannot stay awake an entire night, ledgering with bite alarms is just right for you!
The key to successful ledger fishing for bream is to use very short hooklinks. Bream are fish that do not move very fast and when they pick up your hookbait, which will most likely be fished on the hair rig, it will not simply rush off and hook itself.
The shorter your hooklink, the more immediate the self-hooking will become, even if the bream remains rather immobile or just moves away very slightly. With the right length, it will basically be enough for the bream to pick up your hookbait. By doing so, it will slowly raise its mouth and head, straighten the hooklink and thereby hook itself.
That’s the reason why there is almost never a classic run when fishing with bite alarms for bream. All you will usually get is a series of irregular beeps and a hanger that slowly moves up or down.
Drop back bites are also very common, which is why it is crucial to tighten your mainline, so that your hanger will be positioned rather high up, just under your rod. This way, there is a lot of room for the hanger to drop down, resulting in a nice and clear bite indication from your alarms, which you could otherwise miss rather easily.
Striking on such indications and bites is really a no brainer! As you are using bolt rigs, the fish will hook itself nicely and rightly nine times out of ten, if you have set up your rig correctly.
For bolt rigs, use weights of about 1.5 to 2 ounces on a common safety clip. Your hooklink should be a 3”- 4” piece of 10-12 lb braided line. Try to match the hooklink to the color of the river bottom.
The right hook to use for a rive bream hair rig would be a size 8 wide gape carp hook. I prefer using the Korda Wide Gape X or the Fox Wide Gape Beaked Hook.
Insider tip: Put an anti-tangle sleeve onto your swivel and hooklink, as these rigs tend to easily wrap themselves around your weight or method feeder!
If you are fishing with a method feeder, in order to cast out a portion of groundbait along with your hookbait, use exactly the same set up as for bolt rigs, when it comes to hooklink and hook. Use method feeders of around 1.5 to 2 ounces, these larger types can carry out more groundbait, which is a plus, as you have to cast out far less often.
Here is a very good video showing you how to fish with a method feeder:
Feeder and Ledger: The Perfect Combination
The most optimized way of fishing for river bream is to combine the two above mentioned methods! Especially for fishing longer sessions, having both a feeder rod and one or ledger rods in the water can significantly improve your fishing.
Rather oddly, bream tend to bite better on one or the other method. There is no clear pattern to it at all! But I have had many sessions where the feeder rod totally obliterated the ledger rods, and vice versa, when the ledger rods were completely outfishing the feeder rods.
Fishing both methods will indicate to you which one works better on that particular day or night, and then you can simply optimize and perhaps re-gear.
It is also more fun to vary your fishing, so that you not only feeder fish and stare your eyes out looking at the quivertips for an entire day or two, or just use your ledger rods and bite alarms, fishing completely passively.
Best Gear for Bream Fishing in Rivers
There it is! That’s the way to fish for big river bream. Now, let’s take a closer look at the gear you will need to catch them.
Duo tip specialist rods are definitely your best pick for river bream fishing. They are both feeder and ledger rod in one and have the sufficient strength and action that is needed to fish big bream on a river setting.
Let’s assume that you are fishing with two or three of these rods and that you are using two as ledger rods and one as a feeder. Now, if the feeder method does not yield any results and the ledger rods are going absolutely crazy, you can quickly and easily transform your third rod into yet another ledger rod. And hence, you will have optimized your fishing session by 33%!
One of my absolute favorite specialist Avon rods is the Drennan 12ft Specialist Twin Tip Duo. This rod has a perfectly balanced action and a test curve of 1.5lb, which is spot on for rivers and bream! It comes with a classic avon style top section and two quivertip sections of 3oz and 4oz, which is also perfect for a slow to medium flowing river current.
Two or three of these rods are all you need to get the most out of your fishing session for big river bream.
You can find the Drennan Specialist Twin Tip Duo on Amazon: here
Baitrunner Reel for Ledgering
This is my all time favorite baitrunner reel. I use the Shimano Baitrunner ST 4000 FB for all types of specimen fishing.
It’s a classic Shimano type reel that will hold for many, many years, if you take care of it. It really is an amazing reel! And at £60, it’s really well priced as well.
This reel has a line capacity of 260m for 0.25mm line, a gear ratio of 4.8:1, a front drag and a free spool system, as well as 1 shielded stainless steel bearing, which is really all you need for a baitrunner reel that you don’t cast out very often during a session.
Take a closer look at this great Shimano baitrunner on Amazon: here
Match Reel for Feeder Fishing
For your feeder fishing, it’s absolutely best to use a feeder and match reel with a front drag system and more ball bearings. The reason is that you will fish this reel much more actively, and cast out and reel in more frequently than with a baitrunner reel.
Another reason to use a good match reel for feeder fishing is that they often have more resilient bail springs, which is a very important feature for a reel.
The one I use and highly recommend is the Daiwa Ninja. It has 4 ball bearings, a long-life bail spring, a line capacity of 150m for 0.23mm line, a gear ratio of 5.3:1, and an ultra-smooth running. It’s a really fine looking reel that is highly advanced and technical.
Find the right reel size for you and check the current price on Amazon: here
As previously mentioned, you should use a mainline of 8 to 10 lb. Bream generally don’t crave such a strength, but when fishing on rivers, a slightly stronger line is definitely recommended.
As you are fishing in moving water, there is generally a lot of debris on the river bottom. Also, larger bream can be quite heavy and unexpectedly strong fish to fight, if they decide to head straight into the main current.
Another reason for a little stronger mainline is that many rivers also hold plenty of tench or smaller carp, which can be very difficult to control in such limited swims.
By the way, if you want to learn more on how to fish another amazing specimen fish, the tench, make sure you also read this article i published recently: Tench Fishing at Night: Best Baits and Methods
All that makes fishing with a 0.22-0.25mm (8-10 lb test) monofilament line your most logical choice. Monofilament is somewhat more flexible and stretchy than braid, which can be an advantage for bream that tend to come off easily when getting into the current or vegetation along the margins.
I like to use Daiwa’s Hyper Sensor 8 lb fishing line, which is a really robust and long-lasting choice. It’s without a doubt one of the strongest and most durable lines on the market today!
You can purchase the Daiwa Hyper Sensor on Amazon: here
If you are fishing with ledger rods and bite alarms, you will need a rod pod. Modern rod pods are small, light and super easy and fast to mount, which makes them a valuable tool when fishing with multiple rods.
It’s a huge advantage to have all your bottom rods secure, nice and ordered in one place, especially when night fishing.
I use the Leeda Rogue 3 in 1, which is a fully adjustable and ultra-light rod pod that can hold up to 3 rods on any type of ground.
It’s a pod that I have used for 5 years already and it’s still working like a charm; no rust, no broken legs, nothing! For just under £60, you get a lot of rod pod for your money!
If you are interested in buying the Leeda Rogue, you can find it on Amazon: here
Ledgering and a rod pod go together with bite alarms, which you will need in order to be able to detect your bites on the ledger rods.
Bite alarms and their audible bite indications come in super handy when fishing with ledger rods and a feeder rod simultaneously. You don’t have to worry about missing any bites on the ledger rods and can keep your full attention on the quivertip, until you get a beep, that is! There are also a must when fishing at night!
RELATED: Make sure to read up on how to night fish with this article that I wrote a while ago: How to Fish at Night The Right Way
There is an entire universe of bite alarms out there, and many are rather costly. In my opinion, spending a lot of money on bite alarms is completely unnecessary! All you need is a quality sound alarm that will last for a long time, really! And such alarms do not have to cost much at all!
My personal favorite is the Nash Siren S5, which is a small, handy bite alarm that only costs around £25. I have literally used mine for over 6 years now, and quite intensively at that, and did not even have to change the batteries. They just keep going!
Check out this smart and affordable bite alarm on Amazon: here
Best Baits for Big Bream in Rivers
A classic bream bait, sweetcorn will always produce fish on the feeder rod. Use 2 to 3 larger corn on your size 8 hook, in order to attract the bream’s attention and to keep smaller fish from taking your bait.
In rivers with a lot of roach, minnow and other very small fish, fishing with sweetcorn for bream is not recommended.
One of my top baits for the hair rig on the ledger rods! Fake corn eliminates the small fish problem, as they are mostly not able to swallow or steal these baits off your hook. 2 pop-up fake corn on a short hair rig and a size 8 wide gape hook is a deadly weapon for large rive bream!
Try marinating them in a bait dip for a couple of yours or a day before fishing them, it can make a lot of difference. I recommend flavors like scopex, brasem or bloodworm for bream.
Here is a short video I did on how to use bait dip your artificial sweetcorn:
As stated above, boilies can be a secret weapon for large river bream, if used moderately in a swim. These hookbaits will be fished on the hair rig on your ledger rods.
Fish with smaller sizes of 10 to 12mm and use flavors such as The Source, bloodworm, krill or scopex. Pre-soaking your hookbaits in a boilie dip is always a good idea.
Another great hookbait for your ledger rods. Use similarly sized pop-ups (8-12mm) and weigh them down with a little tungsten or a tiny split shot on your hair, so that the pop-up will just be sitting on the bottom, and not above it.
Some of my favorite colors and flavors for bream pop-ups are red or orange fishy flavored pop-ups and yellow ones with a strong pineapple flavor.
My absolute favorite are high visual Mainline pop-ups with that exact flavor. You will have a hard time finding a better bream pop-up!
Take a closer look at Mainline’s fantastic pineapple pop-ups on Amazon: here
If you are using other types of pop-ups, pre-soaking them in a bait dip, just like boilies, can be a very good way of making them stick out more in your swim.
Maggots can be a really powerful bait for common bream in rivers. Once again, you will have to make sure that small fish won’t constantly snatch away your maggots. That can be a real pain when fishing.
If small fish aren’t a problem, try using a whole bunch of maggots on your size 8 or 10 hook, creating a maggot ball. Bream can find these absolutely irresistible at times!
Insider tip: Use a smaller amount of maggots in your groundbait, for extra attraction and to force the bream to really dig deeply into the bottom sediment, as those maggots will try to dig themselves out of there. Also, put casters in your groundbait and try fishing with maggots and casters as your hookbait; a deadly combination!
What Is The Best Time to Fish for River Bream?
Based on my personal experiences of 8 years of fishing for river bream, as well as many other articles and reports I have read on the topic, the answer is the following:
The absolute best time during the year to fish for river bream is August and September, when the water temperature is slowly dropping, the nights are getting cooler and the bream start to feed more and more in preparation for the upcoming winter.
When it comes to the best times of day to fish for common bream in rivers, early mornings and late evenings tend to produce most fish, closely followed by later mornings.
An overnight trip will most certainly give you the highest chance of success, as you will be able to cover all the good feeding and biting periods of the river bream.
On the contrary, midday and afternoon fishing for bream in rivers seems to be highly unproductive. If you are fishing a weekend session, use that time to sleep, read or to cook some nice dinner. Recharging your batteries can be very much needed for the upcoming evening and night, when things get heated again under the surface.
By the way, if you want to read up on the best times of day for fishing trips, check out this in-depth article I wrote on the subject: Expert Tips for The Best Times of Day to Go Fishing
I hope this complete guide on how to catch big river bream will help you hook those huge, double figure bream. They really are extraordinary fish and it’s always an immense pleasure landing one of those giants!
When you catch your first 10lb+, make sure to send me an email with a picture of that magnificent catch!