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How to Fish for Chub on The Surface (3 Best Methods)

How to Fish for Chub on The Surface (3 Best Methods)

River chub fishing is an incredibly fun and wonderful activity in itself. In my opinion, there is only one fishing method that is even more exciting; to fish for chub on the surface.

The best methods to catch surface chub in rivers are free-lining a piece of bread and float fishing with the bait just a few inches below the surface. However, there is a third, less practiced way of surface fishing for chub, which combines the two more conventional methods.

Continue to read this article, if you want to learn more about these highly efficient methods for catching surface chub.

How to Fish for Chub on The Surface with Free-Lined Bread

how to fish for chub on the surface

Chub are fish that basically eat anything. The range of natural food starts with mussels and snails and ends with smaller prey fish. All the baits that an angler can catch chub with have probably not been invented yet. They can take anything from luncheon meat or a piece of sausage to cheese, sun-dried tomato slices, worms, boilies, and, of course, bread.

It is perhaps this last one that is most commonly associated with chub fishing. Few chub can resist a piece of freshly baked white bread on the surface! But then again, who could?

Fishing for chub with bread on the surface is a very simple and straightforward method. All you need is literally the following:

  • a loaf of bread
  • a hooklink of 30 to 50 inches
  • a hook size 2 to 4

That’s it, you are all set for those hungry surface chub. All you basically have to do is to cast out your bread-baited hook into the river and let it drift downstream. Make sure you are using either very large pieces of bread, or keep some crust on the piece you intend to put on your hook so that it will remain on the hook longer.

Then again, it is not at all simple to actually catch them using this technique! Free-lining a piece of bread down a river is one thing, actually getting the chub to pick up the one piece of bread that has your hook in it is a completely different story.

The way to success and complete failure often leads through one and the same tactic; free offerings and that one hookbait among these.

how to fish for chub with bread

In order to make the chub more confident in feeding, offering a few bread pieces can often do the trick. Once a chub has taken one or two pieces of bread off the surface, chances are good it will continue to do so a little more until your hookbait floats along.

But, this can also lead to the chub eating all the free bread crumbs and then totally ignoring that last one (with the hook in it) because it is basically filled up for the time being.

That is why it is extremely crucial that you find a balance; not too few pieces, in order to gradually warm up the chub to the idea of eating the bread, and not too many pieces, in order not to satisfy its appetite too quickly.

Insider tip: Wait a couple of second before you strike, so that the chub has enough time to actually get the entire piece of bread, and the hook, inside of its mouth.

How to Fish for Chub Just Below The Surface with a Float

how to fish for chub with a float

This second method is very effective for somewhat harder days when the chub go for some of the free-lined surface bread, but just won’t take the hookbait (that happens fairly often, actually).

If you instead present your bait a few inches below the surface, the chub is far less likely to spook, as they do not have to break the cover of the river surface at all. This has produced a lot of bites for me when surface fishing just wouldn’t lead to any landed fish.

Fishing with a float also gives you the opportunity to fish with other hot chub baits than merely bread, baits that you could normally only be fishing on the bottom, but never close to the surface. A prawn or a snail under the float can be an absolute killer for cranky chub, as the current slowly spreads the bait’s scent around it.

Yet another advantage of float fishing for chub is that a float can get your hookbait to places that a free-lined bread on the surface just wouldn’t be able to reach.

Trotting your bait a very long distance downstream is a good example here. In such a case, you would either lose control of your surface bait, or the bread would simply slip off your hook. Maybe you cannot steer the bread away from faster currents, obstacles or backwaters. Or perhaps, you just tug at the line too hard to change your bait’s direction, which would then result in losing it.

float fishing for chub on the surface

A float will sort of shock-absorb those tugs and directional adjustments, leaving your bait on the hook the entire time, as there would simply be no direct impact on the hookbait itself.

All you need to float fish for chub just below the surface is the following:

  • once again, a rather long hooklink of 30-50 inches
  • a float suited for river fishing (preferably transparent)
  • a few split shots (depending on how deep and how fast you want your hookbait to sink
  • a hook size 2 to 4

The simple secret here is that you put your float directly on your hooklink, which allows you to fish as close to the surface as you wish!

I have found that fishing a mere 4 to 6 inches below the surface has produced the most bites, as the chub still like to feed in the upper ranges of the river, just not directly on the surface.

Insider tip: Put on one split shot a few inches above your hook, if you want your bait to slowly sink down to your set depth. Put on more, if you’d like it to reach the depth much more quickly.

Of course, the depth is subject to change, depending on the current conditions; very clear water and sunny days might push the chub a little further down, while muddy water and cloudy days might push it very close to the surface.

If you want to learn more about optimal weather conditions for your fishing trips, make sure to also check out this article that I wrote: The Best Weather Conditions For a Fishing Trip

How to Fish for Chub Below The Surface with Free-Lined Bread

how to fish for chub below the surface

Now, this is a really special technique that I have developed together with a good pal of mine, many years ago in our local chub river.

We had noticed that, sometimes, the chub were extremely cautious and wouldn’t take the free-lined bread on the surface or the float-fished bait just below it. They just wouldn’t come up to break the water surface and were most likely spooked by the presence of the float so close to the hookbait.

Again, these were extraordinary conditions that do not happen all that often. But when they do, you better find a way to get those bites, otherwise, you will be more or less guaranteed to blank that day.

What we came up with was to combine those two conventional methods of surface fishing into a powerful third one, and it actually worked very well!

We called it the submerged free-lined bread. To me, it’s the ultimate way of catching otherwise impossible chub. The way you fish submerged bread is tightly related to fishing bread on the surface, with the one little detail of the bread swaying around in the current just below the surface.

how to fish for chub on the surface
A slightly younger me with my PB chub of 5 lb 4 oz, caught on submerged free-lined bread

It’s a brilliant way of presenting your bait less exposed without sacrificing the direct control of free-lining. And here is how you do it!

Fishing, again, with a rather long hooklink and a size 2 to 4 hook, you take a chunk out of your bread loaf and gently squeeze it into the shape of a ball or plumb. It’s very important to have any crust left on it and not to squeeze too hard!

Because if you do, you will push out all the air that is inside of the bread piece, which is exactly what you need in order for it to become floating and swaying under the surface!

The art of submerged bread fishing for chub lies in keeping the exact right amount of air left in your bread ball. Too little air will simply lead to the bread piece slowly sinking to the bottom. Too much left of it will cause the bread to remain on the surface.

If you find that exact balance, you will start to catch more river chub, guaranteed!

You might be wondering how you can detect a bite and know when to strike if the bait is presented submerged. Well, we found a brilliant and fun way of doing that as well!

The simplest way of knowing if a chub has securely taken your hookbait under the surface is to closely watch your fishing line. As the bread will slowly drift downstream, becoming unseen to your eyes, the line will remain somewhat slack and in a bow on the surface.

When a chub takes that bread piece, your line will suddenly and often violently tighten. After a second or two, that’s the exact moment to strike and catch it!

What Gear Do You Need to Fish for Chub on The Surface?

Chub are generally stronger fish, but they certainly don’t demand heavier gear in order to control them effectively while having them on. With the right gear, fighting river chub is an absolute pleasure. Here is what you need for that:


My personal favorite and best tip for chub fishing is Shimano’s specialist rod Vengeance Barbel. This rod is a dream for any chub angler! It has a 1,5 lb test curve and an amazing backbone for being such a light-action rod.

As a bonus, it is equipped with both an Avon-style rod tip, which is perfect for river chub fishing, as well as 3 different strength quivertips, in case you ever wanted to switch to fishing chub on the bottom instead.


Daiwa has a superb reel called Ninja. It’s a great feeder and match reel with a front drag system that is perfectly suited for surface fishing.

I recommend the 2000 size model, as it has enough line capacity for river chub fishing and does not add too much weight to your rod. It also is very reasonably priced. At around 60£, you will get a lot of quality for your money!


You can use a 6 to 8 lb monofilament mainline for your chub fishing on the surface. Any good quality line will most certainly do, as long as it floats, which is really crucial for surface fishing!

I also prefer using a slightly camouflaged fishing line that matches the color of the water I am fishing in. Mostly, such a color would be greenish or brownish.


For your hooklink, you can use a 6 lb fluorocarbon line, as such a line will basically become invisible in the water and on the surface, which is crucial for cranky chub, especially close to your hookbait.

As previously stated, a hooklink length of roughly 30 to 50 inches is recommended. You can tie it to your mainline with a blood knot:


Last but not least, you will need a big and strong hook to be able to catch river chub, as they have rather large and wide mouths.

I would go for a size 2 to 4 wide gape carp hook, such as the Korda Wide Gape. A high-quality and super strong hook that will not disappoint!

Can You Catch Chub on The Surface at Night?

catch chub on the surface at night

Most certainly, Chub can be very active at night and do not really fear exposing themselves on or close to the surface when it’s dark. On the contrary, the darkness can actually provide them with the so comfortable cover they crave to start feeding more confidently.

Of course, you should avoid using your headlamp as much as you possibly can and cast out in complete darkness, whenever possible. Try to only switch it on when you are actually fighting a chub and are close to netting it, as light can definitely spook them for good.

By the way, if you want to read more on how to effectively night fish in general, make sure to also read this article: How Fish at Night The Right Way

As you won’t see your surface bread, float or the line, if you are fishing the submerged bread, you will have to rely on watching the surface for activity around your hookbait’s current position, if possible. If it is too dark even for that, use your ears and listen for surface activity. Also, feel the rod and notice even the tiniest of twitches in it, as these can equal a bite.

If you succeed in landing those nighttime surface chub, pad yourself on the back! This means that you are a very skilled angler! And a big chub that suddenly appears in the beam of your headlamp and slowly glides over and into your landing net can only be called one thing: absolute magic!

Tight lines!

All images courtesy of Christian Ottosson and Henrik Stale