How To Catch Barbel – A Complete Guide

Barbel are among the most popular game fish in the United Kingdom. Ensuring you’re using the correct bait, technique and tackle will provide you with the best chances of having plenty of Barbel in your landing net. Barbel are close relatives of carp so a lot of the basic premises are the same. However, whereas you typically fish for carp in lakes, barbel are much more commonly found in rivers and streams.

In this article we’ll be going through the fundamentals of fishing for barbel, compiling data from all over the world to see what it actually takes to catch Barbel quickly and effectively.

Since barbel are so closely related to carp, they possess the same fighting qualities that we all know and love. Their streamlined and muscular bodies mean they are extremely good swimmers. And an absolute joy to catch when done properly.

Table of contents

Where To Go Barbel Fishing

Here’s a table showing some popular places to catch barbel. The fast-flowing water of rivers and streams tends to be where the majority of Barbel are located.

Lakes/Rivers Expected Fish
River Derwent, Borrowash, DerbysBarbel, Tench, Specimen Chub, Bream
River Avon, Ringwood Fishery, Ringwood, DorsetSpecimen Carp and Barbel
River Thames, MiddlesexBarbel, Carp, Tench, Pike, Catfish, Trout
River Severn, Hampton Loade, ShropsBarbel, Perch, Roach, Pike, Chub
River Ivel, Biggleswade, Beds Barbel, carp, Perch, Pike, Roach

What Tackle You Need For Barbel Fishing

Despite being a close relative of carp, Barbel do not grow nearly as big. The biggest recorded fish in the Uk is only 21lb. However, since they often in fast-flowing rivers, they are incredibly strong

A standard 1.5 test curve rod combined with a good spinning reel is perfect for barbel fishing. If you have carp fishing gear, then you can use the majority of that tackle for barbel fishing as well. However, if you’ve just started fishing and want to target barbel, then its worth getting barbel-specific tackle. Some 8lb line and a feeder with a band or hair rig are pretty much all the essentials you’ll need before you can start catching barbel. Listed below is all the specific tackle you’ll need to go barbel fishing:

TackleOur Recommendation
Rod 12ft – 1.5-2lb Test CurveKorum Barbel Quiver Fishing Rod 12ft
Freespool Fishing Reel Loaded With 8lb Monofilament LineMAP Carptek ACS 4000FS
Coarse Freshwater Fishing Net Korum Snapper Fast Fishing Net
Assorted Leads/Cage FeederPreston Cage Feeder
Lead ClipKorda Lead Clip
Tail RubberKorda Tail Rubber
Ring Swivel Korda Ring Swivel
Baiting Needle Korda Baiting Needle
Bait StopsKorda Bait Stops
Size 12 Fishing HooksDrennan Specialist Barbel Hooks

How To Find Barbel In A River

When catching barbel, there are a few prime locations you should be targeting to attain the best results. Starting off by observing the lake or river you’ll be fishing is one of the best ways to gain an understanding of how to fish the water.

Barbel like well-oxygenated waters that are fast flowing and have places for them to hide. This includes fallen trees, branches, reeds, etc. One of the best places to look for barbel are weir pools because they often contain all the elements that barbel like. The crashing fast-flowing often makes them a hotspot for barbel.

Looking for signs of fish is fairly easy. A great way to do this is with polarised sunglasses. Barbel are typically bottom feeders so it can be challenging to locate them with the naked eye. Look for patches of discolored water. This indicates that fish have been hoovering up food on the lake or river bed. On a sunny day, it’s also possible to locate them swimming closer to the service. Keeping an eye on the rough direction the fish travel is always a good idea.

Setting Up Your Rod & Reel

Its best to remain quiet when setting up, the last thing you want is to have all the fish in your swim and spook them away whilst bringing in your gear. After finding a good sport, getting your gear set up efficiently could make all the difference.

Rod and reel set up: This can be done in under 5 minutes. Depending on whether you have brought your rod in a rod bag or in pieces you’ll want to make sure its all connected securely.

Your Reel will then slide into the reel seat on the rod and you can screw it tight. Then take the line and pass it through the inside of the bail arm while ensuring the line is on the roller.

Next, feed the line through the eyes of the rod until it reaches the end. At this point, your rod and reel setup is completed.

Basic Barbel Fishing Rig

Step 1: Thread a tail rubber onto your mainline before threading on a lead clip.

Step 2: Next thread your main line through a ring swivel and secure it using a blood knot before pulling the swivel into the lead clip until it is fastening in place. Make sure that you also cut off the tag end from your knot before pulling it into the lead clip.

Step 3: Now you want to start working on your hooklink, cut off 10-12 inches of hooklink material, you can use monofilament or coated braid. Then tie a small overhand loop-knot into the removed end as this will become your hair rig.

Step 3: Using a baiting needle, thread on a bait of your choice before securing it with a bait-stop. Then thread a hook onto the other side of your hooklink until it nearly touches the bait before securing it in place with a knotless knot.

Step 4: Throw a large overhand knot into the other side of the hooklink. Next, thread the large overhand knot into the ring swivel before pulling the hookbait through the knot to secure and complete the rig.

Best Barbel Fishing Baits

Barbel are bottom feeders which means using attractive small baits that create a cloud of attractive goodness in the water. Barbel will eat most things however using the baits designed specifically for them may give you an advantage. This isn’t by any means saying that you can’t catch them on standard maggots, sweet corn, and meat. Creating a swim in a river can be challenging. Look for snags, overhanging trees, and anything that could be a great hiding spot for fish. Like with all fishing little and often can do the trick. But testing out to see what works for different areas and fish will always be the most beneficial when learning how to fish for barbel at different locations.

  • Pellets
  • Maggots
  • Casters
  • Boilies
  • Groundbaits
  • Luncheon Meat
  • Hempseed

Barbel Fishing Tips

  • Learn To Fish In Strong Currents: Catching Barbel can be challenging, it’s important to get an understanding of how to adapt your angling for Barbel in particular. The main thing to remember is, rivers are stronger than lakes. Having a lead to ensure your rig stays where you want is mandatory.
  • Use The Correct Tackle For The Job: Barbel aren’t the biggest fish however they are strong. Make sure your hook link is up to the task.
  • Weir Pools: Weir Pools are the best places in a river to look for barbel, they create fast-flowing, well-oxygenated pockets of water that are perfect for barbel.
  • Be prepared to recast multiple times: If you haven’t had a bite in a while it’s worth resetting your rig to have the best chances of hooking a fish.
  • Use Barbel Specific Baits: Personally, we noticed that the pellets and boilies made for barbel are your best bet when searching for the best hook bait.
  • Stay Patient: Its easier said than done! But like much other fish, Barbel are easily spooked make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and are keeping noise to a minimum.
  • Check The Shallows: Shallow waters are great for spotting barbel. Having a pair of polarised sunglasses will increase your chances of finding the fish.

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