River fishing secrets from a pro, with David Irvine

4th March 2022 Elena Manighetti

River fishing secrets from a pro, with David Irvine

River fishing is considered one of the most relaxing freshwater fishing experiences. You can simply drift on a small boat or wade from shore. Choose a quiet spot immersed in nature and bring a few friends to have a fantastic time.

We asked Deckee ambassador David Irvine to share his top river fishing tips and techniques, so you can get started, too. David takes his fishing very seriously, spending most of his free time out with his partner Amy casting lures. 

How do you catch fish in a river?

If you have a boat, you can use soft plastics to catch a mixture of species including bream, flathead, whiting, trevally and more. 

“I drift along a snag-lined edge, casting lightweight soft plastics into the snags and slowly hopping them back out '' tells Irvine. “I just float with the current and work my way along the bank. My boat has an electric motor which makes it easier, but it's not crucial. I also go out on a kayak.”

kayak fishing

If you don't have a boat, the same technique can be applied in reverse from the shore. “I've caught many good fish walking along the shore or sand flats”, tells the passionate angler.

The top three river fishing methods are:

  • Bottom bouncing along with the current

  • Upstream casting using in-line spinners

  • River jigging.

Bottom bouncing can be used to catch smallmouth bass near ledges or drop-offs by deeper channels or cuts. River jigging is often done near river mouths, near the shoreline, and in areas of slower current to catch walleye.  

River fishing gear: What you need

The Fishraider moderator explains that, on a typical day, he brings: 

  • A 7ft (2.1m) 2-4kg (4.4-8.8lbs) rod with 6lb (2.7kg) braid and 8 -10lb (3.6-4.5kg) leader

  • 2-3in (5-7.5cm) soft plastics with jigheads in the 1/8th oz (3.5g) - 1/20th oz (1.4g) weights

  • A landing net

  • Lip grips to help with fish handling, especially with toothy fish like flathead.

  • A set of long nose pliers or similar for removing hooks.

Irvine is a firm believer in fishing safety and encourages people not to save money on the pliers, net, or lip grips. Landing a fish will be easier and safer if you have the right equipment with you.

river fishing

The best river fishing bait

“When I was younger, yabbies were my absolute favourite bait. We used to pump our own on the sand flats with a yappy pump” recalls Irvine. “Prawns were my second favourite bait.”

Nowadays, David uses lures, but his technique hasn’t changed. He still casts low-weight baits into the snags.

When is the best time to go fishing in a river?

“I have no 'best time’, I fish when I can” explains the passionate angler. In the summer, the early mornings, before it gets hot, can be especially productive. In the winter, it’s best to go later in the morning or in the afternoon, when it gets warmer. 

How to find fish in a river

Find areas where you think fish will seek refuge from currents and predators, such as sand flats with plenty of weed beds and bridge pylons. Irvine’s favourite spots are banks with structures like rocks or fallen trees. “I usually find large snag in the middle of the river randomly,” confesses the Fishraider moderator.

David explains that you need to be constantly on the move, drifting and scanning the water, to find fish.

river fishing

How do you fish in a strong current in a river?

Here are the Deckee ambassador’s top tips. “Find areas with less current or current breaks, like river bends or bridge pylons.” Other areas where fish could hang out are areas under overhanging branches, bushes, islands, rock piles, and eddies. Irvine continues: “I use my electric motor to stay in position. If you don't have an engine, you can always use a traditional anchor.”

David suggests increasing your jighead weight in a current and to use it as an advantage. Cast ahead of your drift to give the lure more time to sink.

There you have it - river fishing doesn’t require a lot of special knowledge - just like with any kind of fishing, you need to go out with the right gear and practise your technique over and over again. Stay safe out there.


Download the Deckee app from the App Store or Google Play for free. Look up navigational aids to help you navigate rivers, find and share fishing spots with the community, check the marine weather forecast, and more.

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