I remember my first experience fishing on the river. I had just moved to Indiana (where river fishing is huge) from Michigan and a coworker of mine wanted to show me what river fishing was all about. Not wanting to be unprepared, I asked him what tackle I should bring. However, he told me he had it covered and, really, he just wanted me to have fun and enjoy myself. Needless to say, after that first outing, I was hooked, and stocked up on a few pieces of tackle that excel on the river. If you’ve never fished the rivers or streams before, or are new to it and want to equip yourself with the right gear, then today’s your lucky day, because I’ve provided you with a list of basic tackle that every river angler should keep in their tackle box.
To begin stocking your river tackle box, you’ll need to pick up some jigs. Smaller (1/32 to ¼ ounce), round jigheads and plastic or marabou trailers will work great. Most anglers maintain that jigs in the 1/16 or 1/8 size are all you’ll need, but when the current is strong or you’re faced with deep holes where fish tend to situate, you’ll be glad you bought a few larger ones. Split-tail grub trailers in pumpkin, chartreuse, and black work well.
Spoons can be deadly in rivers, as well. Picking up a few small to medium size spoons in nickel or gold would be smart, as their flash and action can entice fish when nothing else will. K-O Wobblers and Daredevl spoons are great options.
Another popular stream lure is the crankbait, or more specifically, shallow and medium-depth crankbaits. With crankbaits, you’ll want to stick with smaller sizes if you want more strikes, unless you know for a fact that large fish reside in the river. Try to stick with crawfish imitators and minnow-style baits. The color you use will depend on water clarity, but shad and chartreuse patterns have been consistent strike enticers for years. Storm’s Wart series—including the Mag Wart and Wiggle Wart—are favorites among stream anglers and are well-worth checking out.
I’ve written on the effectiveness of tubes on the river in the past, but they should be considered worthy additions to a stream fishing tackle box. In the spring, especially, these babies are deadly when fished around rocks, deep banks, or eddies. Stick with colors that imitate crawfish and you’ll be golden. Speaking of eddies, topwater baits, like floating minnows or poppers, work great when twitched across the surface of these slow-moving portions of the river, as well as over logs and cover, especially in warmer temperatures when fish are feeding aggressively. Go with silver or gold color patterns if you use poppers or spooks, and black or white when using a buzzbait.
I know what you’re thinking: “Uh, Sean. Aren’t you forgetting something?” Oh, ye of little faith. I’ve saved the most common and popular river lure for last: the inline spinner. Designed to work in the current, inline spinners have been a go-to lure on the river for years, and the effective color patterns sell out quickly at outdoor retailers. Mepps and Roostertail offer great spinners, and the #3 sizes in gold, silver, and copper are the first to fly off the shelves, so I suggest grabbing them first when you hit the store to stock up on river tackle. Some have had trouble with line twists, however, so adding a barrel swivel might be a good idea if you experience this problem as well.
The aforementioned lures are great starters for anyone interested in doing more river fishing. There are, of course, many other lures that work on the river, as well as tackle designed for float fishing with bait. However, today I wanted to focus on lures that have been popular on the river, due to their reliability. If you’re interested in hitting the river more often, these lures will start you off on the right foot.