One of the main reasons so many of us enjoy fishing is the pastoral tranquility that the activity offers to those willing to wake up early or veer off the beaten path. The rewards for paying nature a visit are lakes with a layer of early morning fog over a glass surface, or the soothing ripple of the current against your legs as your stand knee deep in a backwoods river. It’s no secret why fly anglers love wading the river, but today, wading in the river focuses on smallmouth bass and spinning tactics. Keep reading to learn more about how you can catch smallie after smallie wading the river.
In many areas of the United States, smallmouths gather regularly in rivers and streams and wading for them, much like a trout fisherman, is a great way to catch them. Because these smaller rivers feed into larger lakes, where smallies are common, they’re a perfect place to seek them out. A great tactic to use for river smallmouth is drifting, which entails allowing your lure to drift downstream. You’ll be standing in the water, so the angles and targets available to you are plentiful, which maximizes your effectiveness. Cast parallel from where you’re standing and keep the slack off your line while you let the lure drift. Twitch the tip of your rod now and then to give the lure some action (this isn’t necessary with live bait) and hold on tight when you get a strike, as smallies are strong fighters.
When wading for smallies, you’ll need to use different tackle than you may be used to using. I’ve always preferred lighter action rods and light line (6 lb at the most). Still, feel free to go as light as you’re comfortable with. I like light tackle because it’s exciting to fight a smallie when using it and your presentation will be more effective.
You can use bait or lures when drifting for smallies. Great bait options include minnows, crawfish, crawlers, and leeches, and you’ll want to tie your bait in a manner that allows for a natural action and presentation. When using lures, you’ll never go wrong with inline spinners on the river. Panther Martin, Mepps, and Rooster Tails will be your best friends, and I suggest using 3/8 oz down to even 1/32 oz, depending on the line you’re using. You can also use spoons, crankbaits, and minnows, such as Rapala’s floating minnow.
Catching smallmouth bass on the river isn’t a difficult task, and drifting is definitely the way to go about it when wading through the current. With light tackle and the right lures, anyone can target smallies in areas better known to attract trout fishermen. If you’ve skunked out when seeking bronzebacks, I suggest taking a trip to the river. When you fight that first smallie on light tackle, you’ll be glad you did.