Many anglers seeking river smallies make the mistake of using just one particular topwater lure that’s produced for them in the past. However, in doing so, they beat the water to death with that one lure and forget about the different lures in their tackle box. The fact of the matter is that there is no one lure that will work each and every day; you have to learn to match the lure you’re using to the current conditions, which not only can change on a day-to-day basis, but also an hour-to-hour basis, as well. Also, don’t get hung up using just one style. Smallmouth presentation preferences will surely change, so be ready to make the change with them.
When you find a good stretch of river, be sure to check it thoroughly. With clear skies, I to start with a floating stickbait and fan cast the area completely, pausing here and there on the retrieve. Often this slight pause will trigger a strike. Try to use colors that match the local forage the smallmouth are feeding on, too, but don’t be afraid to try off-the-wall colors now and then. Sometimes these more unnatural color patterns can be just the trick.
If the stickbaits don’t work out, try a popper. The surface commotion they create can be irresistible to smallies, especially when there’s some cloud cover. The change in light penetration into the water from the clouds has a tendency to trigger the smallmouth into some aggressive feeding, so be ready to take advantage of it.
A good baitcasting setup will do the trick when you’re throwing topwaters for river smallies, as it allows you to make more accurate casts to the areas where smallmouth hold. For a rod, I’d use a 6’6” to 7’ medium action rod. When choosing a line, a good 10 to 12-pound test line will be more than enough. I actually prefer to use lighter line because it tends to be easier to cast.
If you like to fish for smallmouth bass, now is the time to be out on your favorite river. Topwater lures can yield some great results when you’re seeking smallies on the river, so get yourself a good selection of them, head out, and have the time of your life this summer.