The Bassholes - It takes one to know one.

Warm Water River Smallies
on Monday 08 February 2010
by Adam Mihara

Warm Water River Smallies


            The brown arch flew through the air for what seemed like an eternity. My jerkbait's rattles hissed like a coiled rattler with each headshake. Pure bronze fury landed several feet away soaking me in a river water shower. The summer sun beamed through the clouds to dry the spray from my face. I reached into the crystal clear water and a handsome 2 pound smallie came to my thumb. This is the reward of warmwater river smallmouth fishing.

            The warm water months can provide some of the most predictable smallmouth fishing imaginable. Action can be fast and furious with double hookups being commonplace. The best part is how simply it can be done. Let me take you through four of my favorite techniques for bagging some bruiser summertime bronzebacks.

            Topwater: The early morning is prime time for some explosive topwater bites. River smallies will often move over super shallow shoals, gravel, and other areas where they can blast shore minnows.  A walking bait, popper, wakebait, propbait, or even a buzzbait will draw violent blowups. Sometimes the fish will get so worked up they will fight over who gets the lure. When that happens be sure to have a buddy or a follow up bait handy. A weightless fluke style lure with a 1/0 nose hook is perfect for this situation. You will hardly snag it and the nose hook gives it an even more free and spastic action. Most of the time you will see this topwater action die off at some point later in the morning but some days it will last until your arms fall off. Just make note of how long it's been since your last blowup. The fish will move away from these shallow areas if the sun gets too high and they no longer feel safe.

            Floating Jerkbaits: This is my number one go-to river smallmouth lure. There's something about a jerkbait being ripped through the current that drives smallies crazy. I can see it in their eyes and their fins when they come up behind one. The tense moment as their body curls and they wait for that opportunity to strike. The only thing in their mind is to destroy the helpless minnow drifting and darting before them. Boom! The 2 sets of trebles sink into their lips and the fight is on. Now this is not to say a suspending jerkbait will not work sometimes but warm water smallies just seem to like the action of a floating jerkbait more. Even if you're not catching on the jerkbait it can be used as a fish finder when the smallies follow or look at the bait. This will also help you determine what type of water the fish are using and you can duplicate the pattern elsewhere on the river.

            Insider Tubes: Everyone knows that a tube is a phenomenal lure for smallies. The insider tube rig with an egg shaped jighead outshines the rest when it comes to current. When rigged in this fashion the tube is a dead ringer for a bottom hugging creature that has been dislodged from it's hiding place. Craws, hellgrammites, minnows, sculpins, and madtoms all have the general shape of a small tube. Cast across current and let the river's natural flow provide all the action to the bait. If you cast upstream or even at a diagonal your chances of hanging up are much greater. Keep your rod tip high, line tight, and be sensitive for any change in the feel of the bait. A slight tick or slowness in your drift means a fish has grabbed your tube. This technique can be incredible for numbers of fish during the midday hours and works in deeper pools effectively.

            Wacky Rigs: A stickbait with a center hook is probably the easiest method for any angler to fish for river smallies. Just toss it out and work it back with the current. The brilliance of this presentation is how many different forage items it could represent. A larval aquatic insect like a dragonfly or a terrestrial bug like a caterpillar will have the same body shape and general size. The wacky rigged action is unintimidating and an easy meal without expending much energy. Why wouldn't a river smallmouth want to eat something like this? It's also great for skipping up and under overhanging cover like washed out trees, undercut banks, and docks.

            Using these 4 simple techniques will help you  find and catch river smallies with relative ease. For me, summertime always brings back fond memories of gin clear water and leaping smallmouth. Each time I step onto the bank of the river I feel renewed and excited. Because that next cast might bring a pull on the other end of the line and a beautiful smallmouth bass to the boat.