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Tips for Wade Fishing River Smallmouth

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Matt is a painter and part-time writer who loves fishing and metal detecting. Matt writes about various topics.

I always catch more fish in my river spots than I do from a boat on a lake.

I always catch more fish in my river spots than I do from a boat on a lake.

Wade Fishing for River Smallies

Wade fishing for smallmouth bass in rocky rivers with clear water is one of my favorite ways to fish. Wade fishing is good exercise and a great way to catch big bass without having to deal with a boat launch.

Even small rivers and creeks with deep holes can hold a lot of smallmouth bass and other types of fish. Fishing in creeks and rivers is easier than in lakes, too, because the fish are concentrated in a smaller body of water. I always catch more fish in my river spots than I do from a boat on a lake.

Smallmouth bass thrive in rocky rivers with plenty of minnows, crayfish, and frogs as a food source. River bass will strike your bait in the current, but deep holes and whirlpools outside of the current are where the action is.

River Fishing Gear for Bass

I've used both braided and monofilament fishing line for bass fishing, but for my set up I prefer monofilament and a medium action rod of 6 1/2 to 7 feet in length. A longer rod makes it easier to cast farther with more accuracy near tree branches and structures.

For bass, I use a 6 to 8 lb. line the most. If you're fishing in a river with larger fish like muskie, northern pike, and monster catfish, thicker fishing line is certainly a safer bet to reduce the chance of a break-off, but lightweight line works fine too as long as the drag on your reel isn't set too tight.

Slip Bobber Fishing with Live Minnows

Spinner baits, Mepps and various lures catch bass, but for smallmouth fishing in a river, live minnows are by far the best. Bass can't resist a hooked minnow. The best way to river fish with live minnows at precise depth is by using a simple slip bobber set up.

Depth Control

The slip bobber rig is awesome for river fishing because it covers more water with less effort. With a slip bobber, cast upstream and let your minnow drift back downstream without snagging the bottom. The line knot on this set up lets you set the depth precisely so the minnow drifts inches above the river bottom. This attracts bass and other types of fish that feed off the bottom, including catfish.

My Favorite Fishing Line

The best fishing line for the slip bobber rig is monofilament, not braided, because braid curls and prevents the bobber from sliding up and down as easily. My favorite monofilament line that I've used since I was a kid is Berkley XL Trilene Low Visibility Green. I use 8 lb. line on my reels. As long as you don't set your drag too tight, you can reel in large fish on an 8 lb. line without any problems.

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The slip bobber rig consists of a bobber stop at the top, the slip bobber below it, one split shot sinker, and a small hook. The depth is adjusted simply by moving the bobber stop up or down the fishing line. If your bobber is floating on its side, you have the depth set too deep.

River Wade Fishing with Minnows

The easiest way to wade fish rivers and creeks with live minnows is to keep them in a minnow bucket tied off to your waist. When you need to hook on another minnow you can easily reach down into the floating bucket at your side instead of having to walk back to the shore. The minnow bucket should be one with holes that fills up with water and floats. The minnow buckets with the spring action door work the best.

Topwater Lures

In the summer, when bass are actively feeding, topwater lures are killer baits for bass in rivers. I love watching a bobber disappear underwater from a bite, but nothing beats an aggressive surface strike from a big bass jumping out of the water. Using topwater lures is one of my favorite ways to fish for bass in rivers and lakes.

The topwater bait I've used successfully for many years in rivers and lakes is the Rebel Pop-R. The lure is nothing new, but bass love it. Cast this lure into calm water outside of the current and watch a smallmouth bass come up and smash it.

Since these lures float, you can cast them into tricky areas that would otherwise be difficult to fish underwater without getting snagged. These lures work great in the early morning, or right before dark. For river bass, cast them into shady areas under trees, or into whirlpools and deep holes.

Plastic frogs are another great topwater bait to use along the weedy shoreline of a river. When wading, cast the frog parallel with the shoreline and retrieve it slowly, jerking the bait through the weeds with pauses.

Mepps Aglia Spinning Lure

Sometimes when I go fishing I don't want to make a trip to the bait shop in the morning or have to deal with live minnows all day.

One of the most versatile lures I reach for in my tackle box is the Mepps spinner. Any experienced fisherman knows that Mepps lures work really well for not only smallmouth, but many different types of fish including trout, catfish, panfish, and northern pike.

The Mepps lure I've had the most success with is the Aglia (size #2 and #3). The additional weight of the larger size #3 makes it easier to cast farther. With Mepps, you can fish both shallow and deeper water where you can let the lure sink closer to the bottom before reeling it in. I don't suffer as many snags with Mepps as I do when using jigs and other baits. The lures are lighter in weight and easier to control and keep off the bottom better than big spinnerbaits and spoons that sink to the bottom immediately.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Matt G.

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