With so little time to fish, I find myself abandoning my local flows and using those rare fishing trips to go explore new waters and spent time with friends. This has definitely cut into my production of giant striper and spotted bass, but I am actually having a lot more fun with my trips and am relishing the time floating beside some of my close friends. This trip was a perfect example. I planned our trip about a month ahead of time to explore a new river in smallie country with a group of friends, but due to weather concerns we made the call on the Friday to head up a week early. I already had multiple trips bust due to heavy rains and high water, so I didn’t want to miss the last run of the summer.
We met up at the midpoint of two nice sections of a beautiful river in smallmouth country. Our plan was to float the longer, lower section on our first day and then explore the shorter, upper section on our final day. With a four-hour drive to the launch ramp we didn’t worry about beating daylight, and hit the water around 10 am with hopes of catching a strong evening bite on a late hydroelectric dam release.
My game plan for smallie country is pretty much the same as everywhere else in the country. My focus is always throwing big baits, so 5” and 6” “Bull Shads”, large topwater baits, and “Senkos” as a follow up. The first two and a half hours of fishing yielded exactly one dink. The first leg of the trip was extremely shallow and unproductive despite having some nice looking shoals and pools. I was quite discouraged, because we opted to explore some new water over a nearby river that has yielded amazing quality in the past. Even the fun trips can mentally wipe you out if you psyche yourself up dreaming of smashing giant bronze backs and fall drastically short of your goal. It was hot, the sun was bright, and I needed to just cool it and collect my thoughts. We parked in a deep, cool eddy, cracked an IPA, and baptized myself in the cool river water.
I got my mind right and set myself a new game plan, stowing away all my other rods in the rod tubes of my Kilroy and tying on my favorite 6” Bull Shad on my Dobyns “795” swimbait rod. I came for trophy smallmouth, and knew that if I stuck to my strength of throwing a swimbait I would get a few chances at a good one. Besides, a swimbait strike is my favorite in all of fishing, and this whole trip was meant purely for fun and catching a couple of bronze giants.
With a better frame of mind I began working the swimbait in the push water above rapids and the shallow runs directly below. In short order, I had my first nice smallie choke the swimbait and a pattern was beginning to form. River fishing is very diverse with many types of cover and structure available in a small area, but there is typically an overarching pattern. If you are seeing fish in the push water above shoals, then most likely a large percentage of fish in that river are feeding in those areas. Pay close attention to the cover or water type you catch your fish in to quickly develop a pattern, so you can target those areas as you continue to float downriver.
Throughout the rest of the day’s float I targeted push water and rocky runs below rapids, and ended up collecting six smallmouth between 17” and 19.5”, and a bonus 18” largemouth. I had two very memorable highlight fish: one I cast to fish blasting minnows downstream and hooked a strong 19” fish pushing 4 lbs, and my final smallie of the day was a 19.5” four-pounder that was so dark it looked midnight black.
Day 2: To be continued…
- Adjusting to the conditions is usually the best call, but with swimbait fishing you have to pay your dues and fish them all day.
- Take every opportunity to explore new water, and never judge a river by the first mile.
- Be mentally tough. and don’t let the rough stretches knock you off your game.
- Jackson Kayak “Kilroy”
- Dobyns Rods “795 SBMT” swimbait rod
- Bull Shad swimbaits
- Bending Branches “Angler Pro” paddle