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A "Grown Up" Approach To Wading For Small-Stream Bass

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August 05, 2013

A "Grown Up" Approach To Wading For Small-Stream Bass

By Dave Wolak

When you tell someone you’re a bass pro, they automatically think of you flying across a big lake somewhere on a fast boat. Granted, that might be how I primarily bass fish these days, but I never forget where I started. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and if you asked mini me where I was headed on an average summer day, the answer would have been the Susquehanna River, Delaware River or one of their tributaries. I loved wading in old swim trunks, carrying one spinning rod and fanny pack holding a few key lures. It was simplistic and effective summer bass fishing, and I still do it today whenever I get the chance. Now I live in NC, and many of the rivers and streams around here are plentiful with largemouth. Or I can head west to the mountains where more smallmouths take up river residence.

When I was young I would collect native forage like hellgrammites, crawfish, and stone catties as soon as I got to the water. Then I would simply fish the live bait around eddies and pockets. Although this offers some of the best action and is still a great option, I developed more artificial lure techniques as time went on, and the results were often more fulfilling because using lures meant “tricking” what can be some of the most wary bass you’ll encounter. Your artificial bait selection has to be oriented towards finesse and simplicity, yet be efficient in presentation at the same time. You also don’t want to carry a lot of gear because you want to travel light and cover plenty of ground.

Believe it or not, my favorite small stream/river lure is a 1/8-ounce buzzbait with a little triple wing blade and chartreuse skirt. I just keep on walking and throwing, especially in areas of slower current. This bait catches bass with the element of surprise. Most of the time they crush it a second after it touches down and starts churning. You can’t give river bass in slow water too much time to look and think about an offering. A Heddon Tiny Torpedo propbait works well too, but it lets you impart a stop-and-go action to give fish a little more time to eat it when it comes through the strike zone like an eddy, pocket, or current obstruction. So to recap, buzzbaits in slow water between juicy stuff, Torpedo in the juicy stuff.

Another lure that’s always in my pack is a Texas-rigged grub, and I usually just carry black and white. I use the black if I’m in darker water or fishing a little deeper along the bottom, and white if I’m around faster current or it’s overcast. Most of the time all you have to do is reel it in slowly and they eat it. One of the big keys to this, however, is getting the right weight and hook setup to make it both swim straight and true and remain weedless at the same time. My most common setup with a 3-inch grub is a 1/8-ounce pegged weight with a small #1 straight shank hook. I usually avoid jigheads with exposed hooks because they hang too easily.

Comments (10)

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from Justin Belt wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

Big Bite Baits Bumble Bee Grub and Yellow Jacket drive them crazy late spring and summer in the Mountain rivers he is talking about. I am going down this evening to try the tiny torpedo he suggested.

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from buckhunter wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

Spent all day Saturday throwing Boogle Bugs at smallmouth. The fishing was so good I completely forgot my wife and I had plans to take the granddaughter to the fair that day. I caught a little hell when I got home but I didn't care. The fishing was just that good.

I believe Boogle is an Indian term for "the best damn popper money can buy."

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from buckhunter wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

I will add, I ended the day hooking a 19 incher on a very short roll cast. The fish spent more time during the fight out of the water than in it. I am glad nobody was watching because they would have seen a grown man in a wool fedora, smoking a cigar, jumping up and down and giggling like a little girl.

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from MattM37 wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

I did some girlish giggling myself yesterday. I waded about two miles of a small river here in New York. Not only did I catch over a dozen smallmouths, three of them nice 16 or 17-inchers (and I have no complaints about all the chunky little 10 to 12-inchers), I also caught four nice brown trout. I got every single fish on a Rebel Wee Crawfish.

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

The eighth oz buzzbait is in my pack too, although in black, and a spinnerbait in chartreuse. As to jigs vs Texas, I almost always use jig heads. I do get hung up somewhat frequently as you've mentioned, but I try to only cast to where I don't mind going to retrieve it and I think it gives a grub a better look in current.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

You can have your bucket mouths, and fast boats. Fishing for bronze backs at dawn with a beat up aluminum flat bottom is as good as it gets.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

My go 2 lure for smallies is Picola Niti-1. I am betting Dave knows exactly what that is.

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from rjw wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Gitzit, smoke with red flake, although that color is consistent on any river and the smallies crush them on the Susquehanna, of course a jitterbug and most importantly a good friend.

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from vtbluegrass wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Before moving to the coast wade fishing bronzebacks was my life. The small streams I fish held some giant smallmouths so I didn't go to small baits until mid to late summer when it got clear and low.
Big spinnerbaits in the spring. Topwaters and white grubs in late spring early summer. By the end of summer my go to bait was a 6 inch Roboworm that I could shorten as needed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Wolak wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

All great choices. I also frequently use the weird combo of a light split shot rigged black wacky worm as well. Just trust me on that one, it's unreal for river smallies.

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Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

I will add, I ended the day hooking a 19 incher on a very short roll cast. The fish spent more time during the fight out of the water than in it. I am glad nobody was watching because they would have seen a grown man in a wool fedora, smoking a cigar, jumping up and down and giggling like a little girl.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MattM37 wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

I did some girlish giggling myself yesterday. I waded about two miles of a small river here in New York. Not only did I catch over a dozen smallmouths, three of them nice 16 or 17-inchers (and I have no complaints about all the chunky little 10 to 12-inchers), I also caught four nice brown trout. I got every single fish on a Rebel Wee Crawfish.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Justin Belt wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

Big Bite Baits Bumble Bee Grub and Yellow Jacket drive them crazy late spring and summer in the Mountain rivers he is talking about. I am going down this evening to try the tiny torpedo he suggested.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

Spent all day Saturday throwing Boogle Bugs at smallmouth. The fishing was so good I completely forgot my wife and I had plans to take the granddaughter to the fair that day. I caught a little hell when I got home but I didn't care. The fishing was just that good.

I believe Boogle is an Indian term for "the best damn popper money can buy."

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

The eighth oz buzzbait is in my pack too, although in black, and a spinnerbait in chartreuse. As to jigs vs Texas, I almost always use jig heads. I do get hung up somewhat frequently as you've mentioned, but I try to only cast to where I don't mind going to retrieve it and I think it gives a grub a better look in current.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

You can have your bucket mouths, and fast boats. Fishing for bronze backs at dawn with a beat up aluminum flat bottom is as good as it gets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 36 weeks 5 days ago

My go 2 lure for smallies is Picola Niti-1. I am betting Dave knows exactly what that is.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Gitzit, smoke with red flake, although that color is consistent on any river and the smallies crush them on the Susquehanna, of course a jitterbug and most importantly a good friend.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Before moving to the coast wade fishing bronzebacks was my life. The small streams I fish held some giant smallmouths so I didn't go to small baits until mid to late summer when it got clear and low.
Big spinnerbaits in the spring. Topwaters and white grubs in late spring early summer. By the end of summer my go to bait was a 6 inch Roboworm that I could shorten as needed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Wolak wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

All great choices. I also frequently use the weird combo of a light split shot rigged black wacky worm as well. Just trust me on that one, it's unreal for river smallies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment