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.