Wading For Smallmouth Bass In Small Rivers, Creeks, And Streams

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Catch. Photo. Release.

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Why America Loves Smallmouth Bass

Pound for pound smallmouth bass are one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish, and that tenacity turns up when you tangle with smallmouth in shallow water.

Smallmouth are native to rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the Midwest and have routinely been stocked to non-native ranges since the 1800s. The robust smallmouth was initially favored for its delicious meat and targeted by working-class anglers usually rigged with live bait. 

As recreational fishing advanced, anglers began to appreciate the smallmouth’s fighting ability and continued willingness to inhale the newly popularized artificial lure. Since then, smallmouth bass have been introduced to over 45 states and remain one of America’s most popular sport fish.

Creek Fishing For Big Smallmouth Bass

To me, there is no better way to catch bass then in warm, shallow rivers. In the summer, water levels are typically sitting at lower levels, making rivers and creeks easier and safer to fish.

Rivers in Spring might look like an Olympic grade whitewater course ready to toss you around like a dirty sock in a washing machine. However, when the spring rains pass, and summer sets in, that river might be flowing with 1/10 of the water. 

The summer will be the best time of the year to learn a new river or stream since you’ll be able to see things that would be underwater during the other parts of the year. 

When fishing a shallow creek, always walk upstream while carefully making cast-up current. Doing this helps get your lure in front of a fish before potentially spooking them with your clunky feet. It also presents your bait so that it’s coming downriver, which is more natural and usually preferred by fish.

Take your time and slowly fish each area that looks good to you. Current breaks or bends in the rivers are always good places to focus on. Also, fish any deep hole that you find. 

People say something like ”80 percent of river fish live in 10 percent of the water” or something along those lines. While this statement is meant to be a rule of thumb and is not scientifically proven, I believe there is truth to the idea when it comes to shallow water rivers and creeks. 

The honey hole in a shallow river can be so many things, but you’ll know it once you find one. Once you find this spot, fish it slowly and methodically. Once you find these spots, protect them by treating the fish with care and sharing them with only close friends and family. 

Key areas to look for are going to be: bends in the creek, bottom composition changes, creek inflows, current breaks, rocks, laydowns, abnormal grass, discharges, shade.

The Best Bass Baits For Smallmouth In Small Rivers

When you’re wading a shallow river, you always want to bring what you need while trying to keep things as lightweight as possible. Typically, I bring a small backpack filled with just the essentials, which includes:

Lures – Inlines spinners, poppers, ned rigs, flukes, small jerkbaits/crankbaits, finesse jigs, tubes

Rod: Light-Medium Power Spinning Rod

Fishing Line: 4-8 lb test


Polarized Glasses

Fishing Hat


Sunscreen/Bug Spray

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