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River Smallmouth 101

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Lot of good advice. Don’t think anyone hasn’t mentioned push water yet. This is the “smooth” water right above a rapid where the rocks or whatever makes the rapid “pushes” the water up. Most people don’t fish these because they are scouting the rapid, putting their gear down, etc. If this water is a foot or more deep, there are fish in it. 

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11 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

With apologies to Carp, live bait isn't magic.  You still have to know where to put it and how to approach that spot.  In fact, I will bet that I can catch more fish most days fishing the way I do with lures than the average minnow drowner can.  I haven't fished live bait since I was a teenager.  What convinced me that it wasn't magic was a single experience I had.  Back then I fished a certain spot with live crawdads that I caught by hand on the river just before fishing that spot.  I fished it probably 30 or more times one summer, riding my bike down to the river and catching the crawdads and heading to that one perfect spot, a deep pocket around a huge log at the bottom of a fast riffle.  I almost never failed to catch several nice smallmouth out of that spot.  One day, just as I approached the spot to start fishing, an old guy (seemed old to me then, probably younger than I am now) came paddling through the riffle in a cedar and canvas canoe, and asked me if he could make a cast or two to that spot before I started fishing.  I was a kid, and taught to respect my elders, so I told him sure, I didn't mind.  He made one cast, with an old Shannon Twin Spin, and pulled out a 4 3/4th pound smallmouth...the biggest I'd caught fishing that spot all summer was maybe 2 pounds!

Al, 

I generally agree about live bait on rivers and almost never use it. I will say, there are times when I’m sight fishing, and make several cast to a fish with multiple artificial lures that they either ignore or inspect and then around. Then, I put a live crawdad on, and they immediately hammer it. 

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Thanks for all the responses. I'm slowly wrapping my head around this stuff, the depth info especially helps.

I'm planning on artificials only, and thinking really only two rods, with a few Ned's, some small keitechs and a couple topwaters. Spinnerbaits this time of year? 

I may take a third rod if I dig my uncle's old 5'6" pistol grip out for a dedicated topwater walking bait rod. Fishing low to the water from a Jon boat, that short rod may be better for working topwater since I won't need the casting distance I would need on Bull Shoals. 

 

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The push water Trout water mentioned can be a lot of fun early in the morning.  Any piece of water the for some reason peaks your interest, cast to it, sometime fish will come out of a spot you don't expect.  And a nice smaller crankbait lie a #5 rapala can be deadly in those current seams.  Dang now I wanna go on a float trip.

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Keep this in mind...if you are drifting down the river, it's more difficult to fish slow, bottom dragging type lures.  You'll get frustrated because the boat will be moving while you're trying to fish out that cast to that perfect spot.  It's a big reason, though far from the only reason, that I fish mostly fast-moving lures.  Spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits not only interest the fish, but are no-brainers to fish from a moving boat.  I recommend saving the topwaters, other than buzzbaits and a Whopper Plopper type, for slower (but remember, not dead slow) water until you get more used to fishing in current.  And saving the Neds and such for when you want to stop and wade productive looking water.

I will not fish a Ned rig, period, just can't stand the bait and don't like to fish the way you fish it.  And I don't particularly like Whopper Plopper types, though I'll try them from time to time.  90 plus percent of my warm weather stream fishing is done with walk the dog topwaters, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and shallow running crankbaits.

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A small live crawdad hooked through the tail on a jighead is deadly

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2 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

Keep this in mind...if you are drifting down the river, it's more difficult to fish slow, bottom dragging type lures.  You'll get frustrated because the boat will be moving while you're trying to fish out that cast to that perfect spot.  It's a big reason, though far from the only reason, that I fish mostly fast-moving lures.  Spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits not only interest the fish, but are no-brainers to fish from a moving boat.  I recommend saving the topwaters, other than buzzbaits and a Whopper Plopper type, for slower (but remember, not dead slow) water until you get more used to fishing in current.  And saving the Neds and such for when you want to stop and wade productive looking water.

I will not fish a Ned rig, period, just can't stand the bait and don't like to fish the way you fish it.  And I don't particularly like Whopper Plopper types, though I'll try them from time to time.  90 plus percent of my warm weather stream fishing is done with walk the dog topwaters, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and shallow running crankbaits.

Al,

What size spinner baits do you generally use? I can never decide between the “full size”, traditional largemouth bass types and the slightly smaller, “medium-sized” ones. 

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12 hours ago, TroutRinger said:

Al,

What size spinner baits do you generally use? I can never decide between the “full size”, traditional largemouth bass types and the slightly smaller, “medium-sized” ones. 

I personally have much better luck on the bigger largemouth type spinners. Plus the smaller ones are tougher to throw with a baitcaster. I think people really underestimate the size of lures a smallmouth will eat. I have no problem using big spinners, whopper popper 130s or  even the spro rat 50. I dont throw the rat 50 often because its work,  I like the 40 much better but if for some reason I lose my inventory I will throw the 50. Dont be scared to go big!

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