Smallmouth grow bigger in rivers than streams, but probably not as big as you'll find in most lakes. And catching them from rivers is different than catching them out of streams.
River smallmouths don't always follow creek channels or other underwater structure. Most of the time, when you think they're following that stuff, what they're really doing is following the baitfish. The baitfish might be following the underwater structure, but that's as far as it goes.
When I say "following," I mean that the smallies move back in the river, and sometimes into the big creeks, as the water cools. They'll hang under the clouds of baitfish and just kind of move along with them. If you find the bait, you'll find the smallies.
All this seriously affects your lure selection. Now, even though I'm a jig maker and love to fish with them, they may not be the best choice at this time of the year. There are better options available.
One of the best is a Cotton Cordell Gay Blade. They're a good imitation of the baitfish in most rivers around the country. I usually count them down so they're a couple of feet below the school of baitfish, and then bring them back to the boat with a slow, steady retrieve.
If that doesn't work, I rip them up as high as I can and then let them fall back on a slack line. But I'm not fishing them on the bottom. I'm fishing in open water.
I cast these lures on much better tackle than I would use in the creeks. Smallies in the 15- to 18-inch range will destroy the cheap stuff. My rod is a 6-foot, 9-inch All Pro medium action Smallmouth Guru model. It's strong and tough and will stand up to the pressure of bigger fish. My reel is better, too. I fish with a Shimano 2500 Spirex.
Most of the time, I use 6-pound-test Berkley Trilene, but sometimes I use 8-pound test. It all depends on how big the fish are and how tough the conditions are.
Monofilament line is a good all-around choice for your line. I don't like braid because I think the fish can see it unless the water is really muddy. I guess fluorocarbon is OK, but I grew up on Trilene. I'll probably use it till I die.
River fishing is a lot of fun. The fish are bigger and they're easy to find if you just remember to follow the baitfish, and fish below them. Go see for yourself.
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.