I have to admit that I do the great majority of my smallmouth fishing from a nice, big Ranger bass boat, but every so often — right around this time of year — I get an irresistible urge to leave the boat at home and find a creek or small river that holds lots of brown bass.
Instead of my usual tournament-style shirt, I'll wear something old and ragged with lots of pockets. My jeans will be the ones that my wife won't let me wear out in public anymore, and my tennis shoes will too grungy for anywhere but a creek bank.
I change my usual tackle, too. Instead of a dozen or more rods and reels of all actions and lengths, I'll opt for a single spinning outfit with a 6-foot long rod, a smooth reel and some 6-pound-test monofilament. Rather than all my big utility boxes carefully stowed away in compartments all around my boat, I'll stuff a couple of small boxes in my shirt pockets — jigs and hooks in film canisters, jerkbaits and crankbaits in cigar tubes.
Scaling down your approach is part of the magic of stream smallmouth fishing. It doesn't take a lot of gear or a lot of money to do it and to have a blast in the process. You just have to pack a few things and be willing to get in there with the bass ... literally!
My grubby clothes are the perfect wardrobe for wading and walking the banks of smallmouth streams. If the water's still really cold, a good pair of neoprene waders can be worth their weight in gold, but I'd just as soon wade wet and get out of the water for a little warming up if things get too chilly.
And although it's fun to get in the water, the only reason you'd really need to do it is to get the right casting angle at a target that you can't reach from the bank. Otherwise, you don't need to get wet at all.
The first thing you need to know about most stream smallmouths is that they don't get as big as their cousins in the lakes and reservoirs. Fighting that current and eating a different diet keeps them lean and mean.
Scale back on the size of your baits for stream bass and you'll catch a lot more of them. You'll also want to adjust your expectations. While a 4-pounder might be a really good fish in your favorite lake, a bass half that size might earn trophy status in a stream. Where you'll make up the difference is in numbers. Hit it right and your local stream just might give you lots more action than a lake will.
Target anything that breaks the current — even a little. Smallmouths don't mind current as much as largemouths do, but they're seldom going to be in the fastest parts of it. Instead, they'll hold behind big rocks, fallen trees, wing dams and bridge pilings. They'll hold just out of the current and wait for something tasty to come by.
Try to make your bait move naturally with the current. Cast upstream of the area you think will hold a bass and let the current help you bring it to the fish. That'll look natural and get you more bites.
And don't forget to enjoy the scenery around you when you're catching all those brown bass. That's a big part of the experience.
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.