You've probably got an awesome place to fish for bass within an easy bike ride of your house — and you don't need a boat to fish it! Thousands of streams crisscross America, and many of them contain excellent populations of bass. These small waters are often ignored by anglers, most of whom head for big lakes and reservoirs instead. That's just fine because it leaves mile after mile of untouched bass water for you to explore.
Many successful BASS pros first learned how to catch bass by fishing streams. "Streams can teach you plenty about bass habitat and behavior," says Oklahoma pro and former fisheries biologist Ken Cook. "Here, you can observe how bass relate to cover like rocks, stumps and submerged grass, how they use cover as a vantage point from which to ambush prey, how current positions them in predictable locations and more. You can see how forage species like crawfish and minnows move and react to predators. You learn to develop a stealthy approach, how to present lures in hard-to-reach places and how to choose lures that mimic natural forage."You don't need a zillion dollars worth of gear to fish streams, either. A small tacklebox filled with the right lures will help you score plenty of strikes.
1. Poppers, like the Rebel Pop-R, are especially effective in streams because, unlike most other surface baits, they can be worked in a confined area repeatedly and still draw strikes. Cast the lure close to current-breaking objects, give it a couple of pops, then just let it sit there. If a bass is nearby, it'll blast a popper.
2. Prop baits, like the Smithwick Devils Horse, work best in murky streams. Cast them as close as you can to logs and stumps, and retrieve with short jerks of the rod tip.
3. Small buzzbaits, like the Booyah Pond Magic Buzz, mimic a live frog swimming across the surface. Fish them around shoreline cover for explosive surface strikes.
4. Critter crankbaits are small diving lures that resemble natural stream forage, and they'll catch a ton of stream bass. Rebel makes a complete assortment, from crawfish to grasshoppers, and they're all dynamite stream baits. The Wee-Crawfish is a favorite. Root it along a gravel bar for a big stream smallmouth.
5. Minnow crankbaits, like the Rapala Shad Rap, are deadly in deep holes where big bass lurk. The long diving bill deflects nicely off rocks, logs and the bottom. They're expensive, though, so be careful where you cast them.
7. Suspending jerkbaits, like Strike King's KVD Wild Shiner, are unbelievably effective on big stream bass. Cast beyond cover. Reel the lure down a few cranks, then use a jerk-pause-jerk retrieve. The jerkbait will suspend in the middle of the water column like a wounded minnow, and you'll often see a big bass swim up and eat it.
8. Floating worms, like the Gambler Davy Hite Floating Worm, are exciting and effective stream lures. Rig them on a 2/0 to 4/0 offset worm hook. Cast close to cover and retrieve with gentle twitches.
10. Finesse worms, like the 4-inch Charlie Brewer Slider, work great in streams. Rig them on 1/8- or 1/4-ounce Slider Heads with the hook point exposed. Hop the worm across the bottom, or swim it slowly and steadily just off the bottom.
11. Stickworms, like the Yamamoto Senko, work best in deep holes and near steep stream banks. Rig them on a big offset worm hook and retrieve with jerks and pauses.
12. Soft jerkbaits, like the Bass Pro Shops Shadee Shad, are highly realistic minnow mimics. Rig them on a worm hook, and present them close to cover with a jerk-pause-jerk retrieve.
13. Tube baits, like the Strike King KVD Pro Tube, will catch bass in both clear and murky streams. They're especially deadly around logjams in stream bends. Texas rig them with a 1/8-ounce sinker and wide gap hook so that they're weedless. Then, bump and shake them around cover.
14. Soft craws, like the Zorro Ninny Craw, are dead ringers for stream crawfish. Hop and crawl them across the bottom on a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jighead.
Spoons and spinners
16. Small spoons, like the Eppinger Dardevle Midget, capture the erratic flash of a fleeing minnow when retrieved at a steady, medium clip. You can cast them a country mile, even into the wind. Always use a small split ring or wire snap with a spoon to protect your knot from the sharp edges of the lure.
17. Small spinnerbaits, like the Booyah Pond Magic, will catch big bass in slow moving streams. Cast around weed patches and shoreline logs, and be sure to bump the lure off cover to provoke a reaction strike.
Handy stream stuff
Part of the beauty of stream fishing is that it doesn't require a ton of gear. Here's some basic stuff that can make your day on a creek more successful and fun.
Backpack — Head for the attic and snag that old Scooby Doo backpack you were so proud of in the third grade! It can tote all the stuff you need for a day on a stream. Spraying it with a silicone-based water repellent will help keep the contents dry.
Waders — These keep you dry and warm when wading any creek in cold weather and when wading frigid mountain streams all year long.
Tennis shoes — Don't wade barefoot; you could cut yourself on sharp rocks or debris. Wear an old pair of tennies, even in hot weather.
Pool thermometer — Pick one of these up for a couple of bucks at a discount store. Use it to determine the stream's temperature. Stream bass, like bass in big bodies of water, prefer warm water in spring and cool water in summer.
Polarized sunglasses — An absolute must for stream fishing! They'll cut surface glare, so you can spot bass-holding cover (and often the bass themselves). You'll also see crawfish, minnows and other bass forage.
Sunscreen — Choose an SPF rating of 15 or higher. Apply liberally to exposed skin before you start to burn.
Tacklebox — A small plastic utility box will hold all the lures you need for stream bassin'.
Stream rod — You don't want a rod that's too long because you'll be casting around overhanging tree branches. You don't want one that's too stiff because many of the lures you'll be using are small and light. Many expert stream anglers like a 6-foot medium (M) to medium light (ML) spinning outfit spooled with 6- or 8-pound monofilament line. Carry a spare spool of line with you.
Grub — Freeze a bottle of water the night before your trip; it'll thaw during your fishing day and provide cool refreshment. Throw in a sandwich and a couple of granola bars for fuel; wading streams will work up a serious appetite.