Bank Fishing Basics: Wading streams for Smallmouth

One of my favorite things to do in that late May all the way till the end of the summer time frame is to simply go stream or river wade fishing for smallmouth. It’s normally a yearly tradition I take once or twice a summer to chase smallmouth in shallow, crystal-clear, moving water. Now the key is finding places to do that.

When I lived in West Virginia we had multiple options for river wading within two hours of my house and actually some of the best wade smallmouth fishing opportunities in the country. Rivers such as the Greenbrier River, but most notably the New River that runs from Virginia into West Virginia before connecting in the Kanawha River. In my experience of wading for smallmouth, I would say location is key, and finding the right stretch of river is invaluable.

What to look for?

Finding areas that have clear, shallow water with deeper holes around are key. What you will notice the more you fish shallow rivers is that the most productive spots will be a deeper hole that might be a foot or two deeper than the rest of the river. It gives the smallmouth the perfect area to rest from the current and ambush bait as it washes over the holes.

Keep your eye open for larger rocks and boulders in the river, large pieces of driftwood hung on shallow bars and rocks that are also excellent places to find smallmouth hiding.

Don’t be afraid to fish the bank. Sometimes the most productive areas can be right up against the bank in spots where the current has washed out the bank and created a deeper hole of water. Or there might a laydown that will be holding fish.

What to wear?

Keeping it pretty basic is key in wading for smallmouth. During a successful trip wade fishing, anglers need the ability to be maneuverable. Wading long distances and finding untouched fish can be the difference between a really bad day or a really good day. Pack light and wear material that is lightweight. My suggestions are old tennis shoes or old hiking boots, board shorts or lightweight pants, light sun shirts or thinner polyester shirts.

What to throw?

Keeping it simple for smallmouth river wading is the ticket to success. Most places you can get by with a small waterproof water tacklebox, a small assortment of hooks and two or three packages of plastics. Here is my line up I normally take.

  • Small Plano Waterproof Stowaway Utility Box
  • Strike King Bitsy Tube (Green Pumpkin)
  • Bass Pro Shops Squirt Head with Gold Hook (1/16-ounce or 1/32-ounce)
  • Z-Man Finesse TRD’s (Green Pumpkin)
  • Z-Man Power Finesse Shroomz Jighead (1/10-ounce)

At least for myself, I have found that using the lightest weight I can get by with makes it way more efficient when fishing streams with a lot of rocks. It keeps you from hanging up so much, and in return you spend more time making casts to places where a smallmouth might roam.