Chasing smallies back in the day

OK, let’s admit it. It’s supposed to reach 100 degrees today and into the weekend in many parts of our country, and the Fourth of July holiday is right around the corner. Between the heat and the party crowd, smallmouth anglers are up against it.

I could talk about ways to get around those things, but I won’t. Fighting all that stuff for a few fish isn’t worth it. There are better ways to chase smallies than arguing with other boaters for a spot on the ramp and then rocking and rolling with the waves made by huge crowds of recreational boats.

Back in the day, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, the heat and the holidays didn’t bother my fishing one bit. That’s because I went smallmouth fishing the old-fashioned way — in the creeks. They weren’t very big but we did catch plenty of them, and we had a good time doing it.

We lived out in the country where there was a lot of open ground and plenty of streams. Some of them had some size to them, but others were only a tiny trickle with pools every few hundred yards. That didn’t matter. The smallies in them were hungry, and they fought hard. We’d laugh, hike and fish all day.

Maybe we should all do some of that in the next few weeks. It’s easy enough. All you need is a short, ultra-light rod, a small spinning reel, a spool of 4-pound-test line and a handful of lures. Find yourself an out of the way stream, park the car and start hiking.

Your rod, reel and line can be purchased at any tackle shop. Don’t go overboard here. You don’t need the best, just something to get a lure out into the water. That’s less than 50 feet in most places. Almost anything will do.

I follow the same type of thinking about lures. All you really need are some inexpensive inline spinners and a few Beetle Spins. Go small and natural. Nothing in a stream is very big, and the water’s clear.

If you’re going to truly enjoy the experience, proper dress is a must. You’ll need an old t-shirt, a ratty pair of cutoffs and a nasty pair of tennis shoes. If you really want to do it right, your T-shirt should have holes in the armpits and your tennis shoes should be black and white Chuck Taylors. Levi or Wrangler cutoffs are pretty much required.

Wade upstream whenever possible. You’ll cause less commotion and won’t scare the fish so much. Make sure you laugh and grin every time you hook one. And always make sure that any fish that gets away is a big one.

Have a happy Independence Day! Be safe, act responsibly and take a few minutes to remember it’s our country’s birthday. We owe the Founding Fathers a bunch, not the least of which is the freedom to pursue our passion.

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