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Fishing for Smallmouth Bass in Small Rivers and Streams

Scott Barrett spends a lot of time fishing for smallmouth bass on small rivers and creeks. This video series from Mossy Oak University explains all you need to know to find and catch smallmouth bass.

Where to Catch Smallmouth Bass



There are three main things to look for in small rivers and creeks when trying to locate smallmouth bass. Look for current where active fish hangout to feed like eddies and current breaks where the water is flowing. Another spot smallmouth bass like to be is raises in the river floor like gravel bars where fish will hold. And finally, rocky banks are a good spot to hang out and catch big smallmouth bass. 

Smallmouth Bass Fishing: Big Water vs. Small Rivers



Streams and river have currents making it easier to find smallmouth. Current breaks, eddies, shoals, ripples are areas smallmouth like to hang out because there's dissolved oxygen and food there. Sand and gravel bars are also a feature of rivers where  you can find smallmouth. Bigger waters depend more on electronics looking for offshore structure and areas that hold fish. They are more difficult to find on bigger water, but it is dependent on the season and spawning. You can catch bigger smallmouth in large lakes and rivers because there's a bigger forage base there.

Breaking Down Small Rivers for Smallmouth Bass



Fishing in the current requires bait that will get close to the bottom and move upstream towards you. Jerkbaits, spinner baits and buzz baits can all be used for smallmouth fishing. The lightest weight plastics like a Texas Rig or jig head need just enough weight to make bottom contact and then walk it down the shoal. You can use a variety of baits to catch smallmouth in small rivers; it's all about the presentation.  

Best Baits for Smallmouth Bass



Go-to baits for smallwater bass fishing includes: topwater buzz baits with some walk the dog action, floating minnows are versatile, Rebel Crawfish is used a lot and catches a ton of fish, Zoom Super Fluke Jr. with a nose hook, and the 3-inch Senko that's good for matching the hatch. 

Float Fishing for Smallmouth Bass



The first step when heading out to float for smallmouth is to make sure you're legal where you are fishing. Registration and life jackets need to be in order. Next, make sure you're wearing an old pair of shoes because you'll be getting in and out of the water. You need sunscreen, cold drinks to stay hydrated and whatever you need to be comfortable and help you enjoy the day. Things happen, so make sure you have extra rods and reels, plenty of tackle and a positive attitude. 

Wade Fishing for Smallmouth Bass



Wade fishing is a great way to beat the heat in the summer time. It's nice and refreshing but you'll need a few things to better your experience. Wear comfortable wading shoes or boots and light wading pants that will dry quickly and protect your legs from bugs and poison ivy. You'll want a tackle bag that is easy to wear and access. You can also keep your phone and license in there. Fish into the current and work upstream, being as stealthy as possible. Try to blend in with your environment wearing Mossy Oak Elements Agua. Take your time and enjoy the experience.

Best Soft Plastics for Catching Smallmouth Bass



Crayfish, minnows and other invertebrates in natural colors are good soft plastics to use for smallmouth. A 4-inch mini lizard Texas rigged on a small worm hook works well. Senko rigged on a jighead or wacky rigged is versatile and can look like different types of bait. The Zoom Super Flukes get great action and any type of crawfish imitator is great bait for smallmouth. Most importantly, stay natural and match the hatch. 

Best Crankbaits for Smallmouth Bass



A favorite crankbait for smallmouth is the Rebel Craw, smaller size, deep runner on light line. It may require an upsize in the hooks. These baits get down and grind on the bottom of the stream, just like a crawfish. Smaller squarebills like KVD's from Strike King in a crawfish pattern are also good options. The key is to kick up sediment just like a crawfish would. Crankbaits allow you to fish deeper pockets in the smaller rivers and streams. 

Best Rod and Reel For Smallmouth Bass



Starting out, a 6-6.5 foot spinning rod is versatile and affordable and you won't need to throw big baits. It's user friendly, you can skip baits and cast a long way. Small river smallmouth don't require a big, sturdy rod. But really, whatever rod and reel setup you are comfortable with will work for smallmouth.

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