If lake fishing gets tough this summer, take a look at nearby streams that contain smallmouth.
That’s one of my favorite ways to fish during hot-weather months. When lake largemouth bass migrate deep for summer, smallmouth bass in streams with current are always eager to bite in shallow water.
The Broad River near my home is one of these places. It is not very big and doesn’t look like much from the road, but it contains some dandy smallmouth bass. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for an under-rated smallmouth stream that gets little fishing pressure.
The Broad River is rocky, so I use a small boat and often have to drag it through gravel areas when the water is down. That can be a good thing, though, because I usually have the river to myself and don’t have to contend with pleasure boaters. Low water doesn’t seem to bother the smallmouth, but it will concentrate them in areas where you catch them cast after cast.
However, you have to invest some time in small streams and examine several stretches to find the sweet spots. I’ve found that some parts of the river may be void of smallmouth bass, while others are loaded with them. I’ve seen a large percentage of a stream’s smallmouth bass stacked along one 300-yard stretch while the next mile or two may not have any.
Keep your tackle simple when working shallow, rocky streams but always be attentive to the details that can make your fishing even better. For example, remember that summer smallmouth relate to the current and will never be far from it. They also want the bait washing into their area naturally, so position yourself downstream of boulders and eddies, cast ahead and allow the bait to flow to you. Don’t try to drag your bait to where you think the fish are positioned. The natural roll with the current produces more bites.
Generally, smallmouth bass will be tucked behind the rocks on the downstream side, but that isn’t always the case. I’ve seen days when they were lying ahead of the rocks in swift current. That’s why it’s so important to cast ahead of the target area, keep the line tight and let the bait move with the natural flow of water.
With that in mind, lure weight is critical and should be based upon the amount of current you’re fishing. If there isn’t much current, a 1/8-ounce lure can be eased along more seductively than a ¼-ounce model. When the current is faster, you may have to go to ¼-ounce to get the bait ticking the bottom.
I generally fish two types of baits. In early summer, a Berkley Chigger Craw rigged either Texas style to make it weedless or on a finesse jig works best. But as the water heats up, you can tear them up on a shaky-head jig tipped with a finesse worm.
For colors, choose green pumpkin or translucent green in clear water, but in heavily stained water, switch to dark colors or baits with some chartreuse in them.
Another key that I’ve learned is that fluorocarbon line performs better in current than monofilament does because fluorocarbon sinks and mono floats with the current. When your monofilament line is caught in current, you lose feel and control of the lure.
I like to use 12-pound line on bait-casting gear, but if fishing around limited cover, you can get by with lighter line and spinning tackle.
Stream smallmouth bass may not grow as big or as bulky as lake largemouth bass, but they pull twice as hard in current. If you’re not fishing streams this summer, you’re depriving yourself of one of bass fishing’s greatest pleasures.