Fish in rivers are less affected by the dog days heat. When you think about it rivers offer consistent oxygen levels throughout the water column, even in the heat of summer. They also provide you with the opportunity to throw on some shorts and wading boots and cool off yourself.
I’m lucky to have the Mississippi
in close proximity. According to Dave Kollmann, President of the St. Cloud Fly
Anglers Club, “We have some of the best smallmouth fishing in the world right
here in our backyard.” Dave likes to seek out current breaks. Local smallmouth
guru Chad Blashack of St. Cloud taught me the importance of fishing “lifts” or
the area where a pool gradually shallows up before it riffles. He believes that
these areas hold some of the largest smallmouth that he hooks each season. I
like to look for the biggest boulders in the main current channel. These
provide an ambush spot for bass as a smorgasbord of food travels past. Areas
that have Valsneria (the grass that almost looks alive under water) will
usually hold baitfish and have smallmouth in close proximity. Structure like
wood or bridge pilings also create a current break and allow smallmouth to hunt
efficiently. While searching out micro structure, don’t overlook the big stuff
like rocky shorelines, eddies, wing dams, sand bars, points, humps and islands.
The bronzebacks of the Mississippi
can top out over 20” you’ve just got to get out and look for them.
My favorite way to search out river smallies during the dog days of summer is by using #3 inline spinners. These allow me to fish fast and cover water. Fishing through many different pieces of structure is often necessary to find a true toad on the
While I’ve had success with both dressed and undressed hooks on my inline
spinners, a white bucktail is my confidence bait. I started to assemble my own
from components purchased online. I find this helps keep costs down as many are
lost to boulders. This allows you to fine tune color combinations on both the
blades and the bucktail. While my confidence baits are tube jigs, inline
spinners and plastic crayfish, many prefer the fly rod. Dave Kollmann
recommended clouser minnows and wolly buggers in black, brown and olive. He
also informed me that his favorite month to fish the river is August because of
the great top water bite on foam poppers. Gary Rehbein, from Outdoor Logic
Television, says you don’t need a big selection of baits to catch fish on the Mississippi.
He recommends bringing along jerk baits, tubes, buzz baits and marabou jigs. He
is currently working with jeffsjigs.com on a new marabou jig with rubber legs
that he calls crazy legs. He thinks this has big potential for the bronzebacks
of the Mississippi.
The primary forage of
River smallmouth includes crayfish, red tail chubs and sculpins.
When trying to “match the hatch” I would use color combinations that mimic
these prey. While smallmouth bass tend to pass on low calorie midge hatches,
they cannot resist some of the larger mayfly hatches. During an outing last
summer, I encountered a huge hatch of white mayflies. Mouths were everywhere
slurping these bugs off the surface. My tube jig that produced during the
afternoon went unnoticed as fish feasted on these white bugs. Armed with only
conventional tackle I found a popper with a white dressed back treble and
finally begin to hook fish. While it was no perfect match, drifting these past
a visibly feeding smallmouth would elicit strikes.
I like to use a 7’ medium action spinning rod when targeting river smallies. I spool up with an abrasion resistant 6 pound test monofilament. Light line allows me to cast small baits long distances. When using fly gear, I’d recommend a 7 or 8 weight rod. This will allow you to cast big poppers with less effort and bring that 22” to hand once hooked. Keep your rod tip low to the water when fighting smallmouth bass. I’ve lost many big smallies over the years to that last unexpected jump before being landed. This was all because I had my rod tip high in the air. Keeping your rod tip low and pulling to the side prevents fish from jumping and throwing hooks.
There are many areas to start your smallmouth fishing adventure. While I tend to focus my efforts on the stretch between Sartell andWhile you may find places with bigger numbers of smallmouth bass, you would be hard pressed to find a fishery with bigger numbers of large bass. The world class smallmouth fishery on the
phenomenal fishery exists as far north as Brainerd and as far south as . Depending on
the stretch of river, some areas work well for the wading angler while others
call for the use of a boat or canoe. La