At the risk of sounding whiny as well as redundant, I again must share the fact that western Pennsylvania has been inundated with rain for the past several weeks. The wet weather has provided some additional fishing opportunities, though, as well as the opportunity to revisit productive fishing tactics. In the case of the latter, there is the use of spinnerbaits for river smallmouth bass.
Spinnerbaits provide an easy to locate profile to river smallies when rivers run high and cloudy. Here are a few tips that you should find useful if you are a river rat like me.
Look for Pockets
Within reasonable limits, higher water can play in the angler's favor. Strong main-river flows force bass into quiet, protected pockets along shore and the banks of islands, often making them easier to find.
Aim for Strike Zone
Expect to find bass tucked right up against shore, i.e. within a foot or so. Be extra diligent with your casting, taking the effort to place casts right in the strike zone. Many strikes will occur as soon as the reel is engaged.
A straight, east to track retrieve is often most effective; in areas where the shoreline breaks into deeper water, say 3-4 feet, allow the bait to helicopter vertically before beginning the retrieve. During some days the majority of the strikes will happen during the drop.
Go With Short-Armed Spinnerbaits
Though my guide clients and I have caught river smallies on a wide variety of spinnerbait style and colors, I have had my most consistent success with a short-armed spinnerbait sporting a Colorado style blade, more specifically Strike King's Midnight Special. The short arm of the lure is well suited for the comparatively smaller mouth of the brown bass. The Colorado style blade provide lots of thumb and vibration, making it easy for a bass to locate. And the dark hued skirt furnishes lots of contrast in the stained water, again upping the chance a big bronzeback will find it.
Don't be discouraged by a lack of bites. In my experience the action slows during high/dirty river conditions. But the size of the average fish rises, with many smallies in the 15- to 20-inch range taken.