Rivers, which make up a significant bass-fishing resource in our country, function differently than reservoirs or natural lakes. River bass are subject to the regular rises and falls in flow, which plays a huge factor in where they locate within a river. When the flow is up, which it has been all summer on my home waters of western Pennsylvania, it pushes bass close to the bank. And when they are tucked tight to shore, in water that is most likely murky, I've found that nothing catches them like a spinnerbait.
Here are a few tips and items in regard to summer bass fishing with spinnerbaits on rivers when the flow is high and dirty.
- If you are accustomed to fishing a river that's low and clear, a common summertime situation, get past the attitude that you "can't catch 'em in dirty water." You can!
- Higher flows, within reason of course, can play in your favor. Since bass won't buck the higher currents of mid-river areas, they move to areas protected from the heavy flow. In many cases this is right near shore. This makes them easier to find.
- With bass tucked up along the bank, you need a lure that the fish can find, functions well in the cover you will be working, and covers the water quickly. A spinnerbait is often the best choice. Its combination of flash and vibration make it easy to find. Flooded shoreline weeds and brush are no problem for a spinnerbait; it's a great search bait that can be fished fast.
- Spinnerbaits come in a variety of formats, with many options available in regard to blade choice, blade numbers, colors and size. I fish for river smallmouth bass and do best with a compact spinnerbait that's in tune with the size of the fish's mouth (i.e. smaller than a largemouth). The type of spinnerbait that works best for you will depend on the circumstances you fish, including water color, bass species and forage sources. It pays to experiment to find out what works best. I've come to rely heavily on Terminator's T1 spinnerbaits, which feature the top quality components needed in rugged river fishing.
- Be prepared to cast tight to shore. The angler that can cast within inches of the bank will catch bass missed by those that fall short a couple of feet.
- In areas where the bank drops quickly into a couple of feet of water, it often pays to allow the spinnerbait to helicopter down a second or two before starting the retrieve. Where it's shallower, start the retrieve the moment the bait hits the water.
- You line is subject to lots of abrasion in this kind of fishing. Retie often, cutting off the last couple of "battle worn" feet of line each time.