|Normally a mobile approach to fishing river smallmouth is preferred, but there are certain conditions that call for dropping the anchor and focusing on areas where fish are concentrated.|
It’s one of the most underutilized pieces of equipment in my river guide boat: the boat anchor. Some days I silently curse it, those times when I nearly trip over the plastic bucket it’s stored in as I step down from the front deck.
It’s my belief that a mobile approach is usually best when river fishing, going to the fish rather than camping out in a given spot. Baits are presented more naturally as the boat drifts along; you’re able to target active feeding fish, ones that have not been disturbed.
But there are times when it’s prudent to drop the hook, such as during a recent guide trip. The day prior I’d had a banner day, my clients catching over 40 river smallmouth bass. But during this outing, the fish had become tight-lipped. It was early afternoon, and we’d only caught around 10 bass, and none of them the three- to four-pound bruisers that had been showing up regularly all season long. It was time for the guide to swing for the fence.
I pulled up next to a spot where smallmouth had been concentrated (see my article on capitalizing on smallmouth bass gangs), but rather than drifting down through it – and doing repeated drifts if we continued to catch fish – I decided to drop the hook. The river had come up over a foot during the past 48 hours; I didn’t think the presence of an anchored boat would disturb any nearby bass. And the higher water and stronger currents would likely further concentrate bass into the slackwater pocket located below the island’s lower tip.
With the boat positioned on the protected side of the island, I lowered the Richter-style anchor, paying out enough line so that the rope would stretch out just far enough to hang the boat in a plume of current a cast’s distance from the hotspot. While we waited a few moments for things to settle from our disruption, I went over the riggings on my client’s rods: a soft jerkbait, a hard jerkbait, and a twister-tail jig.
Perched on the boat’s rear casting deck, my client made a cast with the soft jerkbait. Within moments a 19-inch smallmouth inhaled the bait, the first in a flurry of action that saw him boat several more quality-sized bass and a 23-inch walleye. He would alternate rods, fishing the jerkbaits over the shallow flat near the island and then the jig in the deeper slot just below it.
So the answer to the question, “when to drop the hook?” is this: when the situation is such that gamefish are schooled up in a relatively small area; and the flow of the river allows baits to be fished with a natural presentation from a fixed position.
Looking for more ideas of what lures work for catching smallmouth bass? Check out this piece on 3 reasons to fish with football jigs this fall at Bass Pro Shops 1Source.