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Most of the river smallmouth I catch in/around current are average-small in size. All of the trophy sized fish have been in calm deep pools off rock piles. Am I doing something wrong or does this sound right?


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I don’t quite understand why I hear so much emphasis on current.  I’ve worked every inch of the water column in and around current in multiple streams of various sizes, from creeks to medium sized rivers.
 

I’ve thrown just about everything from Ned rigs to swim baits to curly tails to topwater to crank baits and even spinnerbaits/Chatterbaits. The biggest I ever seem to find are in the 12-15” range, consistently too. 

 

Almost every last one of the 18”+ fish I’ve caught have been in slow, shaded deeper pools off some sort of rocky structure, most often rock piles, boulders, cement walls and chunk rock strewn banks. There is frequently current nearby, but never have I found them feeding directly on the seam or in moving water. Am I doing something wrong, or is this accurate and consistent with their shorter feeding windows? It makes sense for larger fish to conserve energy.  What has your experience been?
 

 

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My experience has been the opposite, in the sense that I have not noticed such a clear-cut pattern with my big fish vs average ones. Overall, flowing water has been much more productive for me. 

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Our river is predictable as where SM like to hang.

Below rapids - Eddie's - where current meets slower water - boulders - ledges.

 

I rarely cast into shallow current unless there's a large exposed rock, I'll hit the back side.

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If you are finding the big smallies in the areas with less current, just keep doing what you're doing. From my experience the littler guys kind of like to dart around in the areas with more current and the big 'uns hang out in the places where you're finding them

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My biggest fish have always come in small spots with low current…behind boulders, in eddies, the front ‘pillow’ of current breaks. One exception is at night where I’ve caught good  fish in 6 in of moving water 

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I’ve caught nice smallies in all scenarios, they don’t do what people want them to do. They do whatever they want, my strategy is fish it all and see what happens 

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10 hours ago, TnRiver46 said:

I’ve caught nice smallies in all scenarios, they don’t do what people want them to do. They do whatever they want, my strategy is fish it all and see what happens 

same here.  Once i figure out where they are holding on a particular day, it does seem to hold for that day but next trip out is always a learning experience.  I am very methodical early on in a trip and then i can pretty much count on the pattern to hold for a while that day.

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I’ve caught a fair number of big, river smallies. I almost never get them directly in faster water, they are usually right next to the faster water holding in the still water behind a boulder or a log or on the edge of an eddy. 

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5 hours ago, Scott F said:

I’ve caught a fair number of big, river smallies. I almost never get them directly in faster water, they are usually right next to the faster water holding in the still water behind a boulder or a log or on the edge of an eddy. 

 

I agree. I expect smaller fish when fishing riffles or fast water. I target obstructions like big rocks and boulders expecting bigger smallies. For me this applies to the Susquehanna, the Juniata and the upper Delaware. 

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On 6/2/2022 at 10:29 AM, Scott F said:

I’ve caught a fair number of big, river smallies. I almost never get them directly in faster water, they are usually right next to the faster water holding in the still water behind a boulder or a log or on the edge of an eddy. 

And how do you hit those boulders breaking the current?

On 6/2/2022 at 3:38 PM, Dogface said:

 

I agree. I expect smaller fish when fishing riffles or fast water. I target obstructions like big rocks and boulders expecting bigger smallies. For me this applies to the Susquehanna, the Juniata and the upper Delaware. 

Yeah, how exactly do you work these features?

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2 hours ago, Ohioguy25 said:

And how do you hit those boulders breaking the current?

Yeah, how exactly do you work these features?

This is where accurate casting is important. I’ll cast upstream of the boulder and let the current sweep my lure as close to the boulder as I can get. A feeding bass will be watching, waiting for food to be swept by. Because the current pushes food past his hiding spot quickly, the bass does not have a lot of time to inspect the lure. It’s a big reason your choice of lures isn’t that critical, he has to strike fast or the food is gone. It might take several casts around the boulder to get the lure in exactly the right spot. It often depends on how big an eddy is where the fish my be sitting. One big reason that wading can be effective is how you can work a spot. In a canoe or kayak, you may only get one shot at a spot like that before you drift past and your cast has to be perfect. When wading, you can throw at that spot several times till you get it right. The more you fish those spots you’ll get a feel for what casts work better than others. 

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I ended up catching my PB smallie last week while wading a local river. She measured at 3lbs and was sitting in the shade maybe a foot or so off the bank. I would say that majority of the smallies I catch do come from shallower water close to the bank.

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2 hours ago, Scott F said:

This is where accurate casting is important. I’ll cast upstream of the boulder and let the current sweep my lure as close to the boulder as I can get. A feeding bass will be watching, waiting for food to be swept by. Because the current pushes food past his hiding spot quickly, the bass does not have a lot of time to inspect the lure. It’s a big reason your choice of lures isn’t that critical, he has to strike fast or the food is gone. It might take several casts around the boulder to get the lure in exactly the right spot. It often depends on how big an eddy is where the fish my be sitting. One big reason that wading can be effective is how you can work a spot. In a canoe or kayak, you may only get one shot at a spot like that before you drift past and your cast has to be perfect. When wading, you can throw at that spot several times till you get it right. The more you fish those spots you’ll get a feel for what casts work better than others. 

You are playing chess against those smallies! 
 

I get swept by the good spots all the time in kayak/canoe 

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1 hour ago, TnRiver46 said:

I get swept by the good spots all the time in kayak/canoe 

Same. Usually I get one good crack at the premium spots like that as I drift by them. The upside is that I can to cover a lot more water and get chance after chance after chance whereas someone wading can’t cover a fraction of the water as I can while floating.

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2 minutes ago, gimruis said:

Same. Usually I get one good crack at the premium spots like that as I drift by them. The upside is that I can to cover a lot more water and get chance after chance after chance whereas someone wading can’t cover a fraction of the water as I can while floating.

I used to paddle back up and pick it all apart. But my buddies were always yelling at me, “the other truck is 10 miles downstream”

 

turns out they were right, had to float some rapids in the dark a few times. Not good

 

there are places we can do shorter floats but those spots are typically very crowded 

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2 minutes ago, TnRiver46 said:

I used to paddle back up and pick it all apart. But my buddies were always yelling at me, “the other truck is 10 miles downstream”

 

turns out they were right, had to float some rapids in the dark a few times. Not good

Nah, you were right.  Get the big 'uns.  No way I can drop by money spots, I'd rather make up the time zooming by less favorable targets.

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8 minutes ago, Deephaven said:

Nah, you were right.  Get the big 'uns.  No way I can drop by money spots, I'd rather make up the time zooming by less favorable targets.

Ideally I would know all the property owners along the way and could leave a car anywhere I want to.  But the lack of access does seem to be what makes the fishing good at times 

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43 minutes ago, TnRiver46 said:

Ideally I would know all the property owners along the way and could leave a car anywhere I want to.  But the lack of access does seem to be what makes the fishing good at times 

In a perfect world you'd know all the property owners, and have the time to camp out and make d**n sure you turned over every good spot...

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On 6/2/2022 at 3:38 PM, Dogface said:

 

I agree. I expect smaller fish when fishing riffles or fast water. I target obstructions like big rocks and boulders expecting bigger smallies. For me this applies to the Susquehanna, the Juniata and the upper Delaware. 

 

8 hours ago, Ohioguy25 said:

And how do you hit those boulders breaking the current?

Yeah, how exactly do you work these features?

 

If I'm in the boat and depending on the velocity of the water and the area I'm fishing I troll up past or over the boulders, drift down over or alongside them, or anchor near them. 

 

Regarding riffles, I do much the same. 

 

The important part is using a lure that can overcome the current and get down to the fish. 

 

If I'm wading and can get to the structure it is easy to pick it apart. 

 

 

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It's been my experience too but on the plus side, you get a lot of action and they put up a good fight with the current. There are bigger ones lurking in the holes and behind boulders but they are fewer. Be glad the small ones are there for they indicate successful spawning and action in the future.

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On a big river the biggest fish are on either side of the underwater channel, ledges and 

humps. For smallmouth it's all about structure and current, never cover.

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To me, the fish stay in the currents are "opportunists."  I don't catch a lot of them, but the few I caught are all big ones. Yet still, statistically speaking, I caught more big ones from deep calm pools than from current. 

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Deep, major current in the main river might hold bigger bass than the shallow current. For example both sides of bridge pillars over deeper water.

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