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Cyclic spawning in rivers.


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The big rivers I fish (Tennessee and Cumberland) have had an abundance of small fish the past couple of years with the quality fish being rare. It is not unusual to catch fifty in an afternoon but seldom anything over 14". Lots of these fish are very small dinks but it makes me think that possibly it is the result of a couple of years of good spawns. If that is the case then it goes to reason (mine) that in a couple more years the fishing should be fantastic. I have only been pursuing river fish for the past four years so I may be way off and the size of fish I catch is the river norms.

Yesterday was a little different as I hooked 38 and four were over 15" including my PB Spot at 16-1/4".

Am I off base with this or have your experiences cause for giving me optimism?

One caveat is that I mostly Ned Rig so I am encouraging the little bite but I have little confidence in larger baits and off shore fishing where I am sure the lunkers lie. The Ned has garnered a couple 4lb and several 3lb. so I know it can be effective when the quality fish are near the banks.

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If you want to catch bigger bass, try some different lures: Rage Menace, Structure Bug,

Jig & Rage Craw, GYCB Kreature and Kut-Tail. 

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15 minutes ago, TnRiver46 said:

Optimism is always good Bob! On those rivers you might have to go back 200 million years to get some good data

Don't quite have that much time. Just looking for recent observations.

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21 minutes ago, roadwarrior said:

If you want to catch bigger bass, try some different lures: Rage Menace, Structure Bug,

Jig & Rage Craw, GYCB Kreature and Kut-Tail. 

A change up can generally work out for the best. 

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I guess I worded my question wrong. What I would like to know from you seasoned river veterans is....do you usually see cyclic spawning events on the rivers which cause years of small fish followed by years of better fish, or are the river fish consistently smaller? 

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River fish in Tennessee are larger and stronger than found in lakes, but the "lakes"

on the Tennessee River are reservoirs with current. With the exception of water

just below the dams, lakes and the river are all the same.  

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1 hour ago, Blue Raider Bob said:

I guess I worded my question wrong. What I would like to know from you seasoned river veterans is....do you usually see cyclic spawning events on the rivers which cause years of small fish followed by years of better fish, or are the river fish consistently smaller? 

It is fairly hard to accurately monitor good spawn years versus bad spawn years. Most people, including biologists, are just guessing. I fish probably a dozen different rivers and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a gap in age class on any of them

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2 hours ago, TnRiver46 said:

It is fairly hard to accurately monitor good spawn years versus bad spawn years. Most people, including biologists, are just guessing. I fish probably a dozen different rivers and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a gap in age class on any of them

In Tennessee we have two or three threadfin spawns every year. Regardless of winter kill, 

by fall the river is full. I mean the feeder creeks have so many shad there isn't room for

water!

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There have been years when the water level of Kentucky lake was constantly going up and down by 10-15 feet or more throughout the spawning season.  There was just no way the bass could spawn in those conditions.  Yet somehow they always found a way.   

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I don't fish rivers for smallmouth but I agree with your thinking about cyclic spawn classes. I fished & studied Lake Erie for about 15 years. During that time I noticed a building peak in the early years regarding successful spawns & greater quantities of smallmouth. The numbers increased for about three or four years then started to fall off. Each subsequent year I noted fewer & fewer numbers. The quality of big fish (5lb & up) were also reduced proportionately. When talking to other fisherman & guides that fished the system regularly they agreed the numbers were off. Now during those same 15 years the walleye & perch & steelhead populations also fluctuated up & down. As of right now both the smallmouth & perch numbers are down. But the walleye numbers have been record strong the past couple of years. On Erie the biologists conduct a yearly net & creel survey & publish the results yearly. Strong spawn years definitely predict population increases for subsequent years. 

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4 hours ago, Blue Raider Bob said:

I guess I worded my question wrong. What I would like to know from you seasoned river veterans is....do you usually see cyclic spawning events on the rivers which cause years of small fish followed by years of better fish, or are the river fish consistently smaller? 

Yes I’ve seen that. In a river it doesn’t take much to ruin a spawn. A few flash floods at the wrong time can do it. 
 

I don’t know your exact situation but if I were a betting guy the smallies that you are looking for are not in the thick of things with the dinks and runts that generally can be picked off of the bank. Might be just a difference of a few feet away. Might be a bit more of a coax to get me to bite. 
 

Maybe try fishing a drop off away from the bank, find a long point that drops off real quick something like inches of water to 7-8 ft. real quick. 
 

Fish something like a DT-6 or DT-10 they dive pretty quickly. Fish a rattle-l-trap fast and slow at those depth. Great area for Model A’s and Bandits. 
 

** I’m no expert, I just try to fish hard and never give up **

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