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Bizzo

How do you "read" a river?

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I actually feel kinda dumb asking this, but I was wondering just exactly how you "read" a river to try and fish for smallies. Someone told me once about "holes" and "runs" but I am not sure I understand exactly what they meant. Can anyone provide some info? Specifically I have been fishing the Mississippi in southern MN. near the twin cities, Monticello MN to be exact. Any and all river fishing for smallie tips are welcomed! Where I fish there seems to be lots of small rapids and deep holes.

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I dont river fish too much, but to get you started, you can look for "seams" in the current ( i believe this is where there is a different flow rate in the water) and try targeting your bait there.  Also, slack water behind boulders and such are a good bet.

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Fundamentally, we're talking about current and structure.

Surprisingly, water in a river moves at diffeent speeds and sometimes, in different directions. From a fishes perspective, current is a conveyor providing nourishment at any moment. Basically, all that is required is finding the best spot(s) to take advantage of this buffet. In addition to funneling food to the fish, current in structure also provides protection and escape.

Structure serves several purposes: deflecting current, creating ambush points and camouflaging fish for both protection and stealth. Generally, whenever current is an option, smallmouth will stage near structure and IN current. From a practical standpoint, this means the fish will position itself in front or to the swift side of boulders, humps and ridges. They may be found anywhere in a deep pool as bait fish are sucked into the depression.

Transition between rocks and sand, mud and gravel or shallow and deep attract bass. Almost anything (everything) that interrupts water flow is a potential target. At certain times inconspicuous gravel flats will also hold smallmouth bass and NOT just around spawn time.

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At what times do they hold on the flats other than spawn?  This is my first yr fishing smallies and they are confusing me to all heck at some times.

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RW pretty much covered it but look for any change, current, depth, bottom. I mainly look for changes in current and depth though in my rivers.

If your river has bedrock, lots of time there are holes or troughs on the downstream side of them, cast out onto the rock and let the current sweep it down into the trough, that's a very successful tactic for me.

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At what times do they hold on the flats other than spawn? This is my first yr fishing smallies and they are confusing me to all heck at some times.

Pre-spawn, post spawn and randomly, all the time! It's part of where they live and they cruise around a bit. You don't fish the gravel per se, but ambush points and transition associated with the flats. If you are drifting a river, you will come over these areas quite often, nearly every inside bend.

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First of all, I caught my first smallie today! I was pretty stoked. I have been fishing for largemouth for years, but never for smallmouth, and I can say I am hooked. My fish was maybe a pound and a half, and it fought like a five pound largemouth. I did also want to ask a question, I heard that in front of structure like boulders is where active fish hang out and to cast baits like a buzzbait or what I have been using which is a torpedo frog looking thing with a propeller. I also heard that behind the structure where the current is slack is where to cast finesse baits like sinkos because these are the inactive fish. What do you think?

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Bizzo,

I drive up from Missouri about once a year to fish your great Mississippi.  This year in mid June, I fished several pools in your area with Monticello being one. Of the four days we fished we had to change patterns each day to have success. The  pattern for the day will depend on current flow.  When the dams were releasing more than an average amount of water, we had to seek the most protected spots available. With the stained an fast moving water, behind the small islands was the most protected and we caught numerous bass from 17-21 inches that day all in about 1-3 feet of water.  Three days later with just a modeate to weak flow, we had to seek out the swiftest water we could find. Shallow shaded water with a rocky bottom was the ticket that day.  All fish were caught on a spinnerbait as the water was still a bit colored. On another day, we had to fisnd the protectededdies just behind the current.  Those 15 to 50 foot areas really held the smallies.

What's so neat about your river up there is that there are so many bass that you'll find the pattern quickly.  As the summer continues to bring heat and lower water levels look for the fstest and rockiest areas to try a topwater. You'll really enjoy it.  By the way, the one constant I've found on this river through the years is the bite from early morning to 11:00 is far superior to the bite after 11:00.  I'm too danged tired to fish late evening, so I don't know how that bite is. A good day on most of the pools that I've fished is about 30 bass between 14 to 18 inches. It's really heaven!

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Wow, thank you so much for the fantastic response! I have been fishing mainly behind my friends house (he lives 100 yds from the river) and walking up and down the bank. There is an island just upstream from him that splits the river that I want to try tonight. Any other suggestions? Oh, and what "pools" do you mean? Thank you again!

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