Catching Smallmouth You Can See

Sightfishing for River Smallmouth by Dr. Ricky Shabazz

Spring 2020



By Dr. Ricky Shabazz

Pre-spawn and spawning smallmouth stack up in areas of the river where current is reduced. Working current breaks with overhanging tules, grass beds, wood cover, sandbars, and eddies right against the bank is a very productive way to catch staging smallmouth bass in a river system.

Angler’s Marine and Daiwa Pro Tony “Team Bling” Lain targets smallmouth by sight fishing in the river.

“Smallmouth bass are easy to see due to the clear water and current flows that form current breaks and back eddies,” shared Lain. “The smallmouth that live in current breaks usually feed by sight. These smallmouth act like trout swimming in and around current breaks in search of what the current brings downstream; so, a key is to let the bait float downstream in as natural of a way possible.

“It is very cool to look down in the water and see a three-pound smallmouth bolt out of a current break to eat your bait.”

For these situations, Lain opts for soft plastic stick baits. “I have one rigged up for finesse, if the fish are spooky and another for heavy fishing, if there are trees or other heavy cover nearby,” Lain said.

For finesse, he

prefers a four-inch

Natural Shad Fat Neko Worm rigged

with a 2/0 wide gap hook. For heavy

cover, he opts for a larger five-inch

Yamamoto Senko or Daiwa Macho

Worm rigged with a 5/0 wide gap

worm hook.

He chooses natural colors

such as Green Pumpkin no flake

or shad patterns. He ties on with

fluorocarbon married to Daiwa J

Braid via a uni knot. He fishes the

finesse set up on a Daiwa Tatula

Elite 7’1”, medium action Brent Ehrler

Dropshot rod paired with a Tatula LT

3000-CXH spinning reel.

For the heavier applications, he uses a Daiwa Tatula Elite 7’6”, medium-heavy Cody Meyer Search Bait Rod paired with a Daiwa Tatula Elite 7.1:1 baitcasting reel.

Lain prefers to target current breaks with shade.

He always positions his boat on the shady side of the river facing into the current. This allows skittish shallow water fish to feel safer as a bait drifts by them with their backs to the boat.



The second way to catch smallmouth bass sight fishing in a river involves targeting trash pockets.

As the smallmouth begin to concentrate into the

shallows, switch to flipping and pitching into thick trash

pockets that form in various places along the river. These

trash pockets are often the result of leaves and other

debris being blown along the shoreline.

“You will be surprised how many big

smallmouth live in shallow water trash along the

river,” said Lain. “The pockets offer a shady current

break to ambush easy meals.”

Lain presents the lure by pitching right up on

the bank or into the trash pocket and letting the

bait slip it into the water

Texas-rigged soft plastics, such as crawdad-

style baits and weedless skirted jigs are his

lures of choice. He uses a dark colored or a pure

white four-inch Strike King Rage Menace rigged

with punch skirt material. For weight, he selects

either a ¼- to 1-oz tungsten weight, 2/0 wide gap