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River Fishing for Bass
by Charles Stuart

There are many theories as to how to catch bass in moving water. Opinions differ when talking about location, lure type, color selection and tidal charts. In this article I will try to breakdown each component and allow you to decide for yourself what is best for your situation.

Location. Your first objective will be to eliminate as much water as possible from the location you are fishing. By this I mean that you must carefully study a map of the water and perhaps spend some time on the water without fishing. This is hard to do, but it really will prove "time well spent" for when you do locate your fish.

I like to draw a grid over a map or use a new item on the market called a MAPTRAP® (see below for information). On the map or the MAPTRAP® cover, I draw lines one inch apart first vertically, then horizontally until my map looks like a chessboard. With a pencil I delete most mid-water areas and locations where the water is flowing at full speed. Now I am looking at both shorelines with all the feeder creeks, possible deltas from other streams, or small rivers that feed into the main waterway and shoreline detail such as docks, piers, stone or wood pilings, bridges, locks and heavy weed growth.

In a competitive situation, I will now allocate a percentage of my allotted time to each location and fish them in practice as if I was in the tournament. Each square inch usually gets 10 minutes. If it is productive, I mark the area, make a note of the time and move on. I do not over-fish a location that is productive in practice. I might need those fish if a pound or two separates me from picking up a check at the end of the day! Keep moving and give yourself three of four "back-up locations". You never know when you might need them.

Lure and Color Selection. As I have often said in the past, go to local stores if you are not familiar with the color of baitfish or crawfish in the area. Then search through your tackle and try to "match the hatch".

Spinnerbaits are an excellent lure fished with the water flow, NOT AGAINST IT! I see so many anglers throw a spinnerbait as if they were on a lake, they seem to forget that smaller fish cannot fight a tide or current and will "go with the flow". Bass are waiting for food in locations where they are facing upstream, so cast upstream and retrieve slowly, allowing the water to "work the lure" while keeping a tight line. Do not be afraid to cast your spinnerbaits into laydowns and overhangs as you perhaps would for a jig and pork combination, as this is the perfect hideout for aggressive bass hiding in cover. Remember that cover slows down the flow of water over their bodies and allows them to position for passing food. They do not want to try a fight the current and will gravitate to these locations. Cover makes their life easier and will give them more strength to attack passing bait and quickly return to their hideout to digest. Bites can be very powerful, so keep a firm grip on the rod or you might see it disappear!

Crankbaits, both lipped and lipless are excellent choices for moving water. The jig and pork combination will also work well when cast onto the shoreline and slowly pulled into the moving water, the illusion of a crawfish being "swept away" by current is often too much for a bass to resist.

Worm, gitzit or lizard fishing requires a heavier than usual yet still weightless finesse technique that I would normally use for lake fishing. I will use a spinning outfit with ten-pound test line and change a four-inch offering for one that is eight inches long. Upgrade your hook from a 1/0 to perhaps a 3/0 or 4/0 but remember add no weight.

Flipping this lure into partially submerged trees, weedlines, laydowns, piers and docks will attract attention very quickly. Allow the bait to fall naturally, watching the line at all times. With the gitzit, I like to add small pieces of Alka Seltzer® or similar product to add a bubbletrail to the bait. Small twitches of the rod tip will give the appearance of something struggling to get out of the flowing water; A deadly technique that has won many tournaments in the Northeast.

Finally, I have saved the best till last. My favorite way to fish a flowing river or stream is with a topwater lure! Now some of you might think I have lost my mind, but this technique is awesome when you have cloud cover and the water is stained. Casting upstream and twitching the bait occasionally as it returns towards you will get some vicious strikes. Allowing the bait to drift over a likely bass hideout and then twitching the bait just as it gets over the location gives the impression of a baitfish struggling against the flow and that it senses danger from below. I cannot begin to tell you how exciting that strike is! You just have to try it for yourself.

Tidal Movement and Charts. Tidal waters require you to obtain a tide chart. These can be obtained from local tackle stores or from the local Environmental Conservation departments. There are many anglers who ignore these tables and fish as if they were on a lake. Their thinking is "a bass is a bass is a bass" however, I do believe that river bass are hardier, more aware of their surroundings and three times more aggressive. When the situation changes because of flow, you have to reposition also. Think about where the bass was and where it could have moved since the flow either stopped, or began flowing in the opposite direction. River bass are historically nomadic. Meaning that they will follow bait fish up and down a stretch of river. Your objective is to locate the baitfish shoals and follow or precede them to the next cove, laydown or shoreline contour.

The item mentioned at the beginning of this article is called a MAPTRAP®. Simply put, this plastic device allows the user to insert a map or maps into a protective hard plastic sleeve. The device comes with a marker pen. You write on the plastic without messing up the map! After a day on the water, I can either wipe the plastic clean or transfer the information I want onto my own map as a permanent record. Visit the MAPTRAP website and tell them Charlie sent you. (Discounts available to clubs and societies).

Author Information.

Charles Stuart is a pro angler, journalist and NY State Guide who fishes the B.A.S.S., RED MAN, FOXWOODS and the ABC Tours in the Northeast. Born and educated in England, Charles fished professionally in England when he lived there. Charles has now lived on Long Island, NY for over 15 years. He's fished most lakes, rivers, streams and ponds on the island. He has fished from the Canadian border to Florida in search of largemouth and smallmouth bass.

One of Charle's objectives is to use the knowledge he has gained to teach young fishermen and women the joy of the sport and the art of "catching". Charles feels that, unlike other sports, all members of the family can enjoy fishing together. To Charles, fishing is a sport that does not place pressure on a child to succeed, thereby building the child's confidence and self-esteem.

Charles is sponsored by Bullet Weights, G.Loomis, Budz Fishin Wayz, Gamakatsu, Lake Hawk, Chevy Trucks, Hawg-ly Lures, Power Resources cranking & trolling motor batteries, Uncle Josh, Ike-Con Fishing Tackle, Snap-Set Spinnerbaits, Map-Trap, and Stamina Components.

You can email Charles at

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