Small Rivers = Big Fun

If fishing has become “same old, same old” for you this summer, switch it up and hit a small river for a scenic multi-species adventure.

This past weekend a couple of my buddies and I decided to leave the big boats in the garage and target whatever would bite on two small-size local rivers.

Adventure No. 1 involved a 4-hour float down a river we’d kayaked in the past but had never fished. Online research revealed it contained smallmouth and northern pike, so we tossed a small selection of lures into tackle trays and hit the water.

While fishing-specific kayaks are fantastic, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get into the game. In fact, we each had 10-foot 4-inch Vipers , which a buddy had purchased at his local Menards home-improvement store for less than $200 each. The Viper weighs only 45 pounds, which makes it easy for dragging from a roadside ditch down to the water.

We encountered pike in slack-water areas near wood and weeds, and as expected, wherever we found rock (think crayfish) we found smallies. The pike ate spinnerbaits and crankbaits, and most of the smallmouth hammered various topwater lures such as the Heddon Tiny Topedo .

Adventure No. 2 was even more old-school. We hiked through the woods—no kayaks this time—to a stream known for channel cats, carp and redhorse suckers. Each of us had 1-dozen nightcrawlers and Ziplocs containing hooks and split-shot. Knee-high rubber boots, or as we call them, pig boots, are mandatory.

The system is simple: Find a current seam or eddie, cast out the crawler rig, set your rod into a Y-stick and then wait for a bite. Tip: You can’t beat Berkley Trilene XT Solar for fishing dark-colored rivers for roughfish. This high-vis green line makes watching for a strike super easy; the line becomes your bobber.

Note: Rod and reel selection for soaking a crawler isn’t critical, but if you ask me, I like the fish-fighting ability and durability of an Ugly Stik . The rod shown in the pics above is my favorite roughfish rod; it’s a 6-foot 6-inch two-piece Ugly Stik spinning rod I received for my 12th birthday in 1977! It’s still going strong and kicks the tail of any river critter that decides to eat one of my crawlers.

I dearly love fishing for bass and muskies from the casting deck of my pretty evergreen-flake fiberglass Skeeter, but sometimes it’s even better to leave the high-tech world behind and get back to the basics.


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