Well, as most of the bass fishing articles on the internet are about bass fishing lakes, I feel bass fishing rivers can produce just as well. There are just a few tactics I use while on some of my local rivers down here in southern Louisiana, but I’ve produced 15 plus fish trips consecutively on some rivers in North Carolina as well as Arkansas.
One of the MOST important things about fishing a river is you ability to cast accurately, consistently. You need to be able to skip your bait under those bushy limbs dangling over the water, flip your bait right in-between those two stumps, or cast straight down the side of the grass line. That doesn’t include every situation you will be casting, but you catch my drift. As I fished more and more, my casting has gotten incredibly better, and I’ve found that I catch two to three times as many fish.
When searching for my first lure to throw, I always check out the structure. In Louisiana, we have thousands of Bald Cypress trees, a good bit of lay-downs from the hurricanes, and a healthy abundance of grass mats. A bait that pops in most people’s mind is a spinner bait, unfortunately, if the river receives any amount of pressure I assure you the fish have seen their fare share of spinners. Fortunately, there’s possibly my favorite type of lure, and one that is infamous for getting anglers hooked on bass fishing, TOPWATER. I usually throw a Spro frog, weather it is a walk-the-dog version or not, any soft plastic frog ranging from Ribbits to Netbait Paca Toads and even some custom frogs like the Best Bass Frog. These types of baits are phenomenal at sun up and sun down, and can be fished all day during post spawn periods. You can fish these in any kind of river structure, but yet again casting accurately is key to using these types of lures. I key in on the sunny bank in the morning, and the shaded bank in the evening. You really should work these baits next to trees and stumps or over lilly pads and grass mats. I would start off working these as SLOW AS POSSIBLE, but if you see fish chasing your lure to the boat, I would speed it up a tad. Also, kill the bait near key fish holding areas such as next to current-breaking trees and stumps, or the edge of any vegetation in the water. If 30 minutes go by and no fish in the boat, I would consider switching.
Another great river bait is a fluke. During the summer I’ll throw a full sized fluke but, during post spawn I’ll throw the Baby Bass colored fluke Jr. all day. I rig it weightless with a 1/0 or 2/0 EWG hook. With this bait you will fish the same cover essentially, but you should work you bait quickly from cover to cover. When you reach a stump, or grass line you should kill it and let it sink to the bottom. Twitch it a few times then cast again. If you miss a fish but you know the fish didn’t feel the hook, chances are it will hit again. One very key place to fish this is in the mouth of a cut and the first and second points/cover you see near the cut. Fish school up around the cuts and feed on baitfish that accumulate there to avoid the current.
One last technique that has helped me catch some larger river fish is jigging. When I say jigging, I don’t necessarily mean just using a jig. I’m mainly talking about baits fished on the bottom, such as Texas rigged brush hawgs, lizards, and worms, jigs, and even baits fished on jig heads. There’s two main colors that I try to mimic, which as bluegill and crawfish. A June bug brush hawg or black and blue jig has always been my favorite for larger fish, but knowing what color the crawfish are in your body of water and at the time of the year is very key as you try to choose a color, you want to match the color as closely as possible. When fishing jigs, I usually fish the lay-downs and stumps, but once the water temperature gets over 70 I start jigging the docks. When using this technique, you really have to key in on how the fish want the bait. You can bounce the bait off the bottom, you can wiggle it on the bottom, or you can slowly swim the bait back to the boat. Work the bait each way until you get bit, then try to replicate what you did altering it if you have to each time you get a bite or catch a fish.
One little tip while fishing any body of water, whether it is a river, pond, or lake, is you always have to pay attention! When you get a bite, notice where it was and what you were doing. You should try to replicate everything you did when you got bit or caught a fish. You really have to keep the mindset that every cast is a fish so you don’t get side tracked and miss the big one.