Boat Positioning for the River Angler

There is some truth behind the saying, ten percent of the anglers catch ninety percent of the fish. For river anglers, there are several very important factors that need to be considered. Tackle selection, color, speed of retrieval…these are all important.

Proper boat positioning may be the most critical factor in determining a successful outing. Current is that portion of water, which has steady onward movement. In other words, it is moving water. Current greatly contributes to smallmouth bass location and movement in rivers. Because of seasonal migration and related changes in fish location, boat positioning differs as fish location changes. Early spring river fishing is about fishing eddies and pools with decreased current speed. Areas adjacent to wintering pools are best. Eddies are areas contrary to the main current. They are frequently cut off from the main current flow and have slack water or water flowing opposite the main current. Eddies are created when water traveling in the main current direction deflects around a point, creek washout, ledge, boulder or some other type of cover or object.

Smallmouth bass hold in the top portions, or heads, of deeper eddies during cold water periods. The vessel position should be out of the slack water area that is targeted. This means the vessel is holding in current. An adequate trolling motor is crucial for fishing eddies, especially during higher flows. A correctly rigged river fishing boat like the Odyssey River Rave made by Forest River Marine will have a bow mount trolling motor with at least twenty-four volts of connecting power. Holding a boat in moderate current draws an amazing amount of power from batteries. A full charge is necessary during these conditions. Trolling motors, their connecting wires, and batteries run quite warm when traversing heavy current. Give the system short breaks from time to time. With the bow directed into oncoming current, anglers can adequately target calm water portions of eddies and flats where cold water small mouth bass are located.

As the water warms, smallmouth become more active and often feed on current breaks created by eddies. The break is detected by a seam or crease on the surface of the water. Smallmouth position their selves just inside this current break. Current acts as a conveyor belt bringing food to the fish. During this scenario, boat position is frequently best in the slack water portion of an eddy. Anglers then cast to the current breaks with jigs, jerkbaits, do-nothing soft stick baits, spinnerbaits or crankbaits and let the current do most of the work for the lure.

If water levels remain high during warmer water periods, smallmouth bass will head for cover inside cuts and eddies. Remember, unless bass are spawning, they do want current, so cover near current is best. Boat positioning here is usually in heavy current and requires persistence. Anglers usually don’t have many opportunities before the boat drifts past the targeted area. The bow should be upstream, into the oncoming current with the boat paralleling shoreline cover. When instincts tell smallmouth to move to gravel, sandy, shallow flats and eddies, a stealth-like approach is vital for success. Fish are wary of intruders, so slow, quiet boat maneuvering is necessary.

Fishing the current can produce nice fish.Fishing the current can produce nice fish. This 3.6 pound smallmouth bass came from 43 degree water in heavy current adjacent to a stone retaining wall. She fell for a hair jig.

Blaine Mengel

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