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I recently went on a drift with a good friend of mine in search of some nice smallmouth bass down a really good Smallie river in Northern Illinois. The weather was to be in the low 90’s with overcast skies and gusty winds. We have put in at 630AM and no sooner than I have gotten out my trusty Booyah Pond Magic spinnerbait (white with silver blades) my buddy had just hooked up on a Z-Man tube. He had found some slack water right off a creek cut with a small eddy. Of course I was still fumbling about trying to get my gear situated. I continued throwing the spinnerbait, which is dynamite in any situation and especially rivers normally. Well that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I casted everywhere and I didn’t even get a bite. It was baffling just because this thing always lands fish. My buddy is hooking into fish with that Z-Man tube still and I finally gave in and decided that the Ned rig (Z-Man finesse TRD) would be the perfect profile considering the tube is working really well.


Shown in pic above: Z-Man finesse TRD

 As we came to a bend in the river I positioned my kayak across the way on the other side, wedging my stern into the bank. On my first cast I caught a decent smallmouth at about 13in. I simply casted the Ned Rig right at the fallen tree where the current was ripping through and let it drop. The current quickly took it down stream where it tumbled through the gauntlet of rocks and branches below. All of a sudden my line started to straighten out and track to the left. I let the rod load up and I set the hook. The one thing I love about smallies is that they are scrappers to the very end. Their speed and strength are not to be underestimated. They know their habitat and will use it to their advantage given the opportunity to do so. This would go on for a couple hours but I did notice that the bite slowed a bit so I changed out to the Z-man 4″ Hula StickZ which are great because they really look like bait fish in the water. 


Shown in pic above: Z-Man 4″ Hula StickZ

I tried using the same method of letting the lure tumble in the current and that worked but not as well as the TRD. I discovered on one of my retrieves that the fish were more motivated to follow and continually strike if I reeled the lure strait in like a fleeing bait fish accompanied with some subtle jerks making the bait change direction slightly giving it a more lifelike appearance like a fleeing fish. This almost became a top water bite in a sense the way they were acting. They wanted something fast and just under the surface. It drove them mad I tell you. I just kept at this while throwing in the current and coming across the eddy with some speed and it started producing. I caught over 40 fish that day due to this adjustment.
The moral is that you can’t predict the rivers or the way the fish will be. The fish will always tell you what and how they want it. Sometimes we get caught up in our confidence baits and that’s not always the answer. It pays to be flexible in your approach. Tournaments are won and lost in this premise as well as a solid fishing day. Be willing to expand and fish different ways that you’re use to because that can mean the difference in getting skunked verses having a great day of fishing.

– Jay Randall