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River Reveal

Rivers and river system lakes all over offer incredible fishing and kayaking adventures. With the addition of current, unstable water levels and various water colors the puzzle of what baits to pitch at the bass is a tough one to solve. Years of river fishing have revealed some of the best techniques and bass baits to me. It should also be noted I alter many of my bass baits. Disclaimer: opinions will vary by geographic location, angler and water conditions, but these lure lessons have produced repeatable results for years in the rivers I fish. Top to bottom here are my personal picks.

Take em’ from the top

Everyone loves the top water bite. The anticipation of the explosion and the visual created by the predatory bass attack is unparalleled. Depending on the mood of the fish in bass that are hesitant to hit I prefer the cup faced popper. You the angler control the speed and cadence on the retrieve. Bass in a neutral or even a negative feeding mode are more likely to hit a slow moving, occasional resting bait. When the water temperatures are in the 65-80 degree range, the moon is full and the fish are on the prowl a big buzzbait retrieved at a medium to fast pace often brings them out to slug the properly presented buzzer. *Alterations: I take a knife and shave the rom of the face of the popper to change the sound to a deeper more resonant tone, on the buzzer the addition of the willow leaf blade creates some extra flash.

Winners throw spinners

With multiple built appeal factors spinnerbaits catch many species of freshwater fish and work globally and year-round. In the ultra-clear waters found in highland reservoirs and especially during the fall / winter months in rivers the look changes to match the schooled up shad the fuel the fish throughout the winter months. I use a white single willow leaf spinner. During the spring after rains make the water, stained, murky or muddy I prefer the visual appeal and increased vibration of the double Colorado spinner with a strongly contrasting color skirt. I usually use 3/8ths ounce baits * Alterations: I take a double willow leaf spinner and clip the blade closest to the head of the bait, also getting the blade custom painted blue mimics the natural look of the shad. Changing the skirts out on the bait also is easy and allows for customization according to water color.

Cranking them in

A great search bait, crankbaits coming in many different models but for sake of tackle box space and my personal fishing style I favor the square bill bait over the lipless or oval bill baits. Regardless of the style casting into and around cover is essential to draw bass out of their hideouts. Rock piles. Log jams, underwater stump fields, bridge pilings, boat docks and shoreline cover all deserve some casting consideration. My main river colors are shad patterns and the always popular chartreuse / black back. (A crawfish color is another dependable choice). The bait deflects off cover and incites the fish to hit. River fish tend to avoid current and stage downstream behind any object breaking current * Alteration: Changing out the front hook adds the splash of red to the in motion crankbait and give the illusion of injured or fleeing prey.

Pitching plastic

Catching bass for over 70 years the plastic worm is timeless in its appeal. The most popular set up is the Texas rig employing a conical slip sinker and a hook designed to increase presentation and maximize hook set. Colors, sizes, tail design and more are all considerations in choosing plastic. For the sake of simplicity and to keep from sinking my kayak I opt for limited colors and sizes. Finesse fishing in clear, shallow or waters that receive a fair amount of fishing pressure , the shorter (4-6 inch) straight tail worms on a shakey head, wacky style or Texas rigged almost assures you of a hit or two. Neutral colors in clear water conditions, darker shades in stained to muddy water. The curly tail models add a degree of subtle vibration. * Alteration: Threaded between the slip sinker (again 3/8ths ounce) and the hook I put a red bead on my Texas rigs. The bead adds a color, protects the knot and even supplies a modest “clicking” sound as the sinker and bead strike each other.

Doing a jig

The popular food source and a normal river resident; the crawfish is a creature you must mimic in your search for bass. Nothing beats the jig in imitating a crawfish. While color adjustments help, I’ve found size matters. Natural craw colors, brown, darker green and a tinge of orange are preferable but as water color changes adding some chartreuse or even red is a great tactic. In clear water I offer a finesse jig, generally a ¼ ounce trailed with a smaller soft plastic craw imitation. All my small jigs are natural or neutral colors. The upsized jigs (surprise normally 3/8ths ounce) are trailed with bigger craws, have stronger contrasting colors and occasionally are equipped with rattles. Minimal current doesn’t affect the jig, in more or heavier current the jig ranges from 3/8ths ounce to 3/4’s of an ounce. * Alteration: I trim my jig bands in three stages (Christmas tree effect) to have it open in three stages making it look alive.

That’s my river reveal. Moving water is intriguing and highly productive. Giant bass cruise below the surface of our rivers, experiment with your own favorite baits and techniques to help reveal the secrets of your own rivers.