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Outdoors

Go with live bait with consistency

Go with live bait with consistency

June 04, 2006|by BILL ANDERSON

So far, this is looking like a pretty typical June. We get some hot and humid weather that we are never ready for, followed by heavy thunderstorms that muddy up the rivers and streams.

Despite all this, June fishing can be very good in rivers and streams. Most of the spawning activity is over for the smallmouths and the fishing for all species - bass, catfish and others - seems to settle into a pattern that will be the norm for most of the summer.

I like using artificial lures and flies as much as anyone, but during the summer months, live bait consistently takes more and bigger fish. The fish will be feeding on certain summertime foods, including hellgrammites, crayfish, minnows and many species of aquatic insects. If you use one of the better live baits you can expect plenty of action.

Fishing live bait can be as detailed as you want to make it. The key is to try to present your bait as naturally as possible, which usually means with as little weight as possible.

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For several years now, my favorite method of fishing live baits in rivers and streams is to use a slip bobber. A slip bobber slides freely up and down the line. You control the depth of your bait by setting a bobber stop that is adjusted according to the depth of the water.

In river fishing, the approach is to present the bait near the bottom but not necessarily dragging the bottom. The fish are used to finding hellgrammites or crayfish near the bottom and a drifting hellgrammite or crayfish is not that unusual since they sometimes are swept up by the current. The slip bobber makes this presentation easy.

One thing that seems to be true in every river system is that the baits you use will have a direct bearing on the size of smallmouth bass you are catching. For example, hellgrammites are usually plentiful and they will take lots of bass and just about every other species in the river. They are great bait for a number of fish, but not necessarily for the biggest fish. I have found that crayfish work better in some streams than others, and at certain times take both more and bigger fish.

Minnows are always a great bait, but for really big smallmouths, a big creek chub is hard to beat. Some of the best smallmouth fishermen I've met catch big chubs by using small hooks and tiny pieces of worms. For big smallmouths, you want chubs that are five inches or more in length. This will discourage smaller bass from taking your bait.

Another super bait for big smallmouths are madtom catfish, also called stonecats. The bigger chubs and stonecats will fight hard against the bobber as they drift in the current, and the smallmouths and big channel cats will take them aggressively. Using big chubs and madtoms as bait is easily the best method I know for taking the river smallmouths more than four pounds during the summer months.

Drifting live bait isn't the only way of catching nice smallmouths in the summertime, but it is easily the most consistent.




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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