catch smallmouth bass in rivers

Cast a small spoon directly upstream allowing the lure to settle to the river floor

Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent in fast moving water.


You’ll usually be able to find them below dams and power-generating stations. Schools of smallmouths will frequently corner schools of smaller fish against the power-generating obstruction.

  • A small top-water spoon or crank bait thrown among the leaping minnows works well to catch a smallmouth.
  • You can try a heavier jig targeting larger fish beneath the skirmish.

Besides dams and the odd power generating station, look for turns in rivers and streams where deep underwater ledges produce a slick calm on the water’s surface.


Fish the calm depths with small orange, brown or dull yellow jigs with a night crawler or crawfish at the lure’s tip. Pork rinds and leeches can also be effective.


At the mouths of streams or at the edges of large channels, use light spinning tackle and 6 pound test line while slowly back-trolling with a jig-and-shiner arrangement or trolling a small crank bait upstream.


In smaller streams and rivers, smallmouths and trout are found around obvious rocks, under hanging rocks and ledges and in shallow pools.

How to catch Smallmouth Bass in Rivers

Try these techniques for Fly Fishing

In small streams, try fishing with a fly rod and a weighted Muddler Minnow or small streamer or buck tail.


Where a fast current morphs into a smoother grade near the river bottom, cast a spoon directly upstream and allow the spoon to settle to the bottom. The fast waters smooth the rocks that would normally pose a snagging risk.

  • Smallmouth Bass like to rest on the smooth river beds, ready to strike.
  • Fish fast, deep runs through rock ledges with the same consistent manner.

This tactic often results in the capture of walleyes along with Smallmouth Bass.


Use a slow retrieve when fishing spinning lures, let the lures hang in the fast flowing waters around protruding rocks and ledges.

  • Live crawfish, minnows and baitfish are effective when fished at the bottom and below the first riffles of the deepest pools. For this type of small-stream fishing, use light spinning tackle, a number 6 hook, and a small split shot. In these conditions, you’ll often catch both trout and smallmouths.

When the temperatures begin to drop in the fall, Smallmouth Bass begin to school near rock shelves near deeper water or near cover at the edges of deep drops. Use the same tactics for fall lake fishing which is a live crawfish or a slowly retrieved minnow.

Protected by Law

Smallmouth Bass are not protected by law during their spawning season. Their spawning season varies widely from year to year dictated by location and weather. Catch and release of Smallmouth Bass is recommended until July 1, ensuring a future supply of smallmouth fillets and excellent fishing for the rest of the season.