As spring turns to summer in the southeastern states, freshwater fishing in lakes and reservoirs can become frustrating. While water temps and boat traffic are on the rise, river fishing is a great alternative for the constant angler.
Springtime fishing on local lakes is often a very productive time of the year for anglers. However, as May comes around, and the days get longer and temperatures get hotter, lakes become crowded with jet skis and wake boarders; and the bite can be harder to come by too.
Largemouth bass that have been active on the beds, and hitting a wide variety of baits, now hit the post-spawn mode. And they may only be actively feeding during the earlier and later parts of a given day on mostly still bodies of water. Crappie, which have already spawned are scattered and feed primarily at night now, along with catfish. Striped and white bass still feed when water is being pulled, but timing those windows right can be hit or miss at best.
But you don’t have to regulate yourself to fishing the first and last hours of the day. Why not give river fishing a try? The water is running and cooler. Fish are more active, can be caught at all times of the day, and are still hitting reaction baits like in-line spinners, square-bill crankbaits, and of course, topwater poppers.
I recommend finding access points to local rivers in your home states, and launching a kayak or canoe. You can always wade fish, but a kayak or canoe is ideal for exploring rivers. You can also check river flow gauges online to determine water levels or whether or not you have the alternative to paddle up river. This will enable you to avoid running a shuttle.
Normally when I first get on a river in late spring or summer, I start with topwater tactics. That is if I make it out on the water at first light. I prefer chug bugs and poppers. These lures can be fished fast or slow, in calm water or in rushing water, and are very effective.
Next I always go to in-line spinners, but not just the tiny bream and crappie busters. These are great, but I prefer #4s and #5s. You are as likely to catch a big bream or crappie as you are a catfish or striper with these bigger offerings. And don’t overlook crankbaits in moving water. Square bills run shallow and bounce off wood well.
These baits are less likely to be lost in snags and have just the right wobble for river fish.
Texas-rigged plastics are also deadly on bass in running water. You may throw a Texas-rigged worm a hundred times on a lake at midday during the summer to get one bite, but throw that same rig on a river, near a downed tree, and you can expect far better numbers.
Effective colors and patterns will vary greatly on different flows, so be ready to switch often until you find what works best for you. Chances are once you find the right lures, they will work year after year during the same months.
So get that old canoe or kayak out and leave the lake to the park-tanners. The river is just right this time of year. You might be surprised.
Be safe and good luck!