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Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies
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While most of my big river FFing for smallies is during the time frame roughly from June to mid-November, bass in rivers can be succesfully targeted all year and the "pre-spawn" is among the best times, esp if you're after large fish. When water temps hit the mid 40s - this would usually coincide with mid March here in the southcentral - river smallies become noticeably more active and move up out of their winter hibernacula. These locations are usually the deepest part of a river, often the low, deep, slack water in front of dams. As bass become more active, they start to spread out a bit but still tend to eschew current. By this time of year, they start to feed quite a bit more but, unlike summer when most of the bass lay up in front of boulders and mid river structure and aggressively hit poppers - my experience has been that pre-spawn bass are shoreline denizens. In part, this is simply due to the higher, cloudier, water conditions so often prevalent in March and April. However, this preferance for specific shoreline locations makes locating pre-spawn river bass easier. When you find one, there's usually more in the same spot. Often these are large females staging to move to eventual spawning sites later in May (my preferance is to lay off big river bass during the spawn). If you've got a warm water river nearby, walk the bank during summer and familiarize yourself with the shape of the shoreline when the water is low and clear. Come high water, you'll know where to go. Perhaps the ideal pre-spawn location would be a point of land that projects out into the river, esp if there are large chunk rocks or boulders on it. Oftentimes there are river willows or vegetation that grows up on the point in summer but that often has water flowing thru it this time of year. If downstream from this point, there is an eddy (there almost always is) and the water is at least 3-4' deep, it's worth checking out. If the water in the eddy is very calm with little current or swirling action, and if there's flood timber debris along the shoreline of the eddy - it's a hotspot! Mouths of feeder creeks are usually good too. Most of the time, I like a 7 or 8WT fly rod with floating line and a 8-9' leader tapered to 12lb test or heavier. Despite smallies' reputation for being jumpers, in reality big smallies, esp in colder water, fight down and dirty and bore to the bottom. You'll need a stout tippet to keep 'em out of the woody debris and shoreline brush. During the months from about Nov until April, I prefer minnow imitating flies, the estimable Clouser Minnow is always dependable. For the (usually) cloudy water this time of year, black or chartruese/orange is tough to beat. Place a large strike indicator at the base of the leader. A "thingamabobber" would likely work well; I prefer the large, split, peg type bobbers you can get at the kids' fishing section at WalMart. Roll cast this rig out; you're aiming to get the fly to drop right at the outer edge of the eddy's slack water along the current break where the faster water is. This is where the bass are likely laid up during the pre-spawn. If the water is still very cold, the bass are probably on the bottom in the middle of the eddy but by April they're probably on the current break. Roll cast your rig and do a mental ten-count to allow your fly to sink. In effect, you're just fishing a jig under a bobber. The key is to keep your retrieve slow. The indicator will suspend your streamer in the zone. Smallies often scrutinize baits/flies very carefully, then suck 'em in and turn away. You'll see the turn when the indicator goes under (yeah, bobber fishin). Do a strip strike and fight the fish hard. While it's easy to get distracted by the prime trout fishing this time of year, don't give up on river smallies. They're definitely active now.

Posted on: 2010/4/7 21:17


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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2008/1/21 19:15
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Great info, FI!
This is a great time to seek out some big smallies. The hatches for trout haven't kicked in yet, so you'd likely be fishing subsurface anyway...why not try for some hard fighting bronze!?!

Posted on: 2010/4/8 11:53


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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2008/1/21 13:28
From South Central PA
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A wealth of great info there. Thanks. I must admit, by waiting until summer I have been missing out. I think I have been put off by the wading levels and uncertainty about the spawn, but this gives both a different angle to consider. I should have known better on the latter, since PFBC regs prohibit bass harvest April 17 to June 11, which I presume corresponds to a generic spawning "window".

Posted on: 2010/4/8 20:31


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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2006/9/9 22:43
From Delaware Co.
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I thought there was a unsaid rule that if you haven't caught a 20" smallie you couldn't be a moderator on this board

Posted on: 2010/4/9 13:27
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Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies
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From Gettysburg
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Quote:

Fredrick wrote:
I thought there was a unsaid rule that if you haven't caught a 20" smallie you couldn't be a moderator on this board


Fred,
I tricked 'em with one inch of resume inflation.

Posted on: 2010/4/9 15:37


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

Joined:
2008/1/21 19:15
From Pittsburgh
Posts: 2626
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Quote:

Fishidiot wrote:
Quote:

Fredrick wrote:
I thought there was a unsaid rule that if you haven't caught a 20" smallie you couldn't be a moderator on this board


Fred,
I tricked 'em with one inch of resume inflation.


Isn't there some kinda background check for that position?

Posted on: 2010/4/9 17:38


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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2007/1/2 11:55
From Bozeman
Posts: 19932
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A long, incredibly informative posting history... check.
Accurate, detailed paintings of streams and fish... check.
Unique and effective fly designs... check.
Heck of a guy... check.
Service to our country... check.
Encyclopedic knowledge of the most difficult streams in the state... check.
You knew Vince?... wow. check.

Oh, but only a 19 inch smallie? That's gonna be a problem. We'll get back to you.......



On second thought, I think we can get over that little blemish.

Posted on: 2010/4/9 22:28


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies
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Joined:
2006/9/9 17:32
From Gettysburg
Posts: 8665
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Jay,
Thanks for the kind words and vote of confidence. Truth be told, I never met Vince. He passed away in the mid 80s (I believe after a long battle with cancer?) not long after I started fishing Letort. I did have the great pleasure of knowing Charlie Fox. Charlie was still a fixture on Letort during that time and his willingness to talk to an inquisitive teenager is something I'll always appreciate.

As for the smallie - maybe we'll fix that blemish this year.

Posted on: 2010/4/10 7:18


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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The time is now! I was on the Delaware at scudder falls on friday during lunch.

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Posted on: 2010/4/11 9:12


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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2009/2/13 4:12
From West Chester,PA
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Skil..nice sm......careful at SF might also catch a shad or two there:)
Tom

Posted on: 2010/4/12 7:30
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'..when I'm not AFISHN,I'm a huntin'"


Re: Pre-Spawn Smallies in Rivers - Finesse the Eddies

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boat fisherman are getting shad in the mornings and evenings - pretty good run this year from the people I spoke with. Heard about a few stripers caught as well. Rivers still too much for me to be wading around in...so I've been fishing gear.

Posted on: 2010/4/16 21:30






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