Big Fish in Small Streams

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Published on: May. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010


A nice feature about creeks that will help you in your quest for big smallmouth is water clarity. Most good smallmouth creeks are clear, allowing you to sight-fish for your quarry. Sunglasses let you see what's below the water's surface.

Look for the few big holes. Though trophy smallmouth are sometimes found in the smaller pools of creeks, the really big holes are often where the largest smallmouth lurk.

It pays to be stealthful while you search these places. With clear water, not only can you see the fish, the fish can also see you. It's often advisable, when approaching a big hole of water on a creek, to get out of the water entirely and walk the bank, for smallmouth bass can detect subtle vibrations in the water, including the ripples an angler makes when wading.

If you slip up to a large hole and the water in front of you runs deep with good structure, but you see no big smallmouth, it's prudent to wait and watch for 20 minutes or so. A broad-backed smallmouth may just be out of sight.

Nature Viewing

While you wait for a trophy fish to reveal itself, other denizens of the creek may provide enjoyment. A prothonotary warbler might fly across the creek to your side to hunt for caterpillars among the witch hazels and hornbeams. If you make squeaking noises with your lips, the bird may fly in mere yards from you to investigate, entertaining you with its gold finery.

Swallowtail butterflies may catch your eye as they flit from one buttonbush to another, probing for nectar. One of the rewards of searching small creeks for big smallmouth is the joy derived from observing nature's other residents.

But keep an eye on the water for a large, dark form. That's the focus of your search. Patience pays. You will find the fish.


Once you locate a smallmouth, three pounds or better, what's the best way to catch it? First, a word on gear. Much can be said for a combination that's designed for catch and release. Small-mouth over three pounds are among the most uncommon of all stream residents. Most will be close to 10 years old and should be considered a natural resource to protect and cherish.

Pinch down barbs to reduce the likelihood of injuring fish. A medium weight spinning outfit equipped with clear, 8- or 10-pound test line does fine. Lighter line and gear should be avoided.


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