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Bass In The Rivers
Moving waters mystify many lake and reservoir bass anglers. With a little effort to learn the current, you'll catch more and take your show on the road. (June 2007) ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Stepping Out For Smallmouths
You don't always need a boat to catch big smallmouth bass. These tips for fishing on foot will help you score bronze this season.

A small little-known stream produced this big smallmouth bass.
Photo by Tim Holschlag.

Sure, fishing can be frustrating on some days. This wasn't one of those days. The stream was perfect, the fish were eager and my smallmouth bass school students were happy. In fact, Tony and Craig, a father-and-son duo who were taking the school, were downright amazed. Used to noisy and congested lakes, they couldn't believe how beautiful and quiet this smallmouth-laden stream was. Perhaps 15-year-old Craig said it best when he kept repeating the word "awesome" throughout the day.

Actually, on-foot smallmouthing has a lot more going for it than just quiet, pretty streams. Foremost, there are the fish themselves. The power-packed smallie is great however you catch it, but put it in moving water where you get right in there with the fish, and then you have an absolutely spectacular angling experience. With this "feet-on-the-bottom-approach," you almost become one with the stream, as well as with the fish. In fact, standing in-stream on a quiet summer evening can be an almost mystical experience. You can feel the flow against your legs, and watch the water slip downstream as you cast. This puts the mind and body in touch with the natural world like few other outdoor experiences.

And because no boat or watercraft of any kind is needed, wade-fishing trips are inexpensive and easy to organize. You don't have to worry about organizing a shuttle as you would for a river canoe trip, nor do you need to round up a trip partner to help paddle. Just some basic tackle and sturdy legs are all an on-foot fisher needs to enjoy productive stream fishing. And another benefit of regularly stepping out for smallmouths is that it's healthy. While motorized boat-fishing does little to rid us of flab, fishing on foot is some of the most aerobic exercise there is. Getting a healthy workout while having a great time is a combo that's hard to beat.

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But what about actually catching smallmouths without a boat? Is it really practical? Darn right it is! I've been wade-fishing for decades and have conducted on-foot schools for 15 years. I've seen thousands of fine smallies caught without the aid of a boat. In fact, wading allows you to fish larger rivers when the flows are low, plus the multitude of waterways that are too small for any sort of watercraft. These overlooked streams offer a wading angler a lifetime of exploration and enjoyment.

Right now is the perfect time to start this quest. Summer is the prime time for moving-water bronzebacks. As river levels fall and temperatures warm, smallmouth action will skyrocket. Here's what you need to know to get in on the fun.

While an expensive boat isn't needed, a few well-chosen gear items will make your time on the water much more enjoyable and productive.

One of the most important items is adequate footwear. This is something that shouldn't be overlooked. Trying to get by without decent wading boots means you're shackled to only fishing from one small section of bank, and you will still likely get your feet wet, cold or muddy. For bigger rivers and deeper waters, chest waders are a good option. Nowadays, there are many brands of reasonably priced breathable chest-high waders that are lightweight and cool, yet will keep you completely dry. Chest-high waders are especially useful where thick, brushy banks force you to stand in deeper water away from the shore.

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