When summer's high temperatures settle in, bass can get a bit sluggish in lakes. But, rivers are a different matter. In fact, for anglers looking for some mid-summer bass action, rivers have a lot going for them.
Moving water carries more oxygen than still waters, and moving water is often a bit cooler. Both of those factors combine to make bass in rivers more active -- and for longer periods during the day -- than in lakes. In addition to that, bass in rivers are generally homebodies. They don't make lengthy migrations, nor do they seek deeper water. Most river bass inhabit depths of less than 15 feet, so anglers are working on relatively shallow fish. Lastly, river bass are creatures of the current, and the current largely determines where they are. That makes them easier to find than bass in a larger reservoir.
Put that all together and the angler who knows where to look for bass in rivers can be in for a productive day. Here are 5 fishing spots for summertime river bass, whether they are largemouths or any of its cousins in the black bass family.
OUTSIDE BENDS WITH COVER
On any river, the current flowing along the outside bends is normally the strongest. It eats away at the bank, normally creating an abrupt drop, and often eroding trees or large rocks into the river. Also, current breaks are formed around bank side tree roots. This creates one of the best possible situations for river bass.
The current brings them food, but they don't have to fight the moving water for extended periods of time. They can drop into the eddy behind any object, watch the world drift by, and grab anything that looks tasty. While any object that breaks the current can hold a bass, one of the best is a fallen treetop that has current flowing through it. This allows the bass to be out of the main current, but close enough to nail any food item passing. And, at the same time the fish is close to the security of deeper water. On virtually any river, an outside bend with fallen timber, or large chunk rock is one of the most consistently productive areas.
Experienced "river rats" normally approach this type of cover by moving into the current, which then brings their lure to the fish with the current. That's where bass expect to see their next meal come from. If the cover is scattered, banging a diving crankbait or slow-rolling a spinnerbait in contact with it is a top tactic. In thicker areas, pitching a jig-and-pig tight to cover in deadly. Crawfish are major forage for river bass and the jig-and-pig is a fine match.
The one exception to bringing a lure with the current is a large treetop. Sometimes it's best to move up current and dance a hard plastic jerkbait just in front of the cover to draw the bass out, or allow a Texas-rigged plastic worm to drift underneath the branches.
Another situation that should not be passed by without some serious casting is anywhere a side creek intersects the main river, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the flow may be. There are several solid reasons for that.
Not many anglers venture up a small side creek, but a lot of bass do, when water levels are up. If the water falls, they begin dropping back towards the main river. If there are deeper holes in the side creek close to its junction with the main river, the bass may stack up there. If not, look for them to be gathered around the drop at the creek mouth, where they wait for water to rise and send them back into the tributary.
The sharp drop at the mouth of the feeder creek can often hold a concentration of bass. Depending upon the depth, this can be effectively fished with a swimming jig-and-pig; Carolina-rigged worm or lizard; diving crankbaits; or large-bladed, slow-rolled spinnerbait.
While bass may be holding at the mouth waiting for the right conditions to move back into the creek, some fish have no intention of leaving the main river. They are there to feed on forage that is washed out of the creek and disoriented by the conflicting currents. Many of those bass are located in any bank side cover down current of the creek mouth, and it's worth probing any such cover within 30 to 40 yards of the tributary mouth.
As noted earlier, current brings food to the bass in rivers. A sudden acceleration of the current can bring more food and spark some serious feeding activity. That can often happen below locks, spillways, and some drain pipes.
Many rivers have locks for navigation purposes, and when those are in operation, a lot of water and forage is sucked in one end and suddenly released at the other. That forage is a bit disoriented, and the bass take advantage of it. Many river bass, especially the larger adults, live permanently below a set of locks and go on the feed when they open. That action can be brief, but frenzied. The rest of the time these fish are just "there." Explore any cover objects below a lock, and if you're there when they open, get a countdown crankbait into the water quickly!
The same applies to spillways that are dumping a heavier than normal volume of water, which often occurs after a rain. Drain pipes that may lead from small ponds into the river serve the same function. Any source of inflowing water to a river is worth a cast or two.
While shoreline cover holds a lot of river bass, not all the fish are using it. Mid-river bars are an excellent, and overlooked, bass holding cover. These humps and high spots attract fish. When these bass are not actively feeding, they often are on the down-current side of the bar where the water drops off deeper. When feeding, the fish frequently move up to the crown of the bar. It's not uncommon to see surface schooling activity then, as baitfish schools moving with the current are compressed onto the crown. There doesn't have to be any real "cover" on a mid-river bar for it to hold fish. The bass use the contours of the bar itself.
If surface activity is seen, a countdown crankbait, compact topwater lure, or plastic trailer on a jig is a top choice. If surface schooling action is observed, the chances are excellent that the larger bass in the school are holding down current from the boiling melee, and picking off the cripples.
When things are quiet, drifting a Carolina rig with a 3- to 4-foot leader and a 4- or 5-inch plastic worm is deadly. Experienced anglers adjust the weight on the rig, and fish across the current to let the lure drift down and over the bar with the current. By staggering casts, you can cover even a large bar fairly quickly.
OXBOWS & BACK BAYS
One of the most predictable characteristics of river bass is that when waters rise they move shallower. On some rivers with heavily wooded banks, this can put bass "in the trees" and out of reach.
If any oxbows or shallow back bays exist, however, they can be hot spots when summer rains raise river levels. Baitfish move into these shallower areas and the bass follow. Even an ankle deep back bay can see significant bass activity if the river rises to add a few feet of depth.
These often ignored side waters can save the day when rivers are rising, so don't overlook them.