Smallmouth Bass by the Foot

With just a rod, some lures, and a set of legs you can head out and fish. This is truly simplified angling.

It was a warm July afternoon and I was waist deep in a gravel-bottomed stream. The warm water felt good, since wet wading is a little like swimming while you’re fishing. More important, I was fishing and catching fish. Flipping my lure upstream along a rocky bank, I immediately received a hard strike, the fifth in as many casts. This one was a hard-fighting 14 incher that strained my rod as it tail-walked across the pool. And this red-eyed beauty was just one of 19 nice-sized smallmouth bass and a half-dozen rock bass I caught that sunny afternoon.

Lyn on foot lifting a large smallmouth bassBut for me, the real beauty of it all was the fact that I was on a quiet, scenic stream near a major population center, and without another angler in sight. And this certainly wasn’t a fluke experience; far more times than I can count over the decades, I’ve had equally enjoyable on-foot fishing outings.

Why Wade?

Sure, float fishing has plenty of attributes, but consider what wade fishing for smallmouth bass has to offer. There’s no need for pricey watercraft, no need to organize a shuttle, you don’t even need to round up a trip partner. With just a rod, some lures, and a set of legs you can head out and fish. It’s truly simplified angling. And for me, on-foot smallmouthing isn’t just about the fishing. Standing in a stream on a quiet summer evening is often a near-mystical experience. Hearing the soft murmur of a rocky rifle, feeling the power of the flow against your legs, watching the water slip downstream as you rhythmically cast—this soothes the soul and puts the body in touch with the natural world like few other outdoor experiences.
A wade angler targeting rocks for smallmouth bass

Rocks by the foot

Rocks by the foot

To Your Health

Wade fishing has utilitarian value well beyond the enjoyment and relaxation it offers. In a mechanized society that seems determined to eliminate any significant physical activity from people’s lives, the result is millions of sedentary and fat folks in real danger of major health problems. But wade fishing is a great way burn off those calories and keep fit. And that’s one big reason I always feel so happy when I’m thoroughly tired after a full day on stream. Can I attribute my sleek physique at least partly to all those marvelous miles hiking up and down streams? I think so, and you could, too.

Special Times

And on-foot fishing certainly doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Spending time on the water with a good friend or relative is often the best of both worlds. One the one hand, you can be far enough apart to have your own space, but at the same time you can be close enough to share those special stream moments with someone. On-foot fishing can also create a special bond between parent and child. While not every kid takes to stream fishing, many youngsters find walking along a verdant stream bank and wading in water a lot more stimulating and enjoyable than being held captive in a boat all day.

A wade angler with smallmouth bass near a dam

Even on big rivers, dams can offer on-foot action

Finding Wade Waters

Good wading water isn’t hard to find. Just about everyone who lives in smallmouth bass country has some good waters nearby that can be wade-fished. These streams may not be widely known or heavily written about, but with some investigation and scouting, a creative angler can find them.

Good wading water isn’t hard to find. Just about everyone who lives in smallmouth bass country has some good wading waters nearby.

Likely the most overlooked streams will be the smallest ones, those too small to easily float. These little gems often flow unnoticed by all the folks wedded to their watercraft, so often you have these quiet waters all to yourself, especially if you’re willing to hike a short distance from the road.

Of course, even rivers and streams that can be floated almost always have sections where the on-foot fella can fish effectively. You may have to avoid the deepest water or softest bottoms, but even on the largest rivers, a wader can generally find fishable areas. All of this adds up to hundreds of streams and thousands of miles of water, just waiting for you.

Young angler standing in a stream with smallmouth bass

A great day on a small stream

Naturally, none of us are born wade fishing experts, and learning the A, B, Cs (as well as some of the X, Y, Zs) is important if you want to catch smallies on a consistent basis. My new smallmouth bass DVD definitely covers the basics of wade fishing, as well as clearly demonstrating more advanced techniques and tactics. Nothing will substitute for actual time on the water, but if you really start hitting the streams at the same time you study the video, I’ll guarantee your success and enjoyment will both increase

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