Float fishing. The phrase has many meanings.
It can mean drifting down a big-water river that has a few launches – making it easy to get in and out. Or it can mean riding meandering water barely wet enough to be called a creek, that works it’s way through farm fields and groves of trees. You might have to bend down in the boat once or twice to negotiate a bridge or old fence as part of the afternoon. Most likely, it’s something in between.
But float fishing for bass always means one thing – you can get to areas that less-adventurous anglers are unable to reach. That means more untapped small and large mouths for you!
Float Fishing Isn’t just For Bass
Float fishing is a good approach to waters that hold everything from walleyes to northern pike large-mouth bass and trout. But somehow it is small-mouth bass that seem most suited to floating. Smallmouths thrive in rivers and streams around the country, and when you hook them in the current, they always seem to have just a bit more energy than when taken from shore.
Maybe they are just as surprised as we are?
Planning Can Make Or Break Your Day Of Fishing
When planning any float trip, your first step should be to consult a map. You can start with a topographical or country road map but look for a river map for more advice Google Maps satelite view is a good resource here as well. Look for rivers that have frequent twists and turns, as this means there should be deep pools and protection from winds. Be sure to mark rridge locations and other put in or take out spots along the river. These will determine where you can potentially float.
Next find out more about the stretch of river you will be fishing by scouting it ahead of time from the road if that is possible. Otherwise contact the state fish and wildlife department or a representative such as a game warden. Determine whether the stretch you intended to float fish flows through private property. If it does, inquire about the applicable property rights and laws. In some states it’s against the law to float through private land without written permission. (To the best of my knowledge, that is not the case in Wisconsin.) There could also be regulations regarding anchoring or beaching your craft.
Check for obstacles that might get in your way. (Think dams,waterfalls, rapids and the like.) If such barriers do exist make sure you can get out of the water and portage around them if necessary. Nothing kills a fun day of fishing than trying to work back upstream because an un-navigable dam is in the way.
Ask about the put in and take out spots you have identified. Do they actually offer access? How far apart are they? Are these places that you could leave your truck or auto?
Finally determine the local conditions on the stream. How is the fishing? Are water levels appropriate for float fishing? If the river is controlled by a dam, what are the flows that can be expected at various times of the day?
You can float fish by yourself, but going with someone else is a lot more fun and usually more convenient. Most fishermen drive two vehicles, parking one downstream at the takeout spot and then heading upstream together with the other vehicle to launch the canoe or boat. Otherwise you might have to rely on friends or family to pick you up when you are done.
As we all know, fishing takes time and no one want’s to hurry a float trip. All else being equal, plan on traveling at about a half a mile an hour while floating. It’s better to give yourself more time than you would think so you aren’t in a rush.
What Gear Do I Need To Land River Bass?
The required gear begins with your personal flotation vests. Obviously, these are a must. You should also have high quality cushions since you’ll be sitting a lot. Anchors come in handy in case you find a pool full of hungry fish. Canoe seats are light inexpensive and can really save your back from a beating.
Ideally you want to bring one cooler and a dry bag. The first would be for your drink and food the other should contain gear such as a first aid kit sunscreen extra shirts or jackets Etc. keeping them in a dry bag will keep them protected from water.
Good footwear is a must as well. You’ll be getting in and out of your boat for launching portaging or even shore fishing an area that deserves a little more time. in the summer you can probably get away with just wearing sneakers because of the warmer weather. During the cooler weather of the spring and the fall you really should wear waterproof boots. Hip boots might not be a bad choice as well.
Some small-mouth rivers have turbulent stretches and require heavy duty dory’s and guides. So-called McKenzie drift boats and rafts are popular on some waters. On rivers with an easy flow, row boats or john boats will work just fine. For shorter trips and quiet water, personal float tubes might just be the ticket thought you better be sure you are familiar with the conditions before going out. On a river a canoe makes perhaps the most sense of all,. It is very versatile quiet and maneuverable. However it can be hard sometimes for a beginner to fish from one.
Fishing kayaks can be a great choice for the solo fisherman. If you are going with a friend, you can each fish from your own kayak. They can handle low-water situations well, and are pretty easy to get in and out of the water.
Fishing Techniques – It’s Not Hard To Float Fish
While really working a good-looking pool from shore can have benefits, casting from a drift boat remains the best feature of float fishing for bass. Look for small mouths along bank boulders and undercut Banks. If it’s summertime shade is an important element as well. Back Eddie’s, whether at the head of a pool or behind a boulder, are really good spots too.
Some of the biggest small mouths feed along shady shorelines, at the openings of inlets, or on weedy islands that appear in Midstream. These are particularly good spots in the late summer and early fall when small bait fish school there.
Pay attention to the bottom of the stream. Boulders,rock piles and gravel patches often signal a great place for crayfish to live which are one of the preferred foods of river bass.
When you are out float-fishing you get to try a lot of different places – even if only for a couple of casts. You’ll often find is that the first cast into a pool produces the biggest smallmouth. One great thing about float-fishing, you get to make first casts all day!
Remember you don’t have to cover every inch of the river while you are floating. I think it’s more important to note the spots that are the most productive, identify the pattern,and focus your strategy and choice of lures appropriately to make the rest of your float. If it’s legal, some fishermen keep two different rigged rods in their boat, going back and forth between the lures based on what the conditions are.
Don’t forget about live bait. Live bait works very well on river bass. Old school float fishers used minnows to great success. It’s one of those traditions that need to get brought back.
Give Bass Floating Fishing A Try
In the end, float fishing is all about having do-it-yourself fun,. You may what to feel like you’re being carried Along by things. You leave a bit of yourself on the shore Andre turn you enter another world where anything is possible you know where you started and where you’ll be delivered, but you’ll never know what will happen in the meantime.
Sometimes you might get the surprise of your life as well. I remember hearing a story about a fly fisherman who was floating down a creek that eventually emptied into the Saint Lawrence Seaway many years ago. He was working for smallmouth with deer flies.
Out of nowhere, a muskie appeared and swallowed the fly engulfing it in a fierce boatside swirl. The boat began to move as the huge fish accelerated away.
As soon as it started the encounter ended. The muskie spit out the hook and the fly was no worse for wear.
You really never do know what you’re going to get when you float fish!