Jack Davis cast a spinnerbait in the bend of a creek, started his retrieve and promptly hooked up with a fish.
A ferocious spotted bass almost tore the rod from his hands. Davis held on, wearing the fish down, and landed and admired it before casting out again.
Another spotted bass tore into the spinnerbait as it hit the water, and the fight was on again.
Wham! Wham! Wham!
Five successive casts yielded ferocious strikes from five Kentucky bass. Davis started his creek fishing trip with a bang.
“I caught five bass right in that creek bend,” Davis said. “It’s funny, but the last time I fished that spot I caught several largemouths and no spotted bass at all.”
That’s how unpredictable and exciting fishing small rivers, creeks and streams can be — especially in the summer when the flow is minimal and the deep holes productive.
Davis grew up fishing for anything he could catch, and he’s caught thousands of bass, catfish, crappie and bream since his childhood days in Kemper County. Each year he joins friends and family members in pursuit of the feisty spotted bass that swim the small creeks and streams of east Mississippi and west Alabama.
If you’re tired of fishing the same old waters during the hot summertime and not catching much then take stock of what you have in your county. There are thousands of small streams, creeks, and rivers flowing through Mississippi and many of the fish in them never see a lure. While some of the smaller streams may not be navigable, with a little time and effort anglers can secure bank-fishing privileges and experience some of the finest spotted bass angling anywhere.
Davis takes advantage of the fantastic stream fishing opportunities and hitting the hotspots is the best way to go during the summer on many of those small streams that are just a trickle.
Finding the hotspots
“I’ve got a few holes on the Pawticfaw Creek that hold bass during the hot summer,” Davis said. “The bass stay in the deep holes and feed on anything the current sweeps in there. And you can fish each hole thoroughly and then move on to the next one hitting the most productive spots along the way.”
Davis pointed out many likely looking ambush spots on our visit to the small Kemper County stream this summer.
“You can catch fish anywhere you can’t see the bottom,” said Davis. “There might not be much deep water there but it doesn’t take much to hold a bass. Sometimes they’ll hide beside a stump or under a bank and ambush baitfish or lures when one swims near.”
If there’s a stump or brush top in the darker water Davis will work it over multiple times until he’s sure there’s not a fish there.
“If I see a good lucking stump I’ll work it over pretty good,” Davis said. “If I catch a fish I’ll throw right back to the same spot and usually catch another bass. You need to make sure you fish all sides of the stump or brush or you just might miss another bass or two.”
On shallow water streams, the bass concentrate in the creek bends and under blown out banks as the water levels fall to just trickle. Periods of hot dry weather only make it better. Anglers can drive to the honey holes in many cases and bypass a lot of unproductive water.
“We used to drop off the road and make our way down the creeks wading and hitting all the likely looking spots and come out several hours later with a string of bass,” said Davis. “I can’t wade and climb those banks and logs like we used to but I still fish the honey holes.
“And, we’ll fish the deeper creeks like the Sipsey River and the Sucarnoochee in Kemper and West Alabama in canoes and small boats.”
When the water’s right and the bass are feeding you can experience fantastic fishing action. When it gets too hot just take a dip in the deeper holes and cool off. You can stay cool and still catch bass on even the hottest days of summer.
“I like those single Colorado blade spinnerbaits,” Davis said. “Creek bass stay hungry and they’ll attack anything that resembles food and you can cover a lot of water fast with a spinnerbait and you don’t get hung up a lot.”
Creek bass eat a lot of crawfish, baitfish, worms, and anything that’s alive and moves, so you just can’t go wrong with any lure, as long as it’s doesn’t keep you hung up all the time.
Davis uses a combination of chartreuse colors on his spinnerbaits. He sticks with the Colorado blades so he can feel the thump of the blade and vary his retrieve while still feeling the bait.
He varies his retrieve according to what the bass want on any particular day. Some days he burns the spinnerbait across the surface and the bass tear it up. On slow days, when the bite slows down, Davis slows his retrieve and works it close to the stumps and brush, deflecting it off of anything he can to trigger strikes.
“When the bass are biting you just can’t go wrong with a spinnerbait,” said Davis. “But I will use a crankbait on some of the bigger creeks like the Sipsey and Sucarnoochee. I’ll use a white Bomber crankbait or a shad colored Bill Dance crankbait and catch some pretty big spotted bass, too.
“My grandson Parker Davis likes to fish the skinny dippers and we catch a bunch on them at times, too.”
The Bass Pro Shops’ Sassy Sally is a swimbait that is really catching bass on the creeks and in shallow water areas of rivers, creeks and lakes. Swimbaits can be worked very efficiently around brush and grass and they can cover all water depths by varying your retrieve speed.
‘Tackling’ a creek
Narrow confines usually prevalent in creek fishing dictate a careful selection of tackle.
“I want a short rod when fishing the tight quarters of a creek,” said Davis. “I use a 5½- or 6-foot rod and reel combo with a Shimano or Garcia casting reel. When you’re on the creek or casting into the bushes you gotta have a short rod that you can maneuver and cast up close.”
While short rods are very important, the line may be even more important.
“If you get hold of a bass on the creek you better have some good line,” Davis said. “I use 17-pound test and that’s usually good enough on most creeks. If you have a big one on and he gets in the brush top you’ve got to hold him tight until you get to him. And sometimes they’ll work their way off if you hold them tight and keep pressure on them.”
Compact boats, canoes, and kayaks are a must when fishing shallow streams, creeks and rivers. While there are many styles and types of boats available, anglers should match their situation with the boats that will work best in their particular waters. Short, light, and durable boats are a must since you’ll have to pull boats over, around and under some trees when fishing small creeks and streams. If you have a heavy aluminum boat or canoe then you’re going to have a frustrating day.
Coleman Scanoe canoes, Stealth duck boats, Ascend fishing kayaks, canoes with a flat backs, and Uncle Buck’s Bass Prowler are all good bets when fishing shallow water streams where the boats float in mere inches of water at times.
The boats should be easy to maneuver and stable or you’ll spend more time getting off the bottom than you do fishing.
“I fish with Jerry Covington and we use his Uncle Buck’s Pond Prowler and that’s a great boat for creeks,” said Davis. “It will float in very shallow water yet it’s easy to maneuver and very efficient when fishing in tight spots, too. It fishes like a bass boat with seats that are pretty comfortable, much better than sitting in a flat bottom boat or canoe.”