Big City Bass Fishing

July 5, 2018

Though some areas where bass are targeted are remote, and allow the angler to escape from the noisy bustling atmosphere of daily life, the big city holds huge opportunity for catching bass. Most areas where you can find major cities, you can find large rivers or lakes. In the case of this article, the three rivers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are the topic of interest.

The Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers all make their course in and around Pittsburgh, making this area a hot spot for smallmouth bass fishing. Where most anglers prefer to target areas North or South of the city for bass, others prefer to target within the city limits for trophy bronzebacks. The rivers in, and around, Pittsburgh provide large amounts of structure, changing conditions, and challenging angling situations that provide excellent opportunity, but can stump even the most seasoned angler. Though the rivers are by no means the easiest bodies of water to fish, they often produce river smallmouth bass of 3 pounds, with some specimens reaching 4 pounds or larger. Where these river fish can differentiate from smallmouth bass in other locations, are that the fish are regularly much longer and leaner than their other counterparts. The lack of girth in these river fish, due to a slow growth cycle, can make for extreme aggression when baits are offered. In most situations, if an unpressured fish can be found, it will more often than not, strike if the bait is presented within a few foot radius.

Common patterns for structure/fish holding areas in these rivers can include boulders, creek channels, creek mouths, lock and dams, underwater wing dams, submerged boats, sunken barges, floating barges, barge mooring points, warm water discharges, metal retaining walls, bridges, inlets, docks, gravel bars, pipelines, deep trenches, islands, and a large variety of sunken metal/wood/cement structures. What makes the rivers a very challenging fishery is that they can change day by day. For example, a creek mouth that holds fish one day can be filled in by a rainstorm overnight, and be transformed into a large sandbar with a trickle of water running over it. Along with filling in creek mouths, structure can be swept away or added with the current, and shallow areas can be dredged by annual ice flows. Not only does this make for challenging fishing conditions, but also boating safety concerns. The rivers hold many areas where the water can be extremely shallow in places that one would not imagine. The ever-changing conditions can make for long days if a prop or motor is damaged. It is recommended to maintain position in the marked channels while making runs with a boat until you are ready to fish, or use an alternative thrust method such as an electric trolling motor to navigate such waters.

A baseline to follow if fishing the rivers during the warmer months is to finesse fish in the cooler, more oxygenated water with rock structure. This is a given around locks and dams, but also can be found at a variety of other locations such as creek mouths and discharges. Shorelines with shaded rocky areas produce large numbers of fish in all sizes as well. Using baits that imitate crawfish, such as crankbaits, prove to be the most successful, but other baits such as Gary Yamamoto Senkos and a variety of minnow imitating baits, like Keitech Fat Swing Impact swimbaits, will also produce numbers of fish. Mornings can produce a very hot topwater bite that becomes extremely productive when the river’s Hexagenia mayfly hatch occurs during mid-summer. Small bladed topwater lures for cast/spin anglers such as Strike King 1/4 ounce Buzzbaits, and large mayfly dries for fly anglers, like parachute mayflies, will catch numbers of fish while the mayfly action is occurring. Like most other bodies of water, the bite is situational, and there is no magic lure that will catch fish every time, but fish will take a variety of baits if presented in the right fashion.

Just like learning any other body of water, the most important aspect of fish catching success in the rivers is time. Putting the time into learning fish patterns and structure will not only lead to increased catch rates, but also a greater appreciation of the awesome fishery that Pittsburgh, PA has to offer.

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