This month Capt. Kayla Haile of River Queen Guide Service joins us for some smallmouth bass fishing Q & A.

river queen guide service smallmouth bass fishing
Captain Kayla scores on the smallmouth!

Q: What are your top tips for targeting smallmouth in rivers?

A: Check the river conditions… I am always checking the river gauge online to see what the flow of the river is. This can be key for what areas I am going to focus on fishing. When there’s a river rise that can get the fish active and feeding on bait fish that are becoming disoriented. Second, I you think you’ll need it BRING IT. I always bring the entire tackle box with me. There have been many days where it takes me going through all my tackle to figure out what pattern the smallmouth are liking best. It can change daily, so I always bring a little bit of everything to make sure I have all my bases covered.

Q: Give us the lowdown on your favorite tackle for the task.

A: My first of two go-to set ups for smallmouth bass fishing is a medium spinning rod with a 1500-size reel and 10-pound braid. I tend to use this rod the most for my finesse fishing techniques like a Ned rig or tube fishing. You want something with a fast-action tip to allow for more sensitivity to feel the bottom when dropping the tubes or Neds, and in colder months, to feel that tapping thump when the fish is eating the lure. I also like a fluorocarbon leader of 12 or 15 pounds because where I fish there are rocks and structure. The leader helps prevent the fish from rocking you and breaking the line.

My second choice would be a medium-heavy casting rod rigged with a 150-size reel and 10-pound braid. I use this rod for more action-style baits like spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, topwater, and chatterbaits.

Q: You take a lot of people fishing. What's the most common mistake you see them make?

A: People not being able to feel the baits. This mainly falls on finesse fishing. Having the correct size heads and sensitive rods are key when trying to work a finesse bait across the bottom. Many smallmouth feed on crayfish and hellgrammites which lie on the bottom of the rivers so the smallies are searching for these baits when they come out from rocks or off the bottom. When they see that Ned rig or tube bounce from off the bottom of the river this gives a natural look to the bait and something smallies just can't resist.

Q: All anglers like to fish whenever they can, but summer is probably not your first pick for smallmouth (or maybe it is?). Tell us what your favorite season is for pursuing them, and why.

A: My personal favorite is fall or early winter. Many people do indeed like to fish for them in the summer months but the bite windows are either super early morning or late evenings. The river temperature gets to a certain level and can get almost too hot for fish to move around. In the fall the fish start to feel the temperature drops at night and are on the feed to fatten up for winter. Also, fall is when the spinnerbait and jerkbait bites pick back up and in my personal opinion there is no better feeling than a fish eating your lure like it’s having its last meal.

Q: Open mic — if you could say anything to all the anglers out there, what would it be?

A: My biggest tip I like to give anglers is don't be afraid to learn and go through some trial and error phases. To this day I am still out there looking for something new to explore and try differently. Today it seems like everyone wants immediate results, but you have to apply many different scenarios that you’ve tried in the past in order to get into a situation that will produce results. I also highly recommend keeping a logbook. This has been one of the key components to having successful trips, especially when it comes to river fishing because the river is constantly changing with fluctuating water levels, temperatures, and clarity. All affect how or if the fish are going to be active. I log everything, the good and bad, to help me pinpoint what my next plan of action will be.

You can contact Captain Kayla on Facebook at River Queen Guide Service, on Instagram @riverqueenguideservice, via email at [email protected], or call/text (443)465-2193.