By Jeff Samsel

Summer days lend themselves marvelously to wading wet in cool streams, and many creeks and rivers throughout the Ozarks region are ideal for such an approach. Catches tend to be mixed and include a variety of bass and panfish species, but smallmouth bass clearly are the main attraction.

Ozarks streams of all sizes alternate between swift shallow shoal areas and pools, and during the summer fish congregate in the cool, aerated fast water over shoals and gravel bars and in the moving water at the extreme heads and tails of pools. This is ideal for wade-fishing because the same areas are the most accessible by foot.

Simplicity is a major virtue of this angling approach. Armed with light spinning tackle and a small box of lures, you can go to any public access that offers wading access atop a shoal or along an inside bend and start casting and catching fish. Depending on the stream size, the depth of its pools and whether land along the banks is publicly owned, you can then work your way up or down the stream or move from access point to access point to find more water to fish.

Various lures offer virtue at times, but during summer, you can keep your lure selection as simple as the fishing approach. Equipped only with Pop-Rs to call smallmouths to the top and Rebel Crawfish to swim through feeding lanes and kick off shoals and gravel bars, you really have everything you need. Carry a small mix of colors and sizes to allow for varying water and weather conditions and fish moods.

Force to pick one craw, I’d choose a Middle Wee-Crawfish in Stream Crawfish. However, the original Wee Crawfish and Teeny Wee-Craw have a definite place, and it’s wise to carry a couple of bold colors like Texas Red and Fire Tiger and a couple of natural colors like Stream Crawfish and Ditch Brown.

In terms of Pop-Rs, it’s typically tough to top a classic P60 Pop-R or a Pop-R Plus, either of which is 2½ inches long. However, a Teeny Pop-R offers definite virtue for smaller streams and for casting toward the bank when fish are keyed on terrestrial insects. For normally-clear Ozarks streams, my favorite color is Clear. Again, though, it’s wise to carry a couple of subtle, natural colors and a couple of bold attractors.

The Pop-R is a good starting lure for a couple of reasons. First, if the fish are willing to look up, watching them crash the surface adds one more extra fun element. Additionally, a Pop-R tends to produce larger fish than a subsurface approach. Mix popping cadences, but err on the slow side and let the current aid with presentations just like it does with real critters that find themselves afloat.

If not enough fish are coming up, go down after them with a Rebel Crawfish. Keep presentations simple, casting and cranking with the rod low to kick as much rock as possible, and to let the lure’s natural action do the work. Quartering casts upstream and across generally works best. A good alternative for fishing in very strong current, though, is to cast straight across the stream and tighten the line so it just swings out, dives and wobbles with the rod held still.

With only a couple of types of lures, you won’t waste time second guessing or making lots of switches. Just mix up presentations and cover water until you find cooperative fish, and more often than not, that won’t take terribly long!