By Jeff Samsel

As I changed from tennis shoes to wading boots and looked across the Flint River to Sprewell Bluff, I’m quite certain I was grinning foolishly. Very soon I’d step into the cool river, equipped with a lightweight spinning outfit and a single pocket-sized lure box to cast for shoal bass and whatever else wanted to bite.

Shoal bass look and act a lot like smallmouths, but they are genetically distinctive and are found only in a few river systems in Georgia, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Georgia’s Sprewell Bluff Park, where a friend and I would be wading the day, lies in the heart of the Flint’s best shoal bass habitat and offers good public access to extensive shoals that are nicely suited for wading at moderate water levels. The park is also a popular put-in and take-out for float-fishing trips on the Flint, but that’s another story for another time.

We were there for a day or simple wade-fishing, and just the shoals we could see from the parking area offered more water than we could fully fish in a day.

I’m fortunate to get to fish in many different settings. I do everything from ice-fishing to casting big lures in the salt water and spend time on boats that range from kayaks to bass boats to fairly large ocean crafts. Every style of fishing has its appeals, but I don’t think there is anything I enjoy more than wading wet on a warm day in a cool stream with friend by my side and casting lures, whether for smallmouth bass, other black bass species, brown trout or something else.

I love the simplicity of navigating with my own two feet and carrying minimal gear. I also enjoy the splendid scenery that comes with destinations like the Flint River and the minimal crowds that are the norm. While the Flint is a popular paddling destination and some folks come to the park just to splash around in the river, we had the shoals to ourselves for fishing that day.

I also like the dynamic nature or river wading. Every step alters your casting vantage, and when you are wading a shoal, that continually changes things like the angle you can cross a current line, the part of a hole you can reach, or the gap in the rocks you can bring a lure through. Reading the river and paying attention to the kinds of spots that produce action any given day can make a major difference in your success rate.

It’s also important to experiment with lures and presentations and to pay attention to which ones prompt the most strikes. My friend and I both began the morning with Rebel Wee-Crawfish tied on, based on past experience with similar fishing, and those craw cranks did produce a couple of fish. The fish seemed be looking up, though, because while we both tried a handful of lures, we both found our best action with Pop-Rs. As expected, shoal bass dominated the catch, but we also caught some redbreast and longear sunfish.

The toughest part of the day, I’d have to say, was switching back to the dry shoes for the drive home because we left the fish still biting.