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Basic River Tackle for Wading

By Robert Piorkowski - August 1, 2001
One of the main questions I hear about river fishing is, “what should I bring?" As an avid wader fisherman of 3 main rivers within 30 miles of Chicago, I say, “you don’t need a lot". The main thing is, keep it simple. I bring up to 2 small (7-inch) tackle boxes, and a small container if I’m using bait. All tools, bait, and leaders are kept in the pockets of my vest. Granted it can get bulky, but by bringing the basics, vest weight and lure decision-making are kept to a minimum. Basic tackle for wading is a long spinning rod, preferably 7 foot, matched with 6-10# mono line. I use 6# green during clear water conditions, and go up to 10# when using leaders for flyfishing. The longer rod is used to keep as much line as possible off the water to reduce drag in the current. Shorter rods are ok, but it depends upon how you are fishing. Generally, I drift live-bait and jigs across and down, so keeping slack off the water is essential to keeping contact with the hook.

For walleye and smallmouth, I like using smaller jig/twisters, spinners and minnow baits. Live bait is usually minnows or nightcrawlers, but I fish them the same way, under a float or on a jig. Floats can get excessive in price, and are lost when snags break your line. I use the smaller foam floats that allow the line to be adjusted by pegging the top of the float. These are cheap, highly visible, and easily modified for conditions. For bait hooks, I like too keep these in a small film canister with my weights. When I need one, I always know where to find them and I don’t have to open up the bigger box.

Because of the huge assortment of styles and colors, choosing the proper jig body and twister tail color can cause migraine headaches. I like to keep several colors on hand, as well as several sizes. I will fill the slots of my box with several of each as a choice for Mr. Bass. Chances are I won’t use a whole bag while wading, so there is no use in bringing 100’s of assorted colors.

Also essential for wading is a camera, sunblock and a bottle of water. These can all be kept in your vest. The car gets to be a long walk when the fish are biting and you need a break. Finally, summer time is a great time to wet-wade and keep the waders at home on a shelf. But be careful of possible problems with your waterway; know the risks associated with chemicals/biological problems before fishing without waders. To relieve the risk and retain my comfort, I use breathable waders. These are great to keep you warm, dry or cool as needed. Plus they provide added storage for my camera for CPR, (Catch-Photo-Release). So get wading, and keep it simple. See ya on the water!

Author Robert Piorkowski
Robert Piorkowski
Rob is a Field Editor for Midwest Outdoors Magazine, Featured Columnist for, Contributing Writer for Illinois Outdoors and works as a Environmental Project Manager near Chicago, Il. When not casting for bass out of his boat, you'll find him wading local rivers searching for bass with a flyrod. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, contact Rob at [email protected]
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