Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the super sugar river smallmouth

This was my final attempt at river fishing for smallmouth for the rest of the year. Instead of beating up some familiar water, I decided to explore something new. The Sugar River has always been a big question mark for me. Every time I pass over, I always wonder what type of good fishing I’m missing out on.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Sugar River is born in the hills of southwest Dane County in Wisconsin. From there, it flows just better than 90 miles to reach northern Illinois where it joins the Pecatonica. Both rivers converge just before meeting the Rock River in Rockton, Illinois. While technically the Sugar River is a trib of the Pecatonica, I would consider both to be tribs to the Rock. Its most sought after game fish are the pike, walleye, catfish, and the smallmouth bass. I’ve also heard rumors of big 20 inch browns coming from under the dams in the spring. That’s one rumor I would love to prove true early next year.

My plan was to start in Green County and hit every bridge pool and dam in the entire county. My first stop was a promising looking dam. The first thought that crossed my mind was to start with a tiny panther martin trout sized spinner. First thing in the morning I just like to get a fish or two on the board and then begin to upsize my baits. Fishing to and from the dam I caught 4 small bass and 2 small walleyes. Not a bad way to start the day.

a nice start to the day, a sugar river smallmouth bass
a small sugar river walleye in sight of the dam
From there, I fished the handful of bridges on the way down to the next dam. Instead of throwing a tiny spinner on spinning gear, I upsized to my bait caster setup with a white spinner bait. Thank God I did upsize my gear because the very next bass I caught was a toad and very well might be the best bass of the year. She was sitting on the inside of the bridge piling just where you would think she should be sitting. I roll casted up and under the bridge and took 3 cranks on my handle before the bait got thumped. The fish hit so hard it caught me by surprise. I quickly reared back and set the hook and all hell just broke loose. That fish dug so hard I had to back off the drag by 3 clicks. A few last minute aerial acrobatics and I pounced on her. Hands shaking I lifted the fish up and did the best I could to fit her completely in the picture.

a big sugar river smallmouth, possibly my best one yet
 After a few more fishless bridges and I arrived at my next dam. This dam funneled a lot of flowing water into a smaller opening. The result was white water being shot out down river. This water was very turbid and appeared deep as well. I felt like a jig and twister would be a good way to pick apart the seems, eddies, and deep pools. I switched back to spinning gear and went with a 1/8th ounce jig instead of my normal 1/16th. I tipped the jig with a white 3 inch grub which is smaller than the 4 inch grubs I have been using. I hoped these changes would get me bit here. After a few minutes of casting a very nice man and his wife walked down to see how I was doing. I explained that I was from out of town and just fishing for the day. As we talked further my jig fell to the bottom and there it sat for the entire length of our conversation. He finished with asking if I had caught any nice smallies. Just as I was about to answer, my light action rod bent in half.  Deadsticked on the bottom the fish crushed that jig. The fished used the heavy current to its advantage but finally gave in to the constant heavy pressure. As I scooped my second fat smallie from the Sugar, the crowd went wild. Not only was the original couple clapping but a few construction workers had meandered down to see the battle. I of course asked for a proper photo to be taken and the gentleman obliged.

another nice sugar river smallmouth bass
That last fish left me completely satisfied. With time to kill I went further into the back country hoping to explore a few of the Sugar’s tributaries. For a parting shot ill leave you with the photo of a pool I found a few miles below some classified trout water. This creek connects to the sugar and looks like a great spot for some pig browns come spring.

a nice pool on a trib to the sugar river
Peace out Wisconsin smallmouth, I will be back next year. I have a lot more water to cover on the rivers I have fallen in love with and a few new destinations that will remain nameless until then...


  1. looks like another great outing! Now time for some Lake Michigan Trib fishing!

  2. Some impressive smallies Blake. Whats next on the agenda?

  3. Nothing better than trying a new plan and having it work out. Nice Bass.

  4. Thanks for the great report on the Sugar River. Those Smallies are some brutes for sure. That couple will remember that for a long time. That feeder stream with that DANK green hole has a Big Pig Brown just waiting on the bottom for a Castle Rock Killer:) Tight Lines.

  5. Blake(2)- Ill be happy to take you around this time!

    John- salmon season

    Savage- yeah, too many rivers, not enough time

    tm- id give everything to live closer to your neck of the woods.

  6. I'd be happy with some big pig Smallies like that! Good Stuff!