The Complete Guide to Wade Fishing Creeks

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It’s hot here in Alabama. But there’s one sure fire way to cool off and catch a few fish while doing so and that’s to go creek wading. I had the pleasure of doing just that recently with my dad and one of my best buds Ben Weldon. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. And here’s all you need to know to get ready for your trip.

bass fishing rod in creek

Take one all-purpose rod

It’ll be tempting to take multiple rods but I honestly don’t recommend it. You’re better off taking one versatile rod that you can throw several things with and perhaps a spare reel just in case you backlash the one on your rod. That is easy to do as you’ll inevitably smack the water’s surface now and then as you grow accustomed to fishing with your lower body submerged in water.

bass fishing jig in water

Keep it small and simple with the baits

The bass in these little creeks don’t typically see a lot of baits, so they’ll bite about anything. It is smart though to lean towards the smaller end of the spectrum. Small jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, Rooster Tails and even Beetle Spins will give you enough bait to catch a big one, but also ensure you catch several of the smaller ones as well.

Expect a variety of species

Most of the creeks here in Alabama have a variety of species of bass in them. It’s not uncommon to catch spotted bass, largemouth, red eye and shoal bass all in the same creek. The shoal bass and red eye are typically smaller in the creeks around here. But as you make your way over to Georgia the shoal bass can be upwards of 4 pounds. It’s likely there will be a variety where many of you are fishing as well.

angler walking in creek

Watch your step

You definitely want to watch your step when wading a creek. The rocks are notoriously slippery and you can get hurt in a hurry in a very remote location if you’re not careful. It’s a good idea to wear shoes and a bad idea to wear flip flops. You want something with some traction that won’t slip off your foot constantly. But get ready to dump a good bit of sand out from time to time.

fisherman wading in creek

Fish upstream

It’s best to fish upstream if you can. This not only keeps you from muddying the water that you’re fishing but it also gives the fish the most realistic presentation of your bait. Small crawfish, tadpoles, minnows, salamanders and the like rarely have the power to swim very far upstream and are instead washed downstream. So burning a spinnerbait up through a rapid isn’t very realistic.

creek shoals

Fish below the shoals

Building on that idea, it’s always a good idea to fish below the shoals. Anytime you come to a shoal, be sure to make repetitive casts even if you catch one right away. The bass will often group up and sit beneath these shoals and wait for food to wash downstream to them. Make casts right into the swiftest water and also out along the edges where the current starts to subside.

fisherman fishing tree in creek

Target wood

Wood is another really important thing to look for. Other than rocks, wood will likely be the most popular cover in any creek you decide to fish. Look for the bass to tuck in just downstream of the cover and try to bring your bait right by that pickoff point.

fisherman wade fishing in creek

Target shade

Shade is another critical thing to target when wading creeks in the summer. The water in these creeks is typically cooler than the lake water, but the shade is even cooler still. Cold-blooded bass use the shade to stay as cool and comfortable as possible. So don’t overlook any patch of shade no matter how small.

wade fishing creeks

Look for drop-offs

Sudden and drastic changes in the depth of the water are key places to target bass as well. The water may only be 3 feet deep but that’s a lot more than 6 inches. The bass will often set up in these slightly deeper spots and wait for food to wash over the edge.

bobcat on log in creek

Expect the unexpected

On our recent trip, we saw a bobcat as well as a fairly large water moccasin. We were naturally on the lookout for snakes but the bobcat was a bonus for sure. A lot of these creeks are remote and wild, so you really feel like you’re stepping off into someone else’s world… and you are. Keep your head on a swivel and be ready for anything.

Have a way to keep your phone dry

The temptation will be there to leave your phone in the truck when you step out into nature like this. I’d certainly recommend putting it on silent, but it’s best to keep it with you just in case of an emergency. You could slip on a rock and twist your ankle, get snake bit or have a dozen other things go wrong. It’s best to keep your phone on you and have some way of keeping it dry.

two fishermen wade fishing creek

Go with a friend

Also in the interest of safety, it’s best to do this with a friend. But safety aside, this is something you’ll want to experience with someone else. Amidst all the misery… I mean… miracle of social media and technology, we can easily disconnect from real interactions with people and meaningful relationships can grow cold. Grab a buddy, your father, your son or mother or daughter or whatever the case may be and go make some memories.

water moccasin on log in creek

In conclusion

Wading a creek is lots of fun and a great way to make memories while also beating the heat this summer. But take necessary precautions to make sure it doesn’t go sideways if you decide to try this for yourself. It’s best to keep your phone on you and your head on a swivel. Take a handful of smaller lures and the most versatile rod you own. Work your way upstream if possible and target shade, shoals, wood and any other current breaking cover you can find. Most of all, have fun! That’s what wading a creek is all about.