Guide Anderson Boyd specializes in catching plenty of Smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River North Branch. We tap Anderson’s brain to learn more about fishing this amazing river.
What makes the Susquehanna River such a special place for you to fish and guide for Smallmouth bass?
There really are a lot of reasons it is such a great place. First of course is the fishing. 100 to 200 plus Smallmouth in a day can occur on this river, fish of all sizes too! That kind of action is just incredible. There really are not very many places that can claim fishing like that!
Surprise catches of Channel Catfish, Musky, Northern Pike, and Walleye happen often since they all have strong populations in the Susquehanna River as well! I have a lot of requests for Channel Catfishing charters too.
That brings me to the accessibility of this river. It is very close to many large cities. The location of its Main Stem, its long meandering, scenic North Branch and the beautiful water of its West Branch make it very easy for many to travel too. Great fishing, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and other recreational activities like float trips make it a very popular place to visit.
What section of the river do you primarily fish and guide on?
I focus my guiding on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. Most of my trips will go out of Tunkannock, Pennsylvania and from there we may travel as far upstream as Meshoppen, Pennsylvnia or as far downstream as Falls, Pennsylvnia. I also offer trips out of other locations on the Susquehanna river however 95% of my trips are going out of Tunkhannock.
Honestly, it is the section I know best simply because I live 5 minutes from the ramp. I can also keep my costs to a minimum by using the Tunkhannock area which leads to less cost for my clients. The North Branch of the Susquehanna is pretty darn good no matter where you go. Knowing the water really well trickles down to my clients. I try my best to keep them catching fish, nonstop, all day.
How long have you been guiding on the Susquehanna River?
2012 was my first season as a Guide. My decision on offering guiding on the Susky came down to a simple question. “Where can I take novice anglers or seasoned anglers and catch a lot of fish all times of the year?” Ice out to first ice, the answer wasn’t even close. Northeast Pennsylvania has many small lakes to enjoy and fish, I also offer charters on some of them. However, once folks get a taste of the Susquehanna, they rarely want anything else!
What boat are you guiding clients out of?
The boat my clients get to fish out of is a custom built Rock Proof Boats, River Rocket. It is 20ft long, very wide at 95″ across the top deck near the transom. The width along with the center console makes the boat very stable, walking around the boat is very easy with minimal rocking.
It has a huge raised front deck and with the addition of a Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor this season. There is more than enough room for two anglers to fish on the front deck. The rear deck is also big with a rear deck extension that gives an extra 2 feet of usable deck space off the transom.
I have two Power Poles with drift paddles to maintain perfect boat control in all conditions. The boat has two rod lockers, 2 coolers…one I use as a trash can, and 5 storage bins for lots of tackle to cover all possible tackle needs. It has a huge divided livewell with a removable divider that can hold fish up to 40 inches.
As the name implies “Rock Proof Boats”, these boats are built like tanks. There are no mass produced boats that can take abuse like these boats. The boat has a hull that is up to twice as thick as some of the mass produced boats. The bracing on the hull is done with 1/4″ channel that runs along the length of the boat as well. Then there is UHMW on the entire hull, which is a super tough and slick plastic type material.
The boat is powered by an Inboard Mercury Sport Jet at 200hp.
All of these things come together to create an incredibly durable, capable, and an awesome layout for bass fishing. The durability is very important on the Susky, with many areas getting super shallow when the river gets low. Having the ability to get on plane and pass over 4″ or less of water becomes extremely important to stay on fish.
Passing over water that skinny can get really hairy with most boats simply due to the fact that hitting a rock, will probably put a hole in the boat. Hitting a gravel bar will stop a boat fast as aluminum grips well to hard surfaces, possibly hurting its occupants. Either of these events would ruin a fishing trip in a heart beat and personal safety is something I take very seriously.
I have hit gravel bars and rocks hard with my Rock Proof Boat on a few occasions. The boat just slides right over them, and all it has done is put a few small scratches in the UHMW. Although I rarely hit things, accidents will happen, when they do, my River Rocket does its job safely, and it just keeps on trucking along.
I know you use Lew’s rods and reels. For a new client without a ton of fishing experience, what Lew’s rod and reel combo do you set them up with first?
When it comes to Smallmouth, lighter equipment usually gets the nod for me simply because you will catch more fish with smaller lures. So I would go with the Lew’s M22069MLFS combo, which consists of a 6’9″ Medium Light graphite rod with a Mach II series Reel.
The next model I suggest, would be the Medium action M23069MFS. That combo would be better suited for those who would prefer to use lures on the heavier side like 1/4 ounce jigs or larger spinnerbaits and topwaters.
These rods and reels have comfortable, high quality, tough components that will last a really long time with minimal maintenance. The price tag may seem a bit steep for a combo, but when it comes to tough Susquehanna River Smallmouth fishing, you need a reel with an Aluminum Frame and a rod with tough guides. It is really hard to find that combination of quality at that price tag. Lew’s does make great offerings below that price range, but the Mach II combo’s are premium quality at a not so premium price! They are a great value!
As a guide, what are your favorite three baits for fishing the Susquehanna River North Branch?
Jigs, Jigs, and Jigs! So what do you think my number one lure is on the river?! Lol.
On a serious note jigs, topwaters, and crankbaits. When it comes to jigs, fishing with just a single type of jighead or plastic body can be a mistake. Be sure to change it up before giving up on jigs. Colors, weight size, head style, and plastic body type can all make a huge difference. I may use tubes, craws, swimbaits, soft stickbaits, or other crazy looking creature baits on any given day.
For the most part however, keep it simple. Natural colors and the lightest weight you can effectively fish with are your best bets to success with jigs.
Small topwaters like poppers, prop baits, and walking type baits from late spring through fall are fantastic when the water is relatively clear, not so good in muddy water. Crankbaits are great when looking for better than average fish at times. Shallow running square billed crankbaits and medium diving crankbaits cover most of the situations you might encounter on the Susky.
One thing that I struggle with on this river is getting fooled by #s. How do you decide when a pattern that is catching #s of smaller fish isn’t the right one to put a big fish in the boat?
Many times the big fish are about extremes. The variables are many and the big fish still can be very difficult at times, especially in the summer when they become almost exclusively nocturnal feeders. Many times the big fish are mixed in with the smaller fish but they are preying on something the smaller fish are not. A simple lure change can help that situation.
Again, think “extremes.” If you are catching a lot of smaller fish in specific depth, on say a small slow moving lure, switch to a larger lure that moves quickly to draw a reaction strike, also try deeper and shallower.
Sometimes we are catching lots of small fish in 2 to 4 feet of water, you might think that the big ones would be slightly deeper, they could be, but if they are not, they are probably shallower. Sometimes we catch the bigger fish in less that 1 foot of water!
When the fish are schooled up, it is again many times about the extremes. It is true that many times the fish will school to size to some degree. However, the aggressive big fish will almost always bite first in a big school, and they will be at the furthest upstream ambush point there is on the spot. After those big aggressive fish are caught the “extremes” variable comes into play again. You can sit there and catch all the other smaller fish and try to finesse or get a reaction strike out of the inactive big ones left in the school or you can leave the school you are catching a fish on every cast from and go to another school.
In the summer, the easiest way to catch the big ones in going fishing at night. However, on the Susky, going night fishing on a boat is dangerous and that’s something I won’t offer clients or recommend. It just isn’t safe on the Susquehanna River.
You guide on other waters as well beside the Susquehanna River. What are some of those waters?
I offer charters on many northeast Pennsylvania lakes. They are all listed on my website under the Rates tab. The lakes are good options for those wanting to target Walleye, Panfish, especially Crappie, or Largemouth Bass.
A few of my favorites are Lake Carey, Lake Winola, Harveys Lake, Duck Harbor, and Lackawanna Lake. Lake Carey is good for just plain catching fish, mostly 1 to 2.5lb Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. Beginners can do good there. The Panfish and Walleye fishing is also good there.
Lake Winola is mostly a Largemouth fishery and can require a bit more experience to do really well there. If the fish are under the docks, the ability to skip a lure accurately under a dock is a must. If the fish are buried in the grass baitcasting gear and extreme accuracy to get the lure into little holes the grass is the only way to be successful. Winola truly has a good number of really big Largemouth in really clear water and it also has a lot of really nice Crappie, Trout, Bluegill, and Perch in it.
Harvey’s Lake can be similar to Winola in that dock and grass fishing can be a big key to success there. Harvey’s Lake has a great population of Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, with the average Smallmouth weighing about 2.5lbs.
Duck Harbor is a great lake because of its diverse cover. Flats with stumps fields, shorelines littered with laydowns, lily pads, grass beds, docks, and humps. The Duck has it all with lots of nice sized Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. If Duck Harbor was close to my home, I would fish it more than any other lake close to Tunkhannock!
Lackawanna Lake is a great offshore summertime lake for a truly huge Largemouth Bass. I heard of at least 2, 9 pound largemouth being caught there last year. It is not a numbers lake and it is not a good lake for a beginner, however the rewards can be worth it! 4 to 6lb largemouth are commonly caught on Lackawanna Lake.
How can someone book you for a guide trip?
They can give me a call at 570-417-5841. If they prefer to communicate via email they can go to my website www.boydsnepaguidingservice.com and send me a message under the Contact Info Tab. They can also contact me through my Facebook and Instagram pages.
What should they expect spending a day with you on the water?
A day on the water will include all tackle provided. You can bring your own if you prefer. I will have bottled water on ice if the weather calls for it and snack bars. All you need to bring is your fishing licence. A lunch is a good idea if we are going for a long period of time. Items to consider are Sunscreen, waterproof footwear (especially if they are calling for rain), raingear, sunglasses, fingerless gloves if it is cold (I like wool with cut out fingers and a flip over mit) and a hat/visor.
Also, be double sure you are dressed warm enough. It’s easier to shed a layer than to be cold all day. It can be extremely uncomfortable when we drive the boat long distances in cold weather. A paintball or an airsoft mask is great in the rain or cold weather for those long cold runs. The cold weather fishing can be awesome, but its only enjoyable when you are comfortable.
Great information Anderson. Thank you so much! Have a great 2018. Will be following your success.