I have lived in South Central Pennsylvania all of my life. I have fished the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers since I can remember chasing down my favorite foe, the Smallmouth Bass. Recently on Instgaram, I noticed a string of photos coming from the Schuylkill River. Over all these years, I have never really considered the Schuylkill as a “must fish” destination for Smallies. That is until doing this interview with Justin Bean. If you live anywhere in the area, you too are going to want to check out smallmouth bass fishing on the Schuylkill River after reading this great interview with Justin.
You fish the Schuylkill River a lot. What do you like most about fishing the Schuylkill River?
I fish the Schuylkill River whenever I get I a couple free hours to get on the water. I fish the Schuylkill River because its nice and convenient for me living so close, right outside of Reading, Pennsylvania.
What I like most about fishing the Schuylkill River is that is I grew up on this river. I spent many late nights and early mornings bank fishing and wading the river with my Dad as a kid. The Schuylkill River is what started me on loving river fishing and catching smallmouth.
How do you describe the Smallmouth Bass fishing on the Schuylkill?
The Schuylkill River in my opinion is an untouched treasure. This River holds a lot of potential for big fish, you just have to find them. The Schuylkill River has no comparison to the Susquehanna, but for being a silt filled river I’ve caught one of my biggest smallmouths last year on it measuring at 20.5 inches. Over the past five years, I’ve paddled most on the river from Hamburg to down below Pottstown area. I believe this fishery is getting better year by year with quality fish.
What do you consider a good day on the Schuylkill?
Any day on the river is a good day in my book. I’ve had days in the summer months doing all day floats that produce 25-50 fish a day. I consider that a good day on the Schuylkill River with a bonus of a 18 or 19 inch Smallie, nice Walleye or even a healthy Musky.
What are your favorite baits for smallmouth on the Schuylkill?
My all time favorite bait for smallmouth on the Schuylkill would have to be topwater whether that is a small plug or River 2 Sea Whopper Plopper.
There is no other feeling and adrenaline rush than having a big Smallmouth blow up on a top water lure. I also keep a lot of Cabin Creek, River Rock and Mizmo tubes in my yak all year round in crawfish colors. I like throwing smaller swim baits such as Keitech, Lunker City or Paul Krew hand pours on small ball head jigs or Scrounger head. I use these baits on the Schuylkill because that’s what i feel comfortable throwing and know will catch fish. You can also go out with a bag of Senkos and catch a ton of fish in a day.
I saw the Lifted Jigs on your Instagram page. What can you tell us about these baits?
I have had Lifted Jigs as a sponsor for about a year now. Joe Craimer owner of Lifted Jigs is an awesome guy and very personable when it comes to answering questions about lifted jigs products. We’ve talked many times on the phone or through Facebook answering my questions and coming up with new ideas for jigs.
When I first started talking with Joe, I asked him what makes Lifted Jigs different then any other jig out there, his response was “Quality is what i focus on and innovation is what i bring to the table.” And he wasn’t lying. Since the first day of receiving a order from Lifted Jigs, i could tell right off the bat that Joe puts a lot of pride and craftsmanship in every jig.
Where I live, I’m also not far from a couple good lakes that i have had success throwing Lifted Jigs. I like throwing the Lifted Jig 38 swim with a Keitech or Rage Craw trailer as a swim jig or bouncing it on the bottom. I also like throwing there Xplode series jig or flipping jig. What makes these baits so successful is the natural color schemes of the high quality silicone skirts that Joe make the jigs with.
How do your techniques change for Smallies on the Schuykill throughout the spring and summer seasons?
Springtime when the water is still colder but warming up, I like to use smaller profile baits such as Ned Rig , hair jigs or smaller tubes. I try to find slower deeper pools of water near a current seam. Usually in the spring, I try not to get on the water right at first light in the morning. I’ve had better luck going out mid afternoon when the water starts warming up a bit and fish get a little more active.
When summer rolls around, I’ll be on the water right at sun up throwing lures with more moving presentations looking for that reaction bite. During summer month, I’ll hit faster deeper sets of rapids with swimbaits, tubes and topwater. I had very good success with burning a Whopper Plopper 90 over rapids last summer which was the first time I’ve ever tried this method. Also remember to say here fishy fishy before every cast, that’s what my wife has found to work good for her…haha.
You fish out of a Wilderness Tarpon 120. What do you like about this fishing machine for fishing the Schuylkill?
I believe a kayak is the ideal river fishing machine. The fish won’t tell the difference if your in a two hundred dollar or 1700 hundred dollar kayak. Use whatever will get you on the water and let you enjoy the Schuylkill river has to offer.
When I first started kayak fishing i had a small Tarpon 100 with one rod holder, that’s all I needed at the time. Over the years my passion and gear progressed significantly bumping me up to a bigger yak which was a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120. I’ve had this kayak for many years and still have today as a spare for whoever want to enjoy the river with me.
Last winter i upgraded to a ATAK 120 that i absolutely love. The first thing I noticed about the boat was that it paddles and runs rapids exceptionally well. The platform for this kayak is very stable, stable enough to stand and fish out of. I’ve fished this boat a handful of times this winter and have no complaints about it. The AirPro seat is gonna make the all day tournaments or floats a breeze.
I saw you caught a nice muskie from the River. How often do you run into muskies on the Schuylkill?
Every time I’m out on the River, I’ve encountered at least one. Last summer, I probably saw at least 15 to 20 that were well over the 40 inch mark. I finally caught my first one early last fall on a sick custom spinner bait that was in the 30 inch range. The Schuylkill River is defiantly full of good size muskies.
You can follow Justin for his success on the Schuylkill River at his Instagram feed. Thank you Justin for giving us an introduction to this Pennsylvania fishery.