Fixed-Line Fly Fishing Trip Reports Video Warmwater

High Noon on the Wisconsin River: Remembering A Tenkara Rod Smallmouth Showdown

It wasn’t tenkara in the strict sense of the term, but it was a day of tenkara rod fishing I’ll never forget. A buddy of mine had been telling me tales of wild, ravenous, big river Smallmouth bass schooling up and “crashing” baitfish on the Wisconsin river. We set out via canoe to find them, and lucked into a very active spot where the bass where herding their victims into the shallows every 5-10 minutes. The game went like this:

  1. Stand ready to cast, like an old west gunslinger, watching the suspect water for the first disturbance.
  2. DRAW! I mean, CAST! The first flash of foam means it’s time to launch that crease fly popper (a small, fishy looking surface fly) and jig it straight through the resulting mayhem. The bass are swallowing little silver fish right and left, thrashing the surface, baitfish are jumping and flying in every direction trying to escape, total chaos. The perfect environment to drag that tackle across. When we timed it right, we got a nice 14+ inch Smallmouth in every case.
  3. The section of river along the island we fished from had a lot of room for the fish to run, and the line system was a long one, so whoever wasn’t fishing worked the net.
  4. Send those Bronzeback monsters back to the deep, dodging the signature tail-slap splash they like to hit you with in retribution for having caught them. Fair enough.

Its true that I love to explore traditionally defined tenkara rod fishing, but this kind of experience is something else. The kind of fun you have when you push the boundaries of your systems and skills is not to be overlooked. My weapon of choice for larger fish in strong current at the time was the early version of the WISCO2 rod (now offered by Tenkara Adventure Outfitters) and these days, I’d happily add the Dragontail Hellbender to my quiver for throwing floating line and poppers at bigger prey. Both rods have the right strength & flex to manage more challenging conditions, but still fish like a more traditional rod.

Here’s an old Badger video of a few of that day’s catches. What you cant hear is the constant laughter, hootin’ and hollerin’ going on as we caught fish after fish. There is nothing quite like “big river Smallies” on tenkara rods!


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