Ontario.  Erie.  St. Lawrence River.  Champlain.  Oneida.  Seneca.  Cayuga.  These are the names you hear thrown around when people talk about monster smallmouth bass in NY.  What if there was another name that belonged in that group, an overlooked body of water that went unappreciated?  What if I said come to NY and we will catch 5 and 6 pound smallmouth all day long.

Oh, and we’re gonna do it between Binghamton and Owego in the Susquehanna River.

jim root smallmouth bass
Two of My Susquehanna River Smallies

Most people would think that was crazy.  But in all honesty, people who know that river and have had the kind of days that I’ve had will forgo the long rides to any of the aforementioned bodies of water, trading it for the solitude and pure awesomeness that the Sus provides.  Not only are the fish big and strong, but add a little current to a five pound smallmouth, and you’ll find yourself chasing it on your trolling motor.  What’s great about this river is that it’s surprisingly clean (at least to look at, I’m not a biologist by any means), vast, deep, has plenty of access points, and there aren’t tons of guys fishing it which is really what I like the most.  On any day of the week you can pull into a parking lot at Oneida and find at least 10 other boats, and there are multiple lots.  Chances are really good you’ll be alone at the Sus.  The less fishing pressure, the more likely you’ll be successful without having to work too hard to find them.  There’s also been a lot of flooding over the past 4 or 5 years in Upstate NY, which has undoubtedly pushed large numbers of fish from the smaller rivers to the deeper holes in the Sus.

If you’re the type of angler who likes structure, this has it all:  eddys, bridges both current and broken, old road beds, pea gravel, boulders, bends, deep pools, points, submerged vegetation, slow water, fast water.  This wide open variety of habitat really allows people to target fish in many different areas, so you can focus on your strengths or use it to increase your knowledge and ability in areas or tactics that you’re not as strong in, or that maybe you just haven’t tried.  For instance, on my last trip there I caught fish on the remnants of an old bridge as well as on a new bridge, off a point, on a bank, and on a ledge.  I caught them cranking, on a jerkbait, and ripping a Rat-L-Trap through the grass flats.  In just under 3 hours, we caught over 40 fish.  Many of those fish were at and above the 4lb mark.

I highly recommend people give this river a shot.  I know people in PA rave about it, and it really is a tremendous fishery.  I haven’t even touched on the largemouth, walleye, pike, musky, and other species there.  My advice is to talk to some local bait shops in the Southern Tier.  They’re very knowledgeable about where to launch and where you can run and where you can’t, that way you can get a little help before you launch and find yourself in hazardous waters.  Like all rivers, it’s really important that you navigate unknown waters cautiously.

And for what it’s worth, it gets even better in the fall…


  1. I live within 20 minutes of the area you are talking about and came to know it very well. The Susquehanna River is by far my favorite area for smallmouth fishing. It does take time to learn and understand river fishing but when you do, it’s a great time.

  2. I have been fishing rivers for brown fish for about 40 years and once a person learns how to read the current they’ll catch more fish and have more fun than lake fishing. I fish the Tennessee River. Also I have a jig business and I ship lots of goby and tube heads up that way….

  3. Jim, I’m really close to the Susky too. Can you put a bass boat on that stretch of river? I’m thinking from Hiawatha Park on down past Appalachin and such.

    • There are many places along the Sus from Owego to Bainbridge that will accommodate a bass boat. That picture up above was taken on a 19 foot Javelin, after we fished the stretch near Conklin Ave. There are so many that I don’t even know them all.
      The Hiawatha Park area can be accessed from Old Vestal Road, and I know you can easily fish from there down to the first bridge, IF the water level is ok. We tried to fish that stretch on my birthday (August 11th) but the water was so low we couldn’t get the boat off the trailer.
      Best thing to do is find the local bait shops and ask them just to be sure, and take it real slow the first couple times. That Conklin Ave stretch can be really good, though.

    • It really depends on a lot. How far do you want to go, do you want to catch a lot of fish, or would you rather only catch a handful with a chance at one big one?

      Personally, I really like the stretch where I posted some pics here on August 4th. Here’s a link: http://www.fishidy.com/map/catch/53dfa60666b0170ed84f3ef7

      Right now you gotta throw a Rat-L-Trap, Fire Tiger is the best color. You can catch 40 fish from bridge to bridge in this stretch, with many over 4 pounds. Cover a lot of water.

  4. Have fished the Susq in Binghamton area for 30 yrs,, just purchased a 8.5 ft SunDolphin two seater, gonna toss a 40lb thrust trolling motor on it and get back on the river this summer, as mentioned it’s truly an awesome fishery. going to hit the Vestal, NY stretch wanting to get into some big Walleye’s, that area is known to produce em.. if you have a boat such as mine there’s no place u cant go, if you have more boat, have to pay attention, gets skinny in spots…save my 20ft cuddy for Seneca, the little Sundolphin at $500, is a jem

    • Hi Guys,
      I have a baseball team of 11 twelve year old boys and most of them
      love fishing. We are going to cooperstown for a tournament at all star village but we are all going to Binghamton a day early. Question, is there a good spot to fish off banks or a pier close .
      Thanks we will be there july 31st

      • Jim,
        I sent you an email. There’s great shore fishing where I went in this article and you can easily catch some great smallies.
        There’s another sweet spot in Oneonta as well. Near the Neptune Diner (I think that’s what it’s called) near the Walmart. There’s a waterfall there.

        • Jim,
          I’m going to be visiting relatives in Endicott on April 25 & to 27 this year. Any suggestions on shore fishing along the banks that you can recommend that is close? (5 Mile either way)? I’m taking my In-Laws up from Indiana to visit family and would love to sneak away for a brief cast therapy after being in the car for a multi-day trip! Any info would be much appreciated. James

        • Hi Jim

          I know the spot, the Neptune is no longer there, it is now a strip mall but there is still a parking lot.

          Do you fish above or below the waterfall.