Tommy, that was me that said I grew up fishing for Smallmouth Bass in Connecticut! Let me tell you about how I've approached fishing the lakes in my area of CT.
The majority of my fondest fishing memories are from targeting Smallmouth in our small private lake in the Northwest part of the state. These days the Largemouth have taken over to an extent, but when I was 12 or so, it wasn't uncommon to catch a 6-pounder, and there were many in the 3-pound range.
My favorite way to target these fish were topwater and finesse techniques. When I was a kid, there was this small tackle shop in Winsted, CT, and I remember buying my first topwater bait- a black Jitterbug. Man, that thing caught so many fish, and I remember trolling it behind the boat and just waiting for one of those bronze hogs to attach it!.
These days when I fish for smallies in that same lake, and the surrounding lakes, I tend to fish with more finesse baits. My favorites are baits such as a wacky-rigged ZinkerZ or a Finesse TRD rigged with a Finesse ShroomZ jig head.
The weightless, wacky-rigged, ZinkerZ is a classic technique that has caught me a lot of smallies in that part of the state. I like to find areas that have standing stalks of submergent vegetation and cast around the perimeter of the grass, letting the ZinkerZ fall slowly to the bottom. I match the ZinkerZ with a 1/0 Trokar TK150 drop-shot hook.
The TRD on the other hand is one of my favorite finesse baits now, and I fish it around rocks, grass, docks…..you name it, I fish it. It has a very subtle gliding fall to it, and its small size appeals to all sizes of bass. It is almost like a tube, the way it falls, but it holds up a lot better, and also has a profile that is very unique compared to other baits this size. With a ShroomZ jig head, the TRD is quickly becoming a staple in my arsenal for smallmouth, largemouth and spots.
Both techniques I pair with spinning gear and 20lb Vicious Braid with a 8lb Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon leader, but will also go to a full main line in 4-6lb fluorocarbon if I'm feeling a little bit sporty.
As far as your rivers, I've never really fished any rivers in CT for bass, but I would totally give the TRD a shot because it's a rig that bass haven't seen before in many areas and I bet you can spank them on it over there.
Man I love New England!