Toward an understanding of nanoparticle-bacterial interactions and the development of sensors and other substrates for controlled bacterial adhesion, this article describes the influence of flow on the initial stages of bacterial capture (Staphylococcus aureus) on surfaces containing cationic nanoparticles. A PEG (poly(ethylene glycol)) brush on the surface around the nanoparticles sterically repels the bacteria. Variations in ionic strength tune the Debye length from 1 to 4 nm, increasing the strength and range of the nanoparticle attractions toward the bacteria. At relatively high ionic strengths (physiological conditions), bacterial capture requires several nanoparticle-bacterial contacts, termed "multivalent capture". At low ionic strength and gentle wall shear rates (on the order of 10 s(-1)), individual bacteria can be captured and held by single surface-immobilized nanoparticles. Increasing the flow rate to 50 s(-1) causes a shift from monovalent to divalent capture. A comparison of experimental capture efficiencies with statistically determined capture probabilities reveals the initial area of bacteria-surface interaction, here about 50 nm in diameter for a Debye length κ(-1) of 4 nm. Additionally, for κ(-1) = 4 nm, the net per nanoparticle binding energies are strong but highly shear-sensitive, as is the case for biological ligand-receptor interactions. Although these results have been obtained for a specific system, they represent a regime of behavior that could be achieved with different bacteria and different materials, presenting an opportunity for further tuning of selective interactions. These finding suggest the use of surface elements to manipulate individual bacteria and nonfouling designs with precise but finite bacterial interactions.