How do I get my fishing fix during the wintertime?
Well, that's a softball-sized question when you live in northeast Tennessee. We are extremely blessed with an abundance of healthy-sized smallmouth bass, and when the short, cold and dreary days of winter set in, they get crazy. The advantages to smallmouth fishing are many, and I'll only skim the surface with a few busting the top of my list:
1. Fishing pressure decreases due to not as many people knowing how to catch them in cold water – they aren't willing to try, and many more are in tree stands, deer hunting.
2. Smallmouth bass in our deep, cold, clear and rocky reservoirs are somewhat predictable – not easy, but, predictable.
3. A handful of baits and great Lowrance electronics – like the HDS-GEN2 Touch 9 & 7 units – rigged on my 250 Mercury Pro XS-powered Nitro Z-9 enables me to catch them "video game" style or watch them eat the lures.
4. Two techniques really smoke the brown fish in water temperatures below 55 degrees.
- Tightlining a 3-inch Berkley Gulp minnow on a ⅛-oz. leadhead jig on 4-pound test line is for those of us less-patient anglers. Locate a 45-degree chunk rock bank and position your boat 45 degrees to the shore. Cast to shore and shake the rod tip – or "put the dying quiver," as the locals call it – on the Gulp minnow, only reeling enough to keep the line on a controlled slack. Allow the jig to free fall as a pendulum, prevent it from touching the bottom and never move it horizontally. This is a super-productive technique that is still a closely guarded local secret.
- Vertically fishing a Damiki Armour Shad 3 on a ¼- to ½-oz. lead head, 8-pound fluorocarbon fishing line and gently moving the bait just above the smallies located via electronics is an exciting method and entices big bronze backs from the depths of 25 feet to 65 feet.
- Both techniques enable you to greatly reduce your gear and tackle, and in return, lightens the load on your boat for more speed and better gas mileage. Translated in fishinese, means MORE trips for less money!
Gear-up with a Frabil FXE Snosuit, good base layers, 7' Medium action Kistler Z-Bone rods, Bass Pro Pro Shops Pro Quallifier spinning reels, quality boots, Cabela's fishing gloves, and your days on the water will be memorable, for all the right reasons!
Never, never, never take off on the water without a functional Personal Flotation Device. Bass Pro Shops AM24 Auto/Manual Life Vest is comfortable and could save your life, if the unmentionable happens and you go overboard in the icy waters.
I'm Nathan Light, Host of 3B Outdoors TV and Sevierville, TN Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer, Mercury and Nitro Pro Team member, and I approve these techniques and gear.
Nathan E. Light