It’s the time of season many smallmouth bass fisherman look forward to each year — the time when the air temperatures are cold and water temperatures reach the magical 48- to 53-degree range.
This may sound like a cold time of the year — and it is — but to a smallmouth bass angler it means that some of the hottest fishing of the year is here. The smallmouth, unlike the largemouth, will remain active in the cooler winter water. After the water temperature falls below the 50 degree range, largemouth bass become much less active and move to deeper, warmer areas of the lake to hold until spring. Smallmouth bass will remain active all winter, which is also a “big fish” season.
Some people ask how you can tell a smallmouth bass from a largemouth bass. There are several ways to tell them apart. Both have what is called a lateral line that runs the full length of the fish’s body. The lateral line runs down the back of the bass and is a series of nerves that connect to the brain and nerves system of the bass. A bass uses this to detect vibrations coming from bait fish or crawdads, or some type of food splashing around on the surface. And also to detect danger.
On a largemouth, the lines on the fish run horizontally with the body. Lines on the smallmouth run vertically.
Another way to tell the difference in the two bass is to look at the mouth. The mouth of the largemouth runs much farther back than the smallmouth does. But you can ask any bass angler who has caught both types of bass and most will say the smallmouth bass will fight and pull harder than the largemouth.
During this time of year the smallmouth in the deeper clear lakes will start to school up on key main lake structure — areas like steep sloping points and deep chunk rock banks and underwater humps, and where two or more creek channels meet.
As for bait choices you can use the water temperature as a guide. In the high to mid 50 degree range you can throw a top water or a buzz bait and get some explosive top water strikes. When the temperature cools down a few more degrees you can throw a crank bait or a spinner bait. In the low 50 degree range you can go to a jig or tube bait. You can also use live bait such a shiner or chub the entire winter.
The float and fly is suggested for the coldest part of the winter. Many fisherman do not know much about this deadly winter smallmouth pattern but I am going to do a full story on this later.
There are several top winter smallmouth lakes in the region — Dale Hollow, Lake Cumberland, Laurel, and Paintsville in Kentucky, and Cherokee and Norris in Tennessee.
If you have any pictures of smallmouth to share or anything fishing related, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org