This is one of the coldest times of the year to be outdoors, but for the hard-core smallmouth bass angler it can be one of the best times of the year to catch a trophy smallmouth bass.
A lot of winter anglers are willing to face freezing temps for the chance to catch a smallmouth bass of a lifetime because the winter months are prime time to hook up with a lunker smallie. Smallmouth in the five-pound-plus range and several nice bass on one trip are not uncommon at this time of year.
There are several things that will give you an advantage when planning a winter smallmouth trip. First, check the weather of the area to which you plan to travel. Then plan your trip to a lake that has a reputation for being a good winter smallmouth lake. These types of lakes are basically the deeper, clearer water lakes.
We are blessed to have several lakes like this in a three-hour or shorter drive from our area — lakes like Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland, Paintsville Lake and the most famous smallmouth lake of them all and my favorite lake, Dale Hollow, which is home to the largest smallmouth bass on record (11 pounds, 15 ounces).
This lake is home to several species of trophy fish like the smallmouth bass, musky, walleye, trout and crappie. This lake is divided by the Kentucky- Tennessee state line in places. Tennessee also has many topnotch winter smallmouth bass fisheries. Lakes like Cherokee, Norris, Old Hickory and others are all good choices.
Before you head out on your trip, try to call and talk to a local tackle shop or find some type of updated fishing report on the lake. When you get to the lake talk to local fisherman and people around the boat docks to get the latest fishing information.
If you are going to be using artificial baits, you can use shad-colored crank baits and also darkercolored baits also. Baits like hair jigs, tube baits, and curly tail grubs fished on small jig heads can work well for winter smallmouth. Blade baits like the silver buddy and vertical jigging spoons work well also.
Live bait like shiners work well. And when the water and weather is at its coldest, the float and fly is the way to go.
I will cover all of these patterns in more detail soon.