River smallmouth bass during winter


I take pleasure in the additional minutes of sunlight each day brings during winter. The extra fifteen minutes a week becomes noticeable by early February. However, winter is what it is. Each new day promises a few added moments of daylight but is often accompanied by bitterly cold weather and cutting winds. Like all anglers, my available fishing time is not well synchronized with the weather forecast so many times my only choice is to fish when conditions are extreme. Nevertheless, I’ve found a window of opportunity that produces good fishing throughout the cold water period despite the weather. The only condition required to capitalize on it is increased water flow in a river close by that holds smallmouth bass. In the heart of the TVA system where I live, heavy generation from dams is common throughout winter because of increased power demands. So when generation and water flow increases, despite the weather, I visit a local river to catch a few smallmouth bass.

A few hours in the afternoon when temperatures peak is enough to enjoy this fishing experience. If it is cold and windy, add an extra layer of clothing. When it snows, add heavier, waterproof outerwear and boots. But don’t let cold weather stop you if the river is full and running swift, although there is a limit. The river shouldn’t be so high the water is out of the banks; high and swift is ideal, flood stage is not. Good water clarity isn’t crucial although heavily stained water limits the fish’s strike zone and may negatively affect success. Under high-water conditions, smallmouth bass move out of the cold, swift water to shoreline eddies. Find safe access with secure footing along the shore and you’ll be a short pitch-cast away from some fine fishing. Use weedless lures you can fish slowly through slack water and you can find fish willing to strike. Strikes are often subtle, detected more by line movement than by feel. So cover water slowly and thoroughly as you watch your line. You will be sold on this method of fishing the first time you set the hook, the rod bows, and a big smallmouth bass begins thrashing on the surface. Access to a river is easy to find where walking trails, city parks, and highways are present or permission can be obtained to cross private property. If it’s a river system you fish during warm weather, focus on sections that attract and hold smallmouth bass during summer because many will produce good fishing during winter.

I discovered this method of catching smallmouth bass in rivers during winter many years ago. Though I’ve never seen it described in a sporting publication or on television, I have met a few anglers who enjoy catching bass this way. If you live close to a river that holds smallmouth bass and would like to learn more, there’s a feature story in my book in the chapter on winter fishing that describes the tackle, lures, and methods of presentation I employ to catch these great game fish in rivers when the snow begins to fall. If you try it, let me know how you do and anything new you learn because information about his type of fishing is extremely limited. Be safe and great fishing!

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Posted on February 3, 2012, in Winter Fishing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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