You may not know it, but right now is a great time to catch a giant smallmouth bass. My friend, the late Billy Westmoreland — the best smallmouth angler who ever lived — hooked the biggest smallmouth of his life on Christmas Day in the early 1970s.
That fish haunted him for years. He used to lie awake nights thinking about it, wondering what it was doing, whether it was feeding and whether or not he'd ever have another chance to catch it. Sometimes, when he thought the bass might be feeding in the same area, he'd get up in the middle of the night and fish for it.
Unfortunately, Billy never caught that fish, which he said was bigger than the world record. But we can still catch the bass of our lives, and now is a great time to do it.
If I was after the biggest bass of my life right now — and I almost always am! — I'd be sure to have four baits tied on. I think they represent the very best chance at a giant in winter.
Believe it or not, my number one choice would be a tiny 1/16-ounce float and fly jig. I like the Punisher duck feather model with the chartreuse belly. It looks natural, but also has a little bit of brightness to attract attention.
At this time of year, there are a lot of bass suspending, and there's no better way to catch them than with a float and fly. If they're targeting shad, that small jig is just the ticket.
Number two would have to a swimbait, but not just any swimbait. I like the 4-inch Berkley Hollow Belly in Tennessee shad. I fish it on a Punisher 1/4-ounce leadhead with a 4/0 hook and long shank. Few baits do a better job of imitating a big threadfin or gizzard shad — a mouthful even for a big smallie.
Get the swimbait down to the right depth and zero in on the retrieve that best makes it swim in a lazy, easy-to-grab motion. When a big smallmouth eats it, they often just make your bait feel heavy. Wait for the line to tighten and slam the hook home!
My third choice is a 1/2-ounce Silver Buddy in chrome. Billy Westmoreland called it the best smallmouth lure ever devised, and he should have liked it since he helped Buddy Banks design it back in the 1960s.
The best retrieve for the Silver Buddy is a simple lift and drop. Let it get to the bottom and lift it up, then let it fall back. The colder the water, the less you want to lift it. Expect your strikes to come on the fall.
My last choice for a trophy smallmouth at this time of year is a 3/8-ounce hair jig in light green or light brown. Crawfish are lighter in color at this time of year than any other.
For a jig trailer, I like to go "old school." I use pork. My favorite trailer is the Uncle Josh No. 11 in green pumpkin. It's got terrific action behind that jig.
Give these four baits a try … right now.
You just might catch the smallmouth of your life!
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.