I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of the guys seem to be worried about picking the right lure during the winter. Lure choice is always a consideration but I think some of their worry is too much about that and not enough about understanding smallmouth bass. Lots of different lures will make them bite, if you fish the right place and at the right depth. A lure is a tool.
As far as this year is concerned, you have to remember that it’s been really wet and really warm. The lakes and rivers are high; here in Tennessee, the water’s still at 50 degrees or better. This is not a normal year. That means fishing hasn’t been normal.
Whenever the water is low during the winter, the fish will mostly be found out in the main lake. But if it’s high they’ll move back into the creeks. That’s even more so if it’s warm. So, guess what? A lot of the smallies this year have been caught back in the creeks. That’s not because of what the guys are fishing with. It’s because that’s where the fish are.
Really, what they’re doing is following the baitfish, and the baitfish are back where it’s warmest. That brings us to another thing. When the baitfish are in the creeks they usually suspend. That means the smallies will be suspended right along with them, usually a few feet below them. This calls for a horizontal presentation. That’ll keep your lure in the strike zone longer.
The best technique for this kind of fishing is the float-and-fly. It gives the bass a small bait that moves along very naturally. Another great option is a small tailspinner cranked slowly along in a horizontal manner.
There are a bunch of them on the market. One of the oldest — and a good one — is the Little George. My preference is the Little Sparkie or a new lure we’ve developed here at Punisher Lures called the Snow Spin. Both the Little George and the Little Sparkie have treble hooks hanging from their bellies. The Snow Spin is different.
It’s basically a 1/4-ounce jighead molded on a single hook with a small plastic, grub-like body. We attached a No. 3 Colorado blade to the bend of the hook. It has about as small a profile as you’re going to get but, at the same time, it has a fairly large hook that’ll hold a big smallie. We throw it on spinning tackle, count it down until it’s in between the baitfish and the smallmouth, and bring it straight back to the boat.
What I’ve been talking about will work with the high water and warm winter weather we’ve been having. As I write this (Thursday evening) much of our smallmouth country is turning cold. Once that cools the water down we’ll have to look at another way to catch them. For now, however, a horizontal presentation back in the creeks is your best bet.