Thanksgiving = Smallmouth

Courtesy of Brandon Card
Brandon Card on Norris Lake.

About the author

Brandon Card

Brandon Card

Tennessee’s Brandon Card, who competed for the University of Kentucky, is the first Bassmaster College Series angler to qualify for the Elite Series.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, a time to give thanks, and a time to catch some big ole brown fish.  The three or four weeks surrounding Thanksgiving is when the smallmouth bass fishing gets really good in East Tennessee.  The water temp is dropping, and the smallies start to feed heavy before winter.

On Norris Lake, my home lake, and other highland reservoirs in Tennessee, bass go through a transition phase right around Thanksgiving.  They transition from feeding on minnows and bait fish to feeding on crawfish, and this usually happens once the water temp drops below 60.  For most of the fall, smallmouth are chasing bait and can be real scattered, but as the water temp drops, they get dialed in to crawfish and gang up on certain banks. 

I can find smallmouth on most rocky banks, but the best areas usually seem to be where I can find isolated rock.  I look for long sloping pea gravel points with boulders, or clay banks with softball size rock.  By fishing small specific areas, I feel like I have better chances of catching them than if I fish down miles of rocky shoreline.  I just try to hit as many high percentage areas as I can in a day.  It is important to stay moving, because if they are not feeding on one bank, I can guarantee they are munching some where else.

My bait of choice is a Taylor Man’s 5/16 oz finesse jig (TMCLures.com) with a twin tail grub.  I’m fishing in real clear water, so I keep my color selection pretty simple.  I either use a green pumpkin/brown jig or a pb&j jig, and I always use a green pumpkin trailer.  On cloudy days, I can get away with 15 lb floro and casting gear, but on sunny days when visibility is high, I will go with 8 lb floro and spinning gear.

I stay far off the bank and make long casts to avoid spooking the fish in the clear water.  I fish the jig anywhere from 5’ to 25’ of water.  The depth of the bass usually depends on the day.  The smallies will get pretty shallow on couldy, nasty days, but tend to go deeper during the sunnier days.  I would say that my prime depth is 15’ though.  Once I figure out the depth, I just run all over the lake keying in on isolated rock areas at that depth.

No doubt, this is a special time of year.  I love the holidays, spending time with the family, and catching big smallmouths.  I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!  Don’t eat too much, because you have to be light on your feet to wrestle those biguns around the boat!

Remember to Chase Your Dreams!

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