Pros’ picks for springtime river fishing

As the pros gear up on their off day of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, we wanted to pick their brains on some of their favorite springtime river fishing baits.
Chickamauga Lake is a Tennessee River impoundment that provides a unique set of challenges to these anglers, so we wanted them to break it down in three categories, or as we’ll call it, the three S’s of springtime fishing – speed up (cover water), slow down (pick apart an area), see one (bed fishing). Each pro made their picks for each individual category.
Austin Felix
Speed up: Austin’s choice for speeding up and covering water is a 3/4-ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait.
“It’ll run through anything,” he said. “You can run it down a bank, slow roll it down steep banks or roll it down a laydown. It just gets bit all the time in the springtime.”
A suspending jerkbait is Felix’s choice for slowing down.
“Being that it’s a suspending jerkbait, you can slow it down if you feel like you need to.” said Felix. “When you’re using Active Target, you have the ability to target that fish with the jerkbait.”
If Felix sees a fish on a bed, his go-to is a Yamamoto Senko.
“It just gets bit across the county no matter what you’re doing honestly,” he said with a laugh.
Jake Whitaker
For covering water, Whitaker chooses a 1/2-ounce vibrating jig with a Big Bite Baits Kamikaze Swimon.
“You can fish it in grass, hard cover or boat docks,” he said. “You can literally fish whatever is in front of you, and they just bite it in the springtime.”
For slowing down, Whitaker likes a 1/2-ounce Arkie style jig with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog as a trailer.
“It’s a very versatile bait early in the year,” Whitaker said. “You can flip it on boat docks and laydowns or just drag it across points. It gets big bites.”
If he sees a fish on bed, he likes to fish a wacky-rigged Big Bite Baits Trick Stick.
“You can stay pretty far away from a bed fish with this Tick Stick and get them to bite it,” he said.
Bryan New
Bryan New couldn’t just pick one bait for speeding up and covering water. The South Carolina pro sticks with a 1/2-ounce vibrating jig paired with a Zoom Super Fluke, a Spro Little John MD and a Spro Aruku Shad lipless crankbait.
For slowing down, New picks up a 1/2-ounce Greenfish Tackle All-Purpose Jig paired with a Zoom Big Salty Chunk.
“This is what I’ll just pick everything apart with,” he said. “Really anything that’s in front of you – stumps, laydowns or even throwing to a hard spot. If I catch a few in an area on moving baits, I’ll go back through with the jig.”
When New spots a fish on a bed, he’ll typically grab a Texas-rigged Z-Craw Jr. which he pairs with a Gamakatsu flipping hook and a light weight.
“This really goes for slowing down too, but the Z-Craw Jr. is a deadly bed fishing bait.”
Jacob Powroznik
For covering water, Powroznik winds a Livingston Lures Howeller Dream Master Classic Square Team.
“It’s just a good bait for going down the bank with,” he said. “I throw it around rocks, laydowns or whatever else gets in the way.”
Powroznik slows down with a Yamamoto Senko rigged in a variety of different ways.
“I can wacky worm it, Texas rig it and just pitch it around,” said Powroznik.
When it comes to sight fishing, Powroznik picks up a Texas-rigged Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog.
“There’s a bunch of different colors to choose from, but a simple green pumpkin with chartreuse tails is my go-to bait.”
Greg Hackney
When it comes to covering water, Hackney likes a 1/2-ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad.
“There’s a lot of flats on the Tennessee River where fish like to stage,” said Hackney. “The Tennesee River is dominated by shad, so a shad pattern is hard to beat.”
Although it’s still a reaction lure, Hackney likes to slow down with a Strike King KVD 300 Jerkbait.
“This time of the year if we get a cold front, those fish will tend to linger out a little deeper,” he said.
When Hackney visually sees a fish, he’ll pick up a Texas-rigged Strike King Rodent with a light weight.
Koby Kreiger
For covering water, Kreiger opts to throw a Strike King Chick Magnet crankbait.
“I like to burn this bait over chunk rock banks and mud banks where they stage up before they spawn.”
When Kreiger wants to slow down, he picks up a V&M Chopstick worm.
“I’m not much of a slow down kind a of guy, but when I do, I like to use the V&M Chopstick,” he said. “I pitch it to all types of cover like rocks, trees or dock posts.”
For sight fishing, Powroznik likes a Texas-rigged creature bait.