Winter Smallmouth Tactics and Tips

Winter Smallmouth Tactics and Tips

So, you’re thinking of planning a trip for Winter Smallmouth.  It's the time of year that a lot of smallmouth bass fisherman look forward to each year. Mid-south lakes such as Tim’s Ford, Dale Hollow, Pickwick, and Wilson are some of the best in the nation for winter fishing and they are on fire. It’s over the next couple of months, when the air temps are cold and the water temps reaches that magical 48 to 53 degree range. This may sound like a cold time of the year and it is, but to a smallmouth bass angler it means that some of the hottest fishing of the year is here. The smallmouth unlike the large mouth will remain active in the cooler winter water. After the water temps fall below the 50 degree range the large mouth bass will become much less active and will move to deeper warmer areas of the lake to hold till spring. But the smallmouth bass will remain active all winter and this is also a big fish season.

During this time of year the smallmouth in the deeper clear lakes will start to school up on main lake structure and points. Areas like steep sloping points, deep chunk rock banks with transition areas to gravel and under water humps and where two or more creek channels meet are prime areas for winter smallies. As for bait choices you can use the water temps as a guide. When the water temperatures range between 56 to 64 you can throw top water baits, Jigs, Spinnerbaits and start testing crankbaits.  Top water lures such as SPRO Dawg 100’s or Pop-R’s can produce some explosive top water strikes. As the water cools down the crank bait action will really heat up.  Also this whole time you can also use jigs, tubes, live bait like a shiners or chubs if you prefer.

 Next time you’re planning a trip to the water try these 5 tips for winter smallmouth bass fishing!


Locating Winter Smallmouth:  While fishing breaks in the current is always a good idea, it is especially true during the winter. In the cold, fish need to conserve energy to survive the difficult conditions. This will cause smallmouth to stay out of the current behind rocks and logs and in wider areas of the river where the current is slower. Any area that is receiving sunlight on cold days is likely to hold bass as well.  Banks which descend at 45 degrees are great places to start.


Watch the Weather:  While I’m a firm believer that anytime on the water is a good time!  If your time is limited than plan your trips around weather changes. The best days might be any unseasonably warm day during the winter, but fishing before a cold front or any other weather change can also be productive.


Lure Selection:

In general, when pursuing winter smallmouth you should use variety of different lures until you establish a pattern “it can change daily” and fish them in 5 to 30 foot of water. Fish the lures slowly as winter smallies are made some what lethargic by the cold water. Stay aware of the lure’s action in the water as well, as winter strikes are light and if you are not careful you might miss a strike. Again, as when fishing anytime of the year, switch lure size and tactics until you find something that works for the winter smallmouth in your area.  I typically start with ½ ounce Football Head Jigs, SPRO Little John DD Crankbaits and Spot Removers with small plastics such as a Missile Baits Baby D-Bomb.


Stay Out of Sight

Winter water is often crystal clear. It is important to take steps to stay out of sight of the smallmouth bass in this clear water. When fishing from the bank, stay back from the water as far as possible and avoid casting your shadow over the water. When boat fishing, slowly approach areas where you want to fish and use your boat’s motor sparingly. Use the lightest practical line on your reel as the line will be more visible to the fish in the clear water. Do not wear bright colored clothing such as hunters orange or white!


Safety and Comfort

You should avoid fishing solo in cold weather. As a fall into freezing water can be deadly, you should bring a fishing buddy along on your winter fishing trips. In addition to having someone along to help out in case of an emergency, you should dress well to protect against the cold. Always, let someone know what area(s) of the lake you’ll be fishing and expected time of your return home!!!


While winter smallmouth bass fishing can be miserable, the cold weather of winter can often be the most productive time of the year for giant smallmouth. Let’s Go Fish ‘in


Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed professional fishing guide on Lake Guntersville, Tim’s Ford Lake and Nickajack Lake; to reserve your “Day on the Lake” visit or call/email 615-613-2382,




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