Fishing Smallmouth In The Winter: Tactics To Catching Cold Water Bass

Fishing Smallmouth In The Winter: Tactics To Catching Cold Water Bass thumbnail

Wintertime smallmouth fishing can be a challenge as bass push out to deep water when winter winds start spitting snow and the thermometer nudges the freezing mark. While smallmouth tend to stay deeper than their largemouth cousins most of the year, brown bass dwell in some of their deepest sanctuaries in the dead of winter. Finding these deep fish requires map reading skills and good electronics. The fish practically sit on the bottom and are sometimes inactive so you really have to fine tune your electronics to find them.

On Southern waters such as the chain of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lakes, smallmouth usually congregate at depths of 25 to 35 feet along breaklines where you can rely on vertical presentations to trick these bottom-hugging bass. Keeping a constant vigil on your electronics will help you stay on top of the breakline and keep your lure in the strike zone the whole time.

On highland reservoirs, you can catch deep smallmouth with a horizontal presentation by casting to channel swings. Here are some vertical and horizontal presentations to try for deep wintertime smallmouth.

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter: Vertical Tactics

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

Dropping a 3/4-ounce nickel hammered jigging spoon to the bottom and popping it off the lake floor is a productive wintertime smallmouth tactic.
As the spoon drops to the bottom, scan your graph for bass streaking up to the lure. Once your spoon reaches the bottom, work the lure in a subtle fashion. Just pop your rod tip maybe 2 to 3 inches, which is moving that spoon from about 1 foot to 18 inches off the bottom.

If smallmouth ignore the spoon switch to a drop-shot rig with a 4-inch finesse worm and hold that bait dead still on the bottom.

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter: Horizontal Presentations

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

Jigs and tube baits are top choices for smallmouth when the fish are deeper than 25 feet along the channel swings. Position your boat a slight distance from the channel swing and cast your lure to the structure. Let the lure fall to the bottom and slowly move it along the lake’s floor. The key to this presentation is keeping in constant contact with the bottom and making subtle hops or shakes with your rod.

Smallmouth on the channel swings are usually feeding on crawfish or shad so select a 1/2-ounce casting jig tipped with a large plastic chunk in green pumpkin hues or a gray shad tube bait on a 1/4-ounce tube jighead to imitate the forage.

Lures are tools

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Kayak Combat!

I know you hear all the time that lures are nothing more than tools. The thing is, though, it’s true. And nowhere was that more obvious than in our filming of the .

It was early fall so the bass were in a transition mode. We launched our big BassCat with the Hobie kayak onboard. When we got to a backwater area we dropped the kayak into the water and went on back into a place that wasn’t accessible any other way. It was basically a perfect spot for what we wanted.

There was a mixture of hydrilla and coontail that was still bright green. That mattered because most of the vegetation was starting to turn brown. The green growth — it was slightly submerged — was a magnet for small baitfish. And, in the fall when you find baitfish you find bass.

Molix Lover buzzbait
Molix Lover

We needed a bait that matched the hatch and that we could get down into the grass. But it also had to be a bait that wouldn’t foul on every cast. Our choice was obvious — a Molix Lover.

What made our choice so simple was that the Lover is just about the right size for fall baitfish and, at the same time, its design allows it to work through grass without fouling or hanging globs and strings of grass every time we brought it out of the grass. When that happens you’ve pretty much wasted a cast or, at the very least, not gotten what you should have out of it.

The blade on a Molix Lover is fixed so it kind of works like a windshield wiper. It moves back and forth and as it does that it brushes most of the vegetation off to the side.

That feature was critical because we wanted to cast our lure out, let it fall into the grass, pull it back out with an upward motion and then feather it back down into the grass. You can’t do that with most vibrating jigs. They’ll hang in the grass and once that happens they don’t vibrate properly.

Molix Lover
Molix Lover

Our choice was a 3/8-ounce size in black and blue. We used a Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw as a trailer. I cut it down about an inch in length and removed the pincers. That gave me the size and action I needed.

We were in a kayak so we were close to the water. I wanted a longer rod to make sure I got a solid hookset. My choice was a 7 foot, 6 inch, medium-heavy spinning rod with a fair amount of tip from Abu Garcia. I mounted a 30 size Premier reel to it and spooled it with 15-pound-test Berkley braid. I used a 2 foot fluorocarbon leader. (Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon)

The experience doing this show was phenomenal. Being right down on the water with the fish was something I’ll always treasure. Watch the film a couple of times and you’ll see what I’m talking about and why I’m becoming addicted to kayak fishing.

At the professional level nothing replaces a top-quality full-size bass boat like a BassCat. But for other situations nothing replaces the access to unfished waters and the outdoors experience a Hobie kayak gives you. Try it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Tailgate Talks: How To Set Up A Nymph Rig

As any seasoned trout angler will tell you, fishing subsurface is a far more effective way of putting flies in front of feeding fish. Despite being less celebrated than fishing dries, nymphing is an art form unto itself and it begins with rigging. This video explains the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the features of a nymph rig, discussing everything between the end of your fly line and the bugs, from tippet to knots to indicators to weights.


It’s About Changing Direction

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Crankbait - blue backAnybody who has followed my career and what I’ve said about crankbait fishing over the years knows that I always want to change direction with my crankbait as I wind it back to the boat. I can’t remember a time when I threw one out and just brought it back through open water. As far as I’m concerned that’s a wasted cast.

There are a lot of ways to get a change of direction. You can move your rod tip left and right, or up and down. That’ll work. But, the easiest way is to just bang it into something. It’ll deflect naturally and in a way that’ll trigger the predator instinct of a bass. That’s the way I do it whenever I can.

The reasons why I do that are obvious if you watched our latest episode of Going Ike!, Landfill Bass. We were fishing a well-managed landfill lake in the fall that was full of bass. They were stacked up, right outside the bays, cuts and creeks.

It was a classic fall transition situation. The fish were moving from their summer holding areas but weren’t yet into their full, crazy fall feeding patterns. If they had been actively feeding, it would have been a perfect setup for a video show. But they weren’t. So, we had to do something to trigger their predator instinct — make them bite.

I reached for a crankbait. It’s the best reaction bait I know about, especially when there’s rock on the bottom in 5 and 6 feet of water like there was in our landfill lake. The situation was perfect for a crankbait that had a running depth of around 6 feet.

Without a moment’s hesitation I grabbed a Rapala DT6. They run at just the right depth to hit the rocks on the bottom, deflect and change direction. (In case you don’t know: The DT on Rapala crankbaits stand for “dives to.”)

We selected an Ike’s Custom Ink color, blueback herring. It looks like a blueback herring but it also qualifies as a great classic shad-type of color. Better yet, it matched the local forage, size and color perfectly.

We used Abu Garcia composite rods that have a really nice parabolic bend. They’re part of my Signature Series that I designed just for this type of fishing. Check them out if you’re in the market for a new crankin’ stick.

I’m going to be brutal here: I know glass rods are popular for crankbaiting, but I’ll put the composites we offer up against any rod you can buy or make. Our rods will give you the same delay that you need when you’re fishing crankbaits but with the added advantages of being more durable and cost effective. Mount an Abu reel spooled with Berkley line to one and you have as good a combination as can be bought.

What I just described is the same tackle I use to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series. If there was anything out there that would help me catch more fish, I’d be using it — and I’m not.

Give this technique a try when you’re faced with the same or similar conditions. At the end of the day you’ll be glad you did.

How To Catch Bass In Crystal Clear Water

Clear water scares a lot of fishermen but it doesn’t have to! When its crystal clear there are some changes you need to make to your equipment and your lures but once you’ve done that, it can be some of the most enjoyable fishing you’ll ever do. Don’t be intimidated, learn how to adapt, and the next time you find yourself staring at the bass as they swim along you’ll know what to do.

The key to clear water is finesse. There are exceptions to the rule (mainly big baits) but as a whole you want to drop down to lighter lines and clearer lures. Solid colors and thick lines are the kiss of death in crystal clear water. However “finesse” and “clear” are both relative terms so on one fishery you might need to use 4 lb test, the next you can get away with 8 lb. Don’t assume you have to go to extremes right off the bat.

Below is a breakdown of all the methods Tim discussed. We’ll include links to all of his favorite baits for clear water and even recommend a couple colors for each.

Tim’s Favorite Budget Friendly Finesse Combo…

Rod- Zodias 7′ Medium Light:

Reel- Stradic CI4+ 2500:

Line- 10 lb Power Pro Braid:

Leader- 6 lb Sunline Sniper:

The Finesse Baits…

-Straight Tail Worm- Roboworm 4″ Fat:

(Hologram Shad, Pro Staff Peoples Worm)

-Shaped Worm- Strike King Half Shell:

(KVD Magic, Smoke Gold Purple Flake)

-Finesse Tube- Dry Creek 3.5″ Tube:

(Old Ugly, Watermelon Pepper)

-Tube Head- 3/16 oz Bite Me Flat Eye:

-Senko- 5″ Yamamoto Senko:

(Natural Shad, Baby Bass)

-Wacky Hook- Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Size 1/0:

The Reaction Baits…

-Jerkbait- Staysee 90:

(Ghost Minnow, American Shad)

-Glide Bait- S Waver 168:

(Light Trout, Party Crasher)

-Swimbait- 6″ Osprey:

(TW Shad Shad, Shad 087)

-Topwater- River2Sea Rover 128:

(Abalone Shad, Ghost Minnow)


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13 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000

13 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000 thumbnail

When looking for a kayak that won’t break the bank, many anglers set the ceiling at $1000. Those same anglers then search out information on what are the most popular kayaks under $1000. To make it a bit simpler, I polled a group of 30,000 kayak anglers and asked which kayak under $1000 was their favorite. These are the results with included pricing and specifications, posted in alphabetical order.


3 Waters Big Fish 120 $9993 Waters Big Fish 120 Most Popular Kayaks Under 1000

Width: 36″  Length: 12′  Weight Capacity: 400#  Hull Weight: 100#


Ascend 128T with Yak-Power $849

Ascend 128T Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33″  Length: 12′ 8″  Weight Capacity: 350#  Hull Weight: 98#


Bonafide RS117 $999

Bonafide RS117 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33.5″  Length: 11′ 7″  Weight Capacity: 425#  Hull Weight: 75#


Crescent Light Tackle $899

Crescent Light TackleWidth: 34″  Length: 12′ 4″  Weight Capacity: 450#  Hull Weight: 75#


Diablo Amigo $999

Diablo Amigo Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 38″  Length: 12′ 8″  Weight Capacity: 600#  Hull Weight: 75#


Jackson Bite $799

Jackson Bite Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 35″  Length: 11′ 3″  Weight Capacity: 400#  Hull Weight: 69#


Kaku Wahoo 12.5 $999

Kaku Wahoo 12.5 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33″  Length: 12′ 6″  Weight Capacity: 400#  Hull Weight: 74#


Native Mata Ray Angler 12XT $899

Native Manta Ray Angler XT Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33″  Length: 12′ 7″  Weight Capacity: 325#  Hull Weight: 63#


Nucanoe Flint $999

Nucanoe Flint Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33″  Length: 12′ 7″  Weight Capacity: 325#  Hull Weight: 63#


Old Town Topwater 120 $999

Old Town Topwater 120 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000Width: 33.5″  Length: 12′  Weight Capacity: 500#  Hull Weight: 82#


Pelican Catch 120 $749

Pelican Catch 120 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000

Width: 34″  Length: 11′ 8″  Weight Capacity: 400#  Hull Weight: 69#


Vibe Sea Ghost 130 $899

Vibe Sea Ghost 130 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000

Width: 33″  Length: 13′  Weight Capacity: 550#  Hull Weight: 74#


Wilderness Systems Ride 115 $959

Wilderness Systems Ride 115 Most Popular Kayaks Under $1000

Width: 33″  Length: 11′ 6″ Weight Capacity: 500#  Hull Weight: 76#


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A Super Short Delay Is a Good Thing – Part 2

A Super Short Delay Is a Good Thing – Part 2 thumbnail

Mike Iaconelli

Last time we talked about the two rods in my Abu Garcia Ike Delay Series that are designed for twitching techniques. This time I want to cover the other five models. I’ll detail what they’re designed to do and why I recommend you take a close look at them when it’s time for you to upgrade.

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I may have mentioned this before but it’s important enough to repeat: The name Delay was no accident. The idea behind these rods is to make them hesitate just a little bit before you feel the bite and set the hook. But, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about that.

This is a big deal with treble hook lures. If you set the hook too quick, you’ll get a shallow hookset or jerk it out of the fish’s mouth. Neither one of those things will put it in the
livewell or give you a long and thrilling fight. A tailwalk is a great thing to
watch, but not when she throws your lure 20 feet off to the side.

For Rabble: Delay 6' 6" Casting Rod
For Rabble: Delay 6′ 6″ Casting Rod

The first three of the five I want to cover here are designed with a 50/50 bend to them. The last two have a 60/40 bend. The reason for that is that the first three are for lighter lures that have less resistance when they’re retrieved. The last two are for heavier baits that pull hard when you retrieve them.  

The 6 foot, 6 inch model is designed specifically for squarebill crankbaits. It’ll throw them easily and allow you to work them in and out of heavy cover, which is where you should be fishing them most of the time. It has a normal butt. You won’t be twitching a square bill very often and you don’t need a lot of leverage with these lures. A short butt doesn’t do a thing for your fishing with these baits.    

Delay 7' Casting Rod
The Workhorse: Delay 7′ Casting Rod

The 7 foot version is my all-around rod. You can do almost anything with it. It has a normal butt for the same reasons as the 6 foot, 6 inch model.  It’s a great choice for those who can only afford one rod or for those who want to try one of these out before they buy more. 

My 7 foot, 3 inch design is for medium weight and medium running crankbaits. It has a longer butt that’ll give you just a little more leverage. That makes a huge difference over the course of a long day’s fishing.

The 7 foot, 6 inch rod is designed for heavy lipless crankbaits. With
its longer length and longer butt you can throw one of those things a mile, and
do it all day long without fatigue or muscle cramps.

Delay 7'11 Casting Rod
For Deep Dives: Delay 7’11 Casting Rod

My final design is a medium heavy 7 foot, 11 inch stick that I designed specifically for deep-diving crankbaits. It’s the perfect choice if you like to crank deep ledges, creek channels or main lake points with a Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT Series Crankbait.

I designed the Ike Delay Series rods
for specific purposes and for lures that are armed with treble hooks. They’ll do exactly what anglers want them to do when they’re on the water. I suggest you give one a try the next time you upgrade your tackle. And, they don’t cost an arm and a leg. They retail for $149.99.

Which rod is right for you? In this video, Mike lists the specific baits that work with each rod, so you can match your preferences to the right rod.

Check it out. The Delay Series discussion starts at the 9:30 point.

The Full Lineup
The Full Lineup





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Iaconelli’s website

Match the Hatch!

Match the Hatch! thumbnail
Mike - South Jersey Slam -3
Click on photo to go to video

The South Jersey Slam was the one film that I would call a true winter fishing trip. We wanted to catch several species. That turned out to be an educational experience.

We caught crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, pickerel and perch on small jerkbaits and grubs. There’s really nothing special about that. They bite pretty good even in cold water — we had temperatures all day in the low 40 degree range — on most conventional lures.

What I really want to talk about are the bass. They’re hard to catch when the water gets that cold in my neighborhood. Fortunately, however, I knew about a trick I learned back in the 1990s during a local tournament to deal with lethargic fish. The ones we caught actually had mud on their bellies from lying on the bottom.

We won that event with a limit of ordinary size bass by fishing small, black jigs. What we learned that tournament day was even more valuable than the win, however. As we were cleaning out the livewell we noticed that the bass were spitting up small, black larva. We had unwittingly matched the hatch perfectly.

We followed the same game plan for the film, and we caught several bass in the 4 to 5 pound class.

Molix nano jig
Molix nano jig

Keep something in mind, however. When I’m talking about small jigs I’m referring to micro sized lures. A 1/8 ounce model is absolutely as big as I go. Smaller than that is usually better. My choice is the Molix Nano Jig. They’re well-made, have a nice skirt on them and employ a fiber weedguard. (Yes, they’re real jigs in all respects.)

Berkley Powerbait Pro Jig
Berkley Powerbait Pro Jig

I use a trailer but I customize it. I start with a Berkley Powerbait Pro Jig Worm. Then I cut it down to about an inch or so in length. After I thread it on the hook I use a pair of scissors to cut a small V in the end of the tail.

Proper tackle and proper technique are critical.

You need to start fishing by making long casts. For that you need a long rod. I designed a 7 foot, 4 inch spinning rod just for this purpose. It’s manufactured by Abu Garcia. I mount a 40 Series Revo spinning reel to it.

If the water’s stained to muddy, I use a light braid with a fluorocarbon leader. If the water’s clear, like it was when we filmed the South Jersey Slam, I go with all fluorocarbon line. I think the fish can sense the presence of braid when the water’s clear. Naturally, I use Trilene braid and Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.

I fish micro jigs deadstick style. It’s a great way to fish a lot of lures but I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it. Deadsticking does not mean no movement. It means natural movement. The way I do it is to hold my rod tip up at a fairly sharp angle and then just hold it there. I let the natural movement of my body, the boat, the wind and the water to create the action.

Dead stick a micro jig the next time you’re faced with tough conditions. It’ll work all over the country. I can say that because I’ve fished it all over the country.

Matt’s New Boat Tour- Full Restoration Update

Matt’s new bass boat is almost done! Every last wire was removed from the boat and an entire new wiring harness was installed. When they said this was going to be a ground-up restoration they meant it! New electronics, trolling motor, jack plate, talons, and more!

The boat itself is an ’08 Champion 210 Elite. The 210 is arguably the best rough water bass boat ever built. In order to make this boat travel worthy for years to come, the guys have stripped it to the ground and are rebuilding the boat one piece at a time. They work is almost complete so it was time for an update.

The components that have (or will) be installed, are broken down below.

At The Bow…

Trolling Motor- Ultrex 112 Link:

Electronics- Humminbird Solix 15:

Electronics Mount- T-H Marine Wave Tamer:

Hydrowave Feeding Stimulator:

Humminbird 360 Imaging:

At The Console…

Hot Foot Throttle:

Main Unit- Humminbird Solix 15:

Side Unit- Humminbird Solix 12:

Main Mount- Bass Boat Technologies: Direct From Manufacturer

Side Mount- BalzOut Mount w/ 6″ arm:

At The Stern…

Anchors- Talon 15′ Shallow Water Anchors:

Jack Plate- Bob’s Machine Hydraulic:

Battery Charger- Minn Kota Precision:


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Product Spotlight: ENO Hammock

Product Spotlight: ENO Hammock thumbnail

When I was tasked with writing an ENO hammock review for Fly Lords, I was skeptical. Who takes a hammock fishing? Seriously. Have you ever brought one along? It had never crossed my mind but, I was down to throw one into my bag to see how it fit into my fishing routine.

I shoved my doubt aside and brought the ENO DoubleNest on a recent float down the San Juan with my buddy Chris Eagan of Kokopelli Anglers. I was pleasantly surprised as the hammock made an already chill day even more enjoyable.

In my experience, fly fishing is a pretty damn mellow sport. Sure…there are sporadic moments of chaos and fury when I actually hook into a fish, and sometimes I burn a handful of calories when I have to hike into a spot but for the most part, fishing is chilling. Whether I’m wading a beautiful river in Wyoming or casually floating the San Juan in New Mexico there are glorious moments when I forget about the troubles and toils of regular life and can relax. With this in mind, I figure bringing a hammock along could actually be a good call.

Chris Eagan guides on the world-famous San Juan Quality Waters below Navajo Dam in northern New Mexico. The float is mellow. No rapids, minimal wind, abundant wildlife, beautiful landscapes, endless cottonwoods and thousands of trout. Hammock country for sure. Our float started out pretty slow.

A snowstorm was expected to roll in from the south, and I presumed the pressure change had the fish flustered. They were picky and fickle. Unamused and lazy. But finally, they started to smack our olive leaches and bend our rods.

The caffeine buzz from our morning coffee started to wane and we pulled to shore to set up the hammock, devour some sandwiches, sip some beers and chill. Prior to this float, I had never set up an ENO hammock.

Luckily the set up is intuitive, easy, and literally takes maybe only a minute. We suspended the hammock between two towering cottonwood branches and crawled in. The river boiled with rising trout as blue herons gracefully glided down the run and time slipped away.

Thankfully, these ENO hammocks are just as easy to take down as they are to set up and we were back slaying fish in no time.  We floated into the afternoon and had a great day on the water.

I am no longer a skeptic when it comes to hammocks and if someday, I finally get myself a freakin drift boat, I will undoubtedly throw one in my boat bag. I mean why not? They pack small, are easy to set up, durable and make for super extra chill and relaxing lunch breaks on the river. To purchase an Eno Hammock and check out the full line of different products, check out this link.


The Salmon Fly Hatch

This Guy Missed 30 Permit in One Day

Lodge Spotlight: Tailwater Lodge, Altmar NY