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Trent Wilson

Winter Fishing In East Tn

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I've been fishing for years, but just started winter fishing. I've kinda gotten the hang of it. Just need some pointers. Jerkbaits with slow retrieve, same with most crankbaits. I've even got the array of colors for winter but aside from a 2 pounder about 2 months ago, I haven't caught anything worth wild. I've been told by my old man that I can't just change to my spinning outfit and throw my mini rattle traps like I do in summer (which infuriates him every time I pull in a bluegill. If it has eyes and is a fish, it counts in my book). Any tips to get this winter noobie through the winter so I can get back to the stripe and 7-11lb smallies I'm used to catching?

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I want to catch an 11lb smallie!  haha

There are several 7lb smallies here though.  South Holston, Watuaga, seem to be the go to places to catch some of your bigger smallmouth this time of yr.   Damiki Shad drop shot in 40-60ft of water is a big success this time of year.

Also--tightlining is a great way to catch a lot of fish during the winter.  I've been having success on Cherokee, Douglas, South Holston and Watuaga doing it lately.  1/8oz jig head and 3" Berkely Gulp.  Nathan Light and Brad Burkhart are pretty successful with it and Brad will book a guide trip for you if you want. (Nathan may too, not sure?)

As far as baitcasting techniques...  Jerk bait, small jigs, alabama rigs, and crank baits all work.  In the colder clearer water the shad rap will out produce your other cranks---which puts you back on a spinning reel.   If you haven't caught but one fish in the last two months on a jerk bait, then you are fishing it in the wrong places or fishing it way too fast.

Target 45 degree banks or steeper, look for shad on the graph.  If you can find it anywhere between 5-15ft you should have success on that jerk bait.  Let the bait set for at least 10-15 seconds during the pauses and make the pauses plentiful.   

Once you caught one or two, I would go back and target the same areas with the alabama rig. 

The crank bait is better for me in places that has deep water access near by, but has a flat for the fish to come up on...  Like a slate point dropping straight off into a creek channel.  They need to be able to get warm and feed quickly, then get deep and rest without expending much energy.  Your just hoping to hit them when they are sunning or feeding during that period. 

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