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Fishing during dam releases

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Roadwarrior, this seems like your area of expertise judging by other posts that I have read. What do you look for when your flow is being generated heavily? Do you prefer lots of extra current or just a little more?

I fish a fairly shallow river in Northeast TN where  4' or less is the norm, do Smallies look for shelter out of the strong current anywhere or do they prefer deeper water.

I ask this because here when TVA is generating heavy fishing is super tough, and I think that is because I haven't learned how to adapt cause the fish are still gonna eat!

Thanks to everyone for any input!

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Welcome aboard!

The best water flow below Pickwick Dam is 80,000-110,000 cfs, but anything over 20,000 works as long as the water is STEADY or RISING. Regardless of the gross amount of water release, falling water is ALWAYS bad, the fish simply turn-off. I DO NOT fish the river with flood gates open. If the water turns to chocolate milk, I don't fish at all. Otherwise, with gates open, we fish the lake, not the river.

Regarding depth, the smaller fish (bank runners) are always shallow, the bigger smallmouth are usually deeper and on structure. Right now however, big mommas will be staging near gravel flats and may be found almost anywhere even if there is no obvious structure. Right now they are wandering, in the process or getting ready to spawn.

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Thanks guys :)  What kind of baits do you use during the releases? With that extra current the bait just wants to wash down stream behind the boat and quick :o

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The key is boat control.

Ideally, you want your boat and your lure/bait moving downstream at EXACTLY the same speed so that from the perspective of your retrieve, you are in effect fishing "flat" water. This improves EVERYTHING about your presentation. My partner runs the boat wiith the trolling motor, bow facing upstream, into the current. We try to maintain a constant speed in current AND casting distance from the bank. Casts are made perpendicular to the bank or slightly upstream, NEVER downstream.

For the most part, I fish live shiners on a split shot rig. Current determines the size of the weight. Ideally, you want the weight ticking the bottom. Suggested artificials would include the following: 3 1/2" tubes, grubs, Hula Grubs, jerkbaits (soft & hard), hair jigs and sometimes, topwater.

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The key is boat control.

For the most part, I fish live shiners on a split shot rig.

I thought I read that you guys used " live bait " for fishing in another thread you posted RW. Are you talking live bait for stripers or are we talking smallies?

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Both.

In early fall I fish native yellowrtail (threadfin) for smallmouth. November through early March, big store-bought shiners. For stripers I fish gizzard shad from March until the bigger yellowtail show up, then in July skipjack. Oddly, the striper are VERY particular and will NOT hit a native live bait out of season! When it's yellowtail season, gizzard shad are totally ignored.

As you would expect, most bass fishermen on the Tennessee River, especially where I fish (below Pickwick Dam) throw artificials. They are not very successful. To give you a specific example, in 2005 my partner and I boated fifty-two smallmouth over 5 lbs. During that year I fished artificials at least two hours on nearly every trip. I fished artificials ONLY when we were in the middle of a good bite (prime time!) I caught quite a few smallmouth, but only two bass over 5 lbs that entire year when I was not using live bait. As a result of that experiment, I generally fish live bait on that river.

To keep this in perspective, I never fish live bait for largemouth. When I travel (mostly Bull Shoals and Lake Michigan) I fish artificials ONLY for smalllmouth and do quite well. So, I'm fairly confident in my approach, lure selection and presentation when fishing artificials in general. However, I do NOT have much success on the Tennessee River.

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Thanks RW. It is interesting how different regions use certain tactics. Good luck in 07 and send me a pic of that 12, OK? Sounds like you and your buddy have unlocked the puzzle where you fish and have done your homework. We are similar in our ideas in the flow being fast is the best time. For us when the river is like chocolate milk, cold and high water conditions it is the best time for big smallies. These conditions make it easy to find them. Again, thanks. :)

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I wish I could tell a different story, it would sound better if we were more successful with artificials. I sincerely believe that bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, are the same throughout the country. If that is in fact true, it makes NO sense what-so-ever than we would have such a dictomy here verses anywhere else- I know that is illogical. So, I have no answer, I'm just telling you about my experience.

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In my experiences when I find a spot with bigger smallies I won't catch any small ones then. Anybody have the same results?

Roadwarrior, when you get into bigger smallies do you ever catch any big Largemouth with them?

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Smallmouth seem to run together as a "year class." When they are schooled, they all seem to be the same size, big or small.

I have never caught a big largemouth in a spot associated with big smallmouth, but I have caught big Kentucky bass in the same areas.

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River fish are effected mostly by current, bait migration, water temperature and the length of days (hours of light). I don't put much stock in moon phases, so I don't follow them closely. My best days for smallmouth were June 5, 6 & 7, 2002; 1/08/05 & 1/15/05. If you can look backwards and determine the moon phase on those days, they would be my favorite.

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Doesn't the moon phase effect crayfish which is smallies primary food source?

My understanding is yes, how much it effects feeding I don't know.

I believe the moon phases affect fish and their eating moods, but it's not the only thing. I firmly believe the moon phases effect all living things to some extent, even people. I just think it's one of those things thats easy to overlook or realize that it's happening, partly because its hard to prove.

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