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Bob Kavanaugh

Got out to Pickwick this morning...

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Fished a few hours, starting a little before 6am. Caught a little smallie (about a pound) on a texas rigged Zoom 5" finesse worm (Motoroil). Then I threw a little bomber and hooked up 2 more that both hit the crankbait like a tank, then ran straight at the boat and jumped a foot in the air spitting the bait before I even knew what happened. Let's just say they were more awake than me!  :D Then I  grabbed a new in line spinner I picked up at Gander Mountain when I was in Huntsville last week. 5th cast a Gar breaks my line clean.  :-[  There goes 4 bucks and my only inline spinner. So, I headed up to the dam and drifted back toward the park, and with no more luck, called it a day.

The water was crystal clear and 86-87 degrees on the surface. 3 more weeks until the going gets good!

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Primetime is just around the corner! The key is current, so check the TVA website when planning a day on the water. You'll find the best fishing is below the dams, not on the lakes.

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Or, do you even drift? I guess what I'm asking is, what do you do below the dam? Is the area below Pickwick like it is below Wilson? All of the barely submerged boulders intimidate me. When the water drops, I'll definitely be a little timid up there...

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Well, the river is VERY DANGEROUS! Those boulders and all that structure is WHY the BIG smallmouth live there!

You don't DRIFT. You face upriver and maintain boat control to float at the same rate as your bait/lure so as to effectively fish on "flat" or "neutral" water. You must ALSO maintain casting distance from shore, pay attention to the contour of the river, depth and ALL underwater structure. Most importantly, you have to be aware of other boats and ESPECIALLY barges. Fishing the Tennessee River is challenging.

I fish live bait: BIG minnows on a split shot rig.

However, it is WAY too early to target smallmouth, the water is too hot. Maybe someone else will have another suggestion, but I fish for striper in the summer.

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Bob,  I went out on Pickwick, Labor day morning, before the crowds hit. I fished around Buck Island Chute and caught one 3 lb 9oz smallmouth, early, on a large rattletrap imitation (about 3 1/2" long shad-colored) & a 2 1/2 lber on a crawdad colored jointed shad rap as I came in. The smaller one put up a better fight. It jumped 3 times - heading straight down and pulling drag each time. Both fish were in about 12' - 16' of water. Structure in the area of both fish consist of isolated stumps. The wind blew at a good rate (10 - 15mph) from the northeast which helped the current along. TVA wasn't releasing near what I'd hoped. As luck would have it, my camera batteries were dead. :-[ If you do fish on the water below the dam be sure you take someone with you (preferably someone that knows the water). It's best not fish in that area alone. Too easy to get distracted while reelin' in that big one!!! :P

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The wind was crazy today too. I was operating the trolling motor by hand as I was getting the hook out so I wouldn't crash into the island I was fishing. This guy jumped a couple of times and really made me nervous as I got it to the boat, really tearing drag out, once heading into the trolling motor. I almost had a heart attack! I guess that's why smallies are so dang much fun... I'm going to try it again tomorrow morning before work for a few hours.

Have you had any luck on top this year? I caught a pb Largemouth last month on Pickwick at night on a buzzbait, but not a single smallie bite on top for me.

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No luck with smallies on topwater but I did catch several LM's on Spooks in the weedbeds around 7 Mile Island. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jig/pigs have produced smallies the best for me this year. No lunkers - the largest was 5lbs 12 oz.  But I'm not set up for fishin the big minnows like RW does. I hope to get setup with a good aerator and round tank by fall. My boat's baitwell is rectangular and my last attempt at fishing large minnows produced a lot of dead bait fish. Apparently they bunch up in corners and beat themselves senseless.

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Do you use a cast net to catch minnows, or do you just buy them? A buddy of mine told me to go to the back of that harbor off the barge canal. Does that sound right?

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We fish both wild yellowtail and store bought minnows. If you are throwing a net, DO NOT keep more than a few dozen at a time. They die quickly and overcrowding is a big no-no. The smallmouth have a preference for shiners (store bought). Shiners are native to the tributary creeks and therefore the river, but they are not nearly as abundant as the threadfin, perhaps making them a treat. Slick minnows are also native and, I'm told, the smallmouth's favorite prey. However, slick minnows require a very fine netting to catch, die quickly in the livewell and I have been unable to keep them alive for more than a cast when hooked up. I don't fish them.

The baitshops usually carry small (crappie), medium (sauger) and large (bass) minnows. Buy ONLY the large. Start with a pound per person. Fish lively minnows only, dead minnows are a total waste of time: when in doubt, throw it out.

I fish a #6 Gamakatsu Octopus Circle Hook, 6# Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft on spinning tackle and just enough weight to stay in contact with the bottom. Weight varies a lot, depending on water release (current).

p.s. If I were you I would pay attention to what electrikal has to say, not me. My partner and the guides we run with apparantly don't know where to find 'em in the summer. No one I know fishes for smallmouth this time of year, but I certainly would if I were as successful as electrikal.

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Thanks for the help RW. My buddy made it sound like it was crazy to buy minnows, but I'd sure rather shell out a few bucks than waste my time casting for minnows. Time on the water is valuable!

You're right that elictrikal sure has the summer smallie pattern down to a science! It's nice to know that any day you go out, you can catch 'em, even if the water is in the high 80's.  8-)

I've also heard that dropping from 8 to 6 pound test increases the amount of strikes you get. Do you have any experience with this? I'd hate to try to fight a big smallie in the current on something that thin...

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Although I recommend Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft #6 (.010" diameter, 11.9 lb test) I actually fish #4 (.009" diameter, 8.5 lb test) most of the time on my main smallmouth rig. I have never been broken off by a fish using this line.

It has been my experience that line diameter has a SIGNIFICANT impact on smallmouth fishing, but a lot of other VERY SUCCESSFUL smallmouth fishermen here at BassResource.com have great luck with heavier line. (I'm referring to live bait and soft plastics, not hard baits).

I guess you'll have to see for yourself.

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Bob, your buddy is correct about the back of the harbor - plenty of good size threadfins and other minnows. I've always forked over the dough for store bought but know of others that are willing to spent time casting a net. There is a good bait shop off 72 hwy on the Colbert cty side right where you turn to go up on Hawkpride Mtn that carries all sizes. The large (bass) minnows will still die quick so be sure you have a good areator & maybe a ice bottle to keep em cool. They perk up real good when dropped in warmer river water and for a few minutes will really dance on the hook. ::) I personally have reels with 6,8,12,17lb test (P-line) and let the fish tell me what's working that day but if tackle is limited I would go 10-12. Most of my smallmouth are caught on the 12lb but as I said earlier, I fish a lot of spinners and cranks. I fish plastics on the lighter test and if live bait fishing I'd use the same.

RW - you're gonna give me the bighead . I'd say I'm just persistant - my wife says stubborn- but I don't like to leave the river till I catch something and smallies are my favorites! And I know that the same fish I catch in the spring & fall have to be in the river somewhere & they gotta eat.

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Hey, thanks guys for the info. That Yo-Zuri looks like a great line, and it's reasonably priced. I'm going to pick up a spool of the #6 and throw it on a spinning rig I've had set aside for the fall.  8-)

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Bob, your buddy is correct about the back of the harbor - plenty of good size threadfins and other minnows. I've always forked over the dough for store bought but know of others that are willing to spent time casting a net. There is a good bait shop off 72 hwy on the Colbert cty side right where you turn to go up on Hawkpride Mtn that carries all sizes. The large (bass) minnows will still die quick so be sure you have a good areator & maybe a ice bottle to keep em cool. They perk up real good when dropped in warmer river water and for a few minutes will really dance on the hook. ::) I personally have reels with 6,8,12,17lb test (P-line) and let the fish tell me what's working that day but if tackle is limited I would go 10-12. Most of my smallmouth are caught on the 12lb but as I said earlier, I fish a lot of spinners and cranks. I fish plastics on the lighter test and if live bait fishing I'd use the same.

RW - you're gonna give me the bighead . I'd say I'm just persistant - my wife says stubborn- but I don't like to leave the river till I catch something and smallies are my favorites! And I know that the same fish I catch in the spring & fall have to be in the river somewhere & they gotta eat.

Well, if I'm invited I'll come down next month and you can give me a lesson.

I would REALLY like to fish with you when it's convenient.

-Kent

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Well, if I'm invited I'll come down next month and you can give me a lesson.

I would REALLY like to fish with you when it's convenient.

-Kent

I'm sure we can set something up but I'll be looking to learn a few things from you. I'll PM you.

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Bob, your buddy is correct about the back of the harbor - plenty of good size threadfins and other minnows. I've always forked over the dough for store bought but know of others that are willing to spent time casting a net. There is a good bait shop off 72 hwy on the Colbert cty side right where you turn to go up on Hawkpride Mtn that carries all sizes. The large (bass) minnows will still die quick so be sure you have a good areator & maybe a ice bottle to keep em cool. They perk up real good when dropped in warmer river water and for a few minutes will really dance on the hook. ::) I personally have reels with 6,8,12,17lb test (P-line) and let the fish tell me what's working that day but if tackle is limited I would go 10-12. Most of my smallmouth are caught on the 12lb but as I said earlier, I fish a lot of spinners and cranks. I fish plastics on the lighter test and if live bait fishing I'd use the same.

RW - you're gonna give me the bighead . I'd say I'm just persistant - my wife says stubborn- but I don't like to leave the river till I catch something and smallies are my favorites! And I know that the same fish I catch in the spring & fall have to be in the river somewhere & they gotta eat.

you can also buy shinners at Busters Bait and tackle on goveners dr in huntsville,year around, which is the only place in huntsville or madison ive found them. Personally i use a 8 to 10 lb test of cajun red cast for smallies its worked out well for me have'nr had any break offs as of yet.

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Well, if I'm invited I'll come down next month and you can give me a lesson.

I would REALLY like to fish with you when it's convenient.

-Kent

I'm sure we can set something up but I'll be looking to learn a few things from you. I'll PM you.

if you boiys are going pm me as well all i'll need is a ride i'm in madison,al by the way, ive been trying to get r.w down this way for some smallie fishing (hint,hint r.w)  ;)  ;D

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