Humps, points, bluffs and Lake headwaters. These are just a few of the types of places, an angler should target on Pickwick Lake during late January and early February. This is the official period of winter, on this Tennessee River Impoundment, situated in North Alabama near the town of Florence. Here is a run down of Pickwick Lakes wintertime, likely locations.
Smallmouth bass and a surprisingly good number of largemouth's, can both be found around Islands, submerged humps, sand bars and ridges, located throughout the lake. Many are now visible, some are hidden, just beneath the surface of the water.
On Pickwick Lake there are many underwater Indian mounds, left here during impoundment. These are actually rock piles, that block the swift current of the Tennessee River system.
Smallmouths relate to the edge of the swift current, awaiting an easy meal. Largemouth's hug the bottom or find refuge among washed in wood cover, stumps, or ledges around these humps and islands. Utilizing a map and good depthfinder, most anglers can find a large number of these humps, few anglers even know about.
Lures to entice strikes from these smallmouths and largemouth's, can vary, according to severe winter or slight warming trends. When its been very cold, such as nighttime lows near 20 degrees and daytime highs not even reaching 50 degrees, things slow tremendously on these mid lake high spots.
This calls for fishing thoroughly and very slow with each offering. Drifting along the edge of these islands, ridges, and submerged humps, while jigging spoons or fishing with tailspinners, will cover lot of water and entice fish hugging the bottom.
Carolina rigging small, finesse lures, such as 4 inch worms, lizards, grubs, soft jerkbaits and crayfish imitations, will entice more strikes in very cold water than bigger, more gaudy type lures. Finesse fishing with light line and small lures take big bass in winter on this lake.
Points on this lake hold bass year round. During winter, when the lake is low, they bunch up on points lakewide. This can be long, main lake points, that border flats, dropping into deep water. Or short points with deep water along all three sides.
Or points can be found in the mouths of cuts, pockets and creeks, where both largemouth's and smallmouths gather, just out of the swift, main lake current, feeding on baitfish and crayfish. Some of these points have deep water all around, dropping abruptly into very deep water.
Points, bordering deep water can always be found along rock bluffs in small cuts, pockets and creek mouths. Fishing these many points on Pickwick Lake, evolves into simply running and gunning throughout the lake during winter.
You can move from one point to another on this lake, in a very short amount of time. Fishing each point thoroughly and very slowly, then slow your approach, until making another move nearby. Not only can bass be found right up on these points, but in the surrounding water as well.
These out-of-the current spots often contain huge schools of bass, bunched up, usually in one very small spot. This means either dragging bottom-bumping lures, or fan casting, Carolina rigged lures and deep diving crankbaits, looking for that instinct strike. Wood cover along these spots always harbor the bigger largemouth's in the area. Try laydowns, washed in debris, stumps and brush piles.
On Pickwick Lake, rock bluffs account for many of the year round tournament victories and show some huge, trophy sized smallmouths and largemouth bass during the winter months.
When its been a severe winter, smallmouths can be found all along these deep, rock bluffs. Enticing strikes from these finicky bass, can mean fishing each spot slowly and trying many lures, approaches and depths.
Lures range from small worms and crayfish imitations to grubs, shad imitations and jig combos. In clear water situations, natural colored worms or colors of red, blue, and green, are always enticing for that smalmouth bite.
Crayfish inhabit these bluffs, hanging and hiding around rocks, boulders and scattered debris along the lakes bottom. Lures that simulate these tasty treats are plastic crayfish, jigs adorned with pork trailers or plastic chunks, and even deep diving crankbaits. Best choices are, crayfish colors of brown, red, or green, with contrasting colors on the belly, such as red or orange.
Shad, baitfish and bream all swim these bluffs during winter. Fishing identical looking lures, will entice strikes from these bass using their eyesight traits in these clear winter time waters. Soft plastic shad imitations, grubs, crankbaits, jerkbaits and rattletraps, are just a few of the many shad imitations that these bass will hit. Suspending jerkbaits can be dynamite on these bluff bass in winter
Its been said that simply fishing the lake headwaters will eventually connect an angler with a true, trophy sized bass in the winter. This goes for smallmouths, largemouth's and an occasional striped bass (or drum).
Just below upriver Wilson Lake Dam, there are countless smallmouths taken each winter. A word of caution. Between the bridge and the dam, are hazardous waters. Especially with the lake down 5 feet for winter.
There are hidden, underwater rockpiles, that can severely damage a boat, motor or even worse, you. These rocks can capsize a boat, knock a hole in the boats bottom, or tear off your motors lower unit. Worse yet, getting thrown in these swift, cold waters can mean hypothermia and often, death.
Always wear a life jacket and an attached outboard motor engine kill switch, when navigating in these lake headwaters (or anywhere on the lake for that matter). Life jackets are required whenever, within 800 yards of any Alabama Lake dam. Dress very warmly and be prepared for any emergency situation.
Spare clothes, matches or a lighter (and paper to start a quick fire) may be needed. Keep all in a plastic bag, in the boat, in dry storage. This could just save your life or your fishing partners life.
As for fishing, the bass are there, getting them to bite, is up to the angler that can stand the cold. Drifting in the swift current, is the normal process for catching these bass on Pickwick Lake, below the Wilson dam tailrace waters. You can use live bait, such as small minnows, shad, crayfish or leeches.
Or you can drift, dragging lures behind the boat, bumped along the lakes bottom as you drift downstream. Plastic worms, lizards, crayfish imitations, grubs, tube baits, deer hair jigs, rubber skirted jigs, and small jigs with spinners, all work here.
Drifting in this current can also just mean vertical jigging lures such as spoons, tailspinners or metal blade baits. Either on the lakes bottom, or in the mid depths, halfway to the lakes bottom, for suspended bass. Water generation dictates where these Pickwick Lake bass will hold.
When the water is not running in these lake headwaters, especially during sunny days or week long warming trends, these bass will move shallow and hit a variety of lures. Look for water temperatures in the low 50's, for this type of shallow water pattern to work in these lake headwaters.
There is a lock located at the lake headwaters. Here, water is released, every time a boat enters or exits the lock. Rip-rap rocks, line both sides of this long, narrow channel, just below the lock. Smallmouths and largemouth's, feed here along these rocks, and can be enticed to bite with many lure choices.
Crankbaits, rattletraps, grubs, jigs, spinnerbaits and even topwater lures will work here, when coupled with warming water during winter. No matter where you fish on Pickwick Lake during the winter, be prepared to connect with a possible world record smallmouth bass. They are here.
One smallmouth bass, weighing 8 1/2 pounds, was caught here in 1988. Its time for another to be taken, by some fortunate angler fishing Pickwick Lake this winter. Give it a try or call Reeds Guide Service. "Fishing all of Alabama and these Tennessee River Impoundment's for over 30 years."