The great thing about fall on Pickwick lake is that the largemouth really put on a show. From shallow water cranking to blowing up on hollow bodies frogs it’s almost nonstop action. After All that’s what we have become famous for, but according to B’n’M pro Brad Whitehead fall is when our world class smallmouth fisheries come into their own as well. Brad is a guide on Pickwick Lake, and says when the evenings turn cooler it’s time to get after the brown fish. Of course, even though the first day of fall is September 22nd its mid-October before things get started. It takes 7-10 days of cool nights to impact water temperature but when it finally does drop the smallmouth really put on the proverbial feed bags.
According to Whitehead there are three key factors in finding and catching fall smallmouths. The first and arguably most important is current. The fishing is mediocre with little to no current but picks up in relation to the flows. This is because the current moves the bait down the edges of any current break. Since smallmouth are ambush hunters they will lie in wait for the bait to come to them. This gives the fish a chance to lie in, or behind, a break in the current. The fish get the benefit of moving bait but won’t have to fight the current to catch it.
The second factor here is structure and cover. Smallmouth prefer a different type of these than their cousin the largemouth. Whitehead says in the fall he looks for major breaks in the river flow. His favorite is the numerous shell mounds, which are apparently old Indian mounds that were flooded years ago. Second are creek arms where a hungry smallmouth can hold in the slack water in the creek, and still have access to the bait moving downstream in the main current. Last, but not least, are the rock walls and jetties below the many dams on the river.
The third factor is presentation. Since the primary forage in Pickwick Lake, in the fall, are threadfin shad he tries to stay close to that. However smallmouth always love a crayfish so he advises to keep one of those tied on as well. Presentation is slow and methodical. Make sure your baits are right on top of any break in the current, so the fish can see them.
When asked about baits his advice was very straight forward. If your going to fish live bait it’s nearly impossible to beat live threadfin. If you can’t get those look for bass shiners 3.5-5 inches long, they are almost as good. Most bait shops on the river should have them all winter. Equipment for fishing the live bait is a 6.6 to 7-foot spinning rod, reels just need to have a good drag, as you will be fighting both the current and the fish. Line is a little different on the live bait rods as he prefers a high vis line. Even in clear water Whitehead feels the ability to detect a strike outweighs any perceived negatives about colored line.
When he uses artificial baits the Charlie Brewers 3.5-inch shad paired with a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce unpainted jig head is his go to lure. It mimics our native shad very well and has a very natural swimming action. Second is a ¾ ounce football head jig in Green pumpkin or blue/black. These get paired with a matching crayfish trailer. This combo allows him to probe deeper structure in the current. Last but certainly not least, is a bait that has been catching smallmouth since the day it hit the shelf, a 3 to 4-inch curly tailed grub paired with a ¼-ounce unpainted jig head.
If your interested in a trip with Brad Whitehead Fishing can be reached at 256-483-0834 or on Facebook under “Brad Whitehead Fishing”