One of my favorite places to fish on Pickwick this month is below Wilson Dam, because not only will I catch smallmouths and largemouths there, but I'll also catch a number of other species of fish. I'll be fishing three main baits below the dam - a swimbait, a spinnerbait and a suspending bait.
I'll be fishing a Mann's 5-inch HardNose swimbait and a Gamakatsu No. 6/0 wide-gap hook with a weight on it. When the current's running at the base of the dam, I'll move slowly in my boat and look out for rocks. I don't want to run into the rocks, but rather I want to fish the eddies that form to the sides and the backs of the rocks. By casting a swimbait past the rocks, I'll be casting toward the dam. Then I'll swim the bait downcurrent, coming with the current. The bass will be holding right behind the rocks in those calm eddies and darting out into the current to attack baitfish.
My favorite-colored swimbait is a chartreuse back with pearl sides. I'll be fishing 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon line with a Pinnacle 6.4:1 gear-ratio reel and a 7 1/2-foot light flipping-action Pinnacle rod. Using this technique, I've also got a good chance of catching a 5- to 8-pound smallmouth. Five-pounders aren't unusual, and I've got a solid chance of catching a 6- or 7-pounder. Most of the smallmouths will be in the 3- to 5-pound range. I'll also catch a number of drum that will weigh 8 to 20 pounds each and stripers in the 5- to 20-pound range. I'll catch largemouths weighing from 1 1/2 to 6 pounds each.
Another lure I'll be fishing is the 3/4-ounce Mann's Classic spinnerbait on 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a No. 5 gold-colored willowleaf blade behind a No. 3 nickel-plated Colorado blade. The skirt will be chartreuse/white, and I'll have a white twin-tail grub as a trailer. I'll cast the spinnerbait upstream, slow-roll it around the rocks, let the spinnerbait ride the current and then wash through the rocks. Now, if I see the smallmouth busting bait on the surface, I'll pick up that spinnerbait and cast it toward the surfacing smallmouth, running the lure just under the surface of the water. I'll be fishing the spinnerbait on the same rod I used with the swimbait.
I'll fish a 4-inch chartreuse-shad two-treble-hook suspending bait on 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line and a spinning reel with a 7-foot, 2-inch Pinnacle spinning rod. Again, I'll be casting upstream around the rocks. When the bait hits the water, I'll start reeling it hard seven or eight times to get the bait down. Then I'll stop the bait for about a three-count, let it ride the current, jerk it and reel it as fast as I can five or six times before I stop the bait and allow it to suspend once more for about a three-count. I'll fish this lure all the way back to the boat by jerking it hard and bringing it back to the boat really fast.
Baits for downriver
I prefer to fish the shoreline cover 2 miles on either side of the Natchez Bridge. One of my favorite lures to fish here will be the Heddon Zara Spook. I'll be fishing on the ends of bars, especially the bars with a lot of grass on them, and outside the weedline on the bars with a clear Zara Spook.
The trick to the Zara Spook in October is to work it fast all the way back to the boat. Don't ever stop the bait. The good news about fishing this area is you can catch the bass whether the current's running or not. Naturally the bass will bite better when the current's running.
I start fishing about 50 yards before I reach the point of the bar, and then I'll fish all the way around the bar. Finally I'll fish 50 yards below the bar. Most of these bars will be 4- to 8-feet deep, and the grass will be all the way up to the surface. I'll be able to see the grass, so I'll be fishing that Zara Spook right on the edge of the grass.
I'll also be fishing a Mann's Super Frog and HardNose Swim Toad on top of the grass with 40-pound-test braided line, a 7-foot, 11-inch flipping rod and a 6.4:1 gear-ratio Pinnacle reel. I like a black/white frog and let the bass tell me which color they prefer.
Most of my strikes will come within 15 feet of the edge of the grass. I'll wait until I feel the bass before I try to set the hook. With the frog, I'll mostly catch largemouths, but with the Heddon Zara Spook, I'll catch a mixture of largemouths and smallmouths.
At this time of year, the bass will be really active, and I expect to catch and release at least 20 that will weigh from 1 1/2 to 6 pounds or more each. The perfect October day to fish will be an overcast day with a little wind. But don't stay at home if you have a bright sunny day, because those bass still will be biting.
You'll always catch more bass at Pickwick when the current is running.