Besides Pickwick Lake being so fertile and having plenty of shad, in December the bass there are easy to pattern. The bass will be holding right under the schools of suspended shad. You can locate them easily on your depth finder.
I'll use both a downriver and an upriver pattern. I'll fish three different configurations of Mann's Alabama Rig, a multi-bait lure that resembles the umbrella rig that saltwater fishermen use.
The Alabama Rig
I like this lake this month because you never know what you'll catch. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, sauger, saltwater stripers, hybrid saltwater stripers, drum and almost any fish that swims this part of the Tennessee River will eat the Alabama Rig.
The Alabama Rig imitates a school of shad swimming together, and the bass will concentrate below the schools of shad you see on your depth finder and feed on gizzard shad to prepare for the cold winter ahead and the spawn that will take place a few months later.
The schools of shad generally will be suspended somewhere between 10- to 20-feet deep with bass under them.
I'll fish three-different Alabama Rigs on various rods. I'll be fishing a ¾-ounce jig head on one rod, a 3/8-ounce jighead on the second and a ½-ounce jighead on the third rod to fish in three depths, depending on where the bass are holding.
I'll also have three different options, depending on how swift the current is.
On the 3/8-ounce Alabama Rig, I'll have a 4 ½-inch Mann's HardNose swimbait in the silver shiner color. The ½-ounce jighead will have a Mann's silver shiner 5 ½-inch HardNose swimbait, and on the ¼-ounce jighead, I'll have a 4-inch watermelon-seed Mann's HardNose grub.
I'll fish all three Alabama Rigs all day long, depending on how deep I find the schools of shad, how deep the bass are holding below those schools of shad and how much current is coming down the river.
The Alabama Rig ¼-ounce jig head for shallow-water bass
The Alabama Rig with a ¼-ounce jighead and Mann's 4 ½-inch watermelon seed grub will be my shallow-water Alabama Rig. I'll primarily fish this rig in shallow water on points and on the shallow ends of underwater bars on 50-pound-test FluoroBraid SpiderWire.
I'll catch schooling bass - largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass - either busting the surface of the water or that have just gone down.
And, I also might catch a few crappie when fishing on a warm day.
The Alabama Rig's 3/8-ounce and the ½-ounce jig heads
To fish these heavier rigs, I'll go up to Wilson Dam in Alabama and fish the current being released. The amount of current will determine which of these two Alabama Rigs I'll fish: A light current means I'll fish the 3/8-ounce jig, and if there's a strong current, I'll fish the ½-ounce jig.
I'll cast the Alabama Rig upcurrent and slow-roll it to run with the current downstream. When the rig starts bumping the bottom, I'll speed up my retrieve, to keep it off the bottom. The water below Wilson Dam isn't very deep, and the strong current; that's why I use the heavier jighead.
I'll concentrate on bridge pilings and use my Lowrance HDS-10 Fishfinder around the pilings to look for suspended shad and the bass beneath them.
If the bass are holding in water 20 feet deep or less, I'll use the 3/8-ounce jig. In water deeper than 20 feet, I'll fish the ½-ounce jig.
I'll count the Alabama Rig down before I start retrieving so I can swim the Alabama Rig below the schools of shad and right in front of the suspended bass under the shad.
On the ½- and 3/8-ounce jigheads, I'll be fishing 65-pound-test FluoroBraid on a 7 ½-foot Seeker Fiberglass Alabama Rig Rod and a Pinnacle 6.4:1 reel.
Two more baits
Two other baits to consider fishing at Pickwick in December include the Mann's Little George, a lead-headed tail spinner in the blue and pearl colors, and a shad-colored Mann's 20+ crankbait.
I'll cast the Little George out and let it ride the current. Most often the strike will come on the fall.
But I know I'll catch the most bass on the Alabama Rig in December.
On a productive December day at Pickwick, you should be able to catch and release 40 to 50 bass - of all three species - that will weigh from 1 ½ pounds up to about 6 pounds each.