Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River in northeast Mississippi is one of the best wintertime bass lakes in the country. You can catch a wide variety of bass there, including largemouths, smallmouths, spotted bass, striped bass and hybrid striped bass.
And there’s also almost always current running through the lake this month.
Pickwick — a structure lake — is known for its drop-off and ledge fishing on the main river channel during most of the winter. In the mornings, bass fishing seems best down near the dam on the rocks and the concrete. When that bite falls off, I head to the main river points, drop-offs and ledges along the shallow-water flats.
Fish the dam
First thing, I’ll start with the Alabama Rig with its five swimbaits, but I only put hooks on the center and two bottom swimbaits. I’ll screw in weights with no hooks on the top two swimbaits.
Pickwick Lake is on the border of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and Tennessee has a regulation that you only can fish three hooks on any multi-bait lure. So, I’ll play it safe with only three swimbaits rigged with hooks.
During December, I start fishing the 4 ½-inch shad-color swimbaits, with ¼-ounce leadhead jigs on the riprap down by the dam, and position my boat to cast at a 45-degree angle parallel to the rocks — about 10-feet deep.
I’ll slow-roll the rig as it comes away from the riprap to let those two bottom swimbaits walk the rocks.
I’ll also fish around the barge tie-ups, the locks and the face of the dam, since shad and a good current will be there. This area has plenty of vertical structure where the bass can hold or suspend.
As the day warms-up, the bass will move closer to the surface.
I’ll use a Lowrance HDS depth finder, which gives me side-scanning and down-scanning abilities and a GPS location. I want to pull my Alabama Rig just below the schools of shad I’ve spotted on my depth finder.
I’ll determine the depth for my Alabama Rig to run by counting when the rig hits the water. I’ll be catching about as many saltwater stripers (5 to 20 pounds) and hybrids as I do spotted, largemouth and smallmouth bass with this rig. I’ll also snag a few catfish and white bass.
I like an Alabama Rig Rod made by Seeker, and will match it with a 6.4:1 Pinnacle reel with 60-pound-test Trilene braided line.
If the bass are finicky or not attacking the Alabama rig, I’ll downsize my lures to the Mann’s pearl-colored Three-For-All, a multi-lure bait much smaller in size. I’ll change my rod to a 7-foot medium-heavy Seeker Graphite rod, turn to 15-pound-test Berkely 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line and switch the jig to a 3/8-ounce jighead.
Move to the south
The Tennessee River is one of the few rivers in the world that flows south to north. It starts at Pickwick. I’ll go up the lake away from the dam after the dam bite drops off and use my depth finder on main-river points and around the islands and the mussel bars.
I’m pinpointing where those points and bars drop into 25-foot-deep water.
I’ll cast the Alabama Rig upriver and slow-roll the bars, points and drop-offs using a 3/8-ounce jighead, and let the rig ride the current.
You’ll catch more bass when the current’s running. I’ll use my side scan depth finder to look for bait and bass from 15 to 30 feet deep.
Before I ever start fishing, I’ll go over the bars and points I plan to fish with the depth finder to see how and where the bait and the bass are positioned.
If bass aren’t attacking the Alabama Rig, I’ll fish the Three-For-All, but with a ½-ounce jighead.
In this area, you’ll catch mainly largemouths with some smallmouths, spotted bass and hybrid bass.
Fish the rock bluffs
I’ll tie a purple-back, chartreuse-sided/pearl-bellied jerkbait to 8-pound-test 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line and use a Seeker fiberglass jerkbait rod with a 7.3:1 Pinnacle reel to fish the bluffs and the points of bluffs. I’ll make long casts and jerk the bait down, let the bait sit dead in the water for 5 or 6 seconds, jerk it two or three times, and then allow it to sit still for another 5 or 6 seconds.
Smallmouths, should be the most-dominant bass holding on the bluffs.
I’ll catch most of my bass in 15- to 20-foot-deep water. Although the bait is suspended at 6 to 7 feet, bass will come up out of the deeper water to attack the jerkbait, generally when it’s sitting still. Watch your line for a little tick, and then set the hook since the bass will suck the baits into their mouths rather than attacking viciously.
At Pickwick in December, I hope to catch 15 bass in a day and another 10 or 15 stripers, hybrids, catfish and white bass.