You can load the boat at Pickwick Lake this month with bass, if you’re not too choosy about what type of bass you want to catch — largemouths, smallmouths and spots.
Or if you want to switch gears and just catch numbers of fish, you can go to the tailrace of Wilson Lake and catch those species plus striped, hybrid, white and yellow bass, catfish, drums and many other game fish.
In April, the Tennessee Valley Authority will start bringing Pickwick up to summer pool, and the current and warmer weather will cause the bass to move shallow, begin to create beds and get ready to spawn.
My favorite bait this month will be Mann’s Reel N’ Shad, a new swimbait without a tail that I can fish many different ways, even as a jerkbait. This lure is really simple to fish, but it produces a lot of bass.
The Reel N’ Shad comes with a ¼-ounce weedless jighead, and you simply cast the lure out and reel it in to catch bass at Pickwick.
During the first part of April, the bass will be moving up to extremely shallow water to feed in preparation for the spawn, so you can cast the Reel N’ Shad almost up on the bank.
My two favorite colors are watermelon red and the Hartwell special/blue glimmer color, a clear bait with blue metal flake.
I’ll be fishing 20-pound-test White Peacock fluorocarbon that’s about the diameter of 12- to 14-pound-test monofilament on a 7.3:1 Pinnacle reel with a 7-foot, medium-heavy Pinnacle rod.
In shallow water, I’ll cast this lure around any type of brush, logs, stumps, rocks and the dead, brown grass along the shoreline.
As soon as the bait hits the water, I’ll start swimming it back to the boat on a slow retrieve.
Two other types of retrieve will also work. I’ll cast past the target (bushes, logs, stumps, etc.), kill the bait and let it fall right by the structure, which often is when bass will attack.
Another tactic is to swim the bait right up to the structure with a slow retrieve and speed up your retrieve by making four or so quick turns on your reel; the bass will think the lure is a baitfish that spotted a bass down in the cover and is swimming quickly to escape.
On different days, bass usually will prefer one type of retrieve over the other.
Bet on the pea gravel points
Pickwick Lake has numerous pea gravel points where smallmouths like to spawn, and I’ll fish those with a Reel N’ Shad by casting the lure to the shallow water and bumping it along the bottom all the way out to 6 to 8 feet deep.
I’ll also crawl the lure along the bottom on these points, stopping the bait every now and then to make sure I have contact with the bottom.
Also, I’ll cast a Mann’s C-4 crankbait in a crawfish color on these points with a medium-diving crankbait using a Pinnacle rod and a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel. Smallmouths feed on crawfish, plus they don’t want crawfish getting in their beds.
The third lure I’ll fish is a Mann’s green pumpkin HardNose lizard rigged Carolina style. I’ll keep my boat in about 8 to 10 feet of water, because many of those main river points come out significantly from the bank.
Before the bass go on their beds, they’ll hold in 5- to 6-foot-deep water. So, I can move my lure through the areas where the bass are spawning out to where the bass are staging before the spawn.
You’ll also catch largemouths and spots on these points.
Fish the dam for fun
When current is being pulled through Wilson Dam at the headwaters of Pickwick Lake, you can catch a wide variety of fish — and a lot of them — using the Reel N’ Shad on an Alabama rig. You’ll catch smallmouths, largemouths, spotted bass, stripers, white and yellow bass, hybrids, catfish, drum and just about any other fish that swims in the tailrace. With two anglers in a boat, you should be able to catch a mixed bag of 25 to 50 fish per man per day.