All the lakes on the Tennessee River, from Guntersville through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, will produce great bass fishing during December.
But at Pickwick Lake, my favorite place, I can catch bass using several methods. Pickwick has produced numbers of big bass during all of 2015, so I need to go with a winner in the winter.
I’ll be fishing the middle section of the lake this month from Yellow Creek up to the Natchez Trace, where I’ll find numbers of productive ledges out on the river channel.
Although bass mainly will be deep, on warming days they’ll move onto the flats to feed.
Pickwick also has a wide variety of bass in its waters — including smallmouths, largemouths, spots, saltwater stripers and hybrid stripers — all feeding on the same food/lures.
I’ll plan my fishing trips around the solunar tables that play a major role in determining when bass feed, since bass don’t feed all day during the winter.
Fish the Alabama Rig with Reelin’N Shads
I have the most confidence in the Alabama Rig, which receives more attention from bass than a single bait will, in the early part of December when the water’s not that cold.
I’ll use a ¼-ounce head on each of my five Mann’s white pearl 5 ¼-inch Reelin’N Shad soft-plastic lures in the shad pattern. And I’ll use a Pinnacle 7-foot, 11-inch flipping rod with 65-pound-test braided main line and a Pinnacle 6:4:1 reel.
I let the bass tell me the type of retrieve they want as they come up from deep water to attack this rig.
But later in the month, you might have to let the Alabama Rig fall deeper in the water and crawl it closer to the bottom for bites.
I’ll cast at a 35- to 40-degree angle into 20 to 30 feet of water with slow to medium retrieves on main river ledges and bars. I’ll let the rig fall all the way to the bottom and bring it over the lip of the break.
Once the bass attack the rig, I’ll know the depth of water where the bass are holding.
Generally fish will hold off the sides or off the ends of the bars.
Your depth finders will be a major tool for locating December bass. I’ll look for schools of baitfish and then how the bass relate to the baitfish — off to their sides and under or behind them.
Sometimes bass will be holding barely off or right on the bottom, well below the baitfish. I’ll use my down-imaging and side-imaging scanner to learn how the schools of bass are relating to the bait.
Troll the Alabama Rig
Chunking and winding that Alabama Rig all day is tough for young and old anglers. But trolling the Alabama Rig and speeding up the boat will cause the rig to swim higher in the water column. Slowing the boat’s speed will swim the rig through the lower depths.
I’m not much on trolling, myself, but people can cover lots of water quickly without putting much strain on their hands, wrists, arms and backs.
Bet on the rocks
Rocky points and banks also will pay off in bass dividends in December. Rocks absorb heat and transfer heat into the water, so often fish will hold in these rocky areas.
You might see rocks in the mouths of creeks and cutbacks; start fishing 100 yards inside the cuts and creeks, and go all the way down the bank, around the point and then 100 yards up the riverbank.
Cast almost to the bank, let the Alabama Rig sink to the bottom and reel it out to the deep water.
Fish the suspended jerkbait
One of the most-consistent wintertime producers of bass is a suspended jerkbait worked in all the places you’ve fished the Alabama Rig.
I’ll tie a suspended, shad-colored jerkbait onto a rod with 12-pound-test White Peacock Fluorocarbon on a 6½-foot medium-action Pinnacle rod with a 7.3:1 baitcasting Pinnacle reel. I’ll cast the jerkbait toward the bank at a 45-degree angle and jerk it back toward my boat, making three- to five-second pauses before I jerk it again.
The jerkbait only will go down 5 to 7 feet. But bass will be looking up and will come up to strike it when it’s suspended and still.
You might only spot a small tick on the line, much like you see when you’re fishing a plastic worm. Then just pull back on your rod, and reel. Don’t try to make an aggressive hook set or you’ll pull the bait away from the fish.
Try the drop-shot
Pickwick bass like a drop-shot rig in December. So I’ll have a 3/8-ounce weight on the bottom of a line and tie my No. 2/0 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook about 10 inches above the weight and a Mann’s 5-inch HardNose Finesse green pumpkin worm onto 12-pound-test White Peacock Fluorocarbon leader about 6 to 8 feet long.
I’ll tie the leader to 20-pound braided line on a Pinnacle Optimus spinning reel with a 7-foot, 1-inch medium-heavy spinning rod.
I’ll fish this drop-shot out on the main lake around the points and ledges by putting my boat in the shallow water and casting to the deep water in the river channel.
Bass fishermen have a tendency when fishing deep water not to work their lures all the way back to their boats. By holding your boat in the shallow water and working that drop-shot worm up the ledge, you’re covering all the depths where the bass might be holding right up to the side of your boat.
You’ll also learn at what depth of water the bass are feeding.
When you’re drop-shotting, try not to set the hook. Just pull back on the rod and let the thin-diameter hook set itself.
What you’ve caught
At the end of the day, you’ll have caught a mixed bag of all the bass mentioned, with smallmouths up to 5 pounds, spotted bass up to 3 ½ pounds and largemouths up to 6 pounds, and taken big hybrids and saltwater stripers on the Alabama Rig.