This month, the big smallmouth start suspending off bluff banks and holding off bluff points at Pickwick Lake in northeast Mississippi. From the middle to the end of January is the best time to catch a trophy smallmouth at Pickwick. We catch these suspending fish on Smithwick Suspending Rogues and Mann's Stone Jigs. Using those two lures, you should be able to catch smallmouth that weigh from 2 to 6 pounds each with some largemouths and spotted bass mixed in.

I'll put in at the Pickwick Landing State Park, and start fishing the bluff walls on the lower end of the lake, close to the Pickwick Landing Dam. Fish the bluff walls inside the major creeks, like Yellow and Bear. The most-productive bluffs will be the first ones coming off the main lake. Fishing the creeks and the points at the mouths of the major tributaries also should produce smallmouths.

My No. 1 lure will be a Smithwick Suspending Rogue. My favorite colors are shad and bluegill because these are the forage fish the smallmouth will be feeding on this month. I prefer the bluegill pattern because it has chartreuse and orange. I'll be fishing the Rogue on 8-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a Pinnacle medium-action 6 1/2-foot rod and a 7.2:1 gear-ratio Pinnacle reel.

I'll be working the lure very slowly. I'll jerk it down four or five times, and then let it suspend and sit still. I'll sometimes let it sit as long as 10 seconds, shake the line to make the bait wiggle in place and then allow it to sit for another 5 to 10 seconds. Then I'll jerk it two or three times, let it sit, quiver it and allow it to sit. I'll go through the same type of retrieve until I get the jerkbait about 20 or 30 yards from the bluff.

You can catch bass using this technique over a 25- to 30-foot-deep bottom. You can catch the bass at this same depth, if you're fishing the Suspending Rogue over the bluff points. The bass like to hold in that deep water next to the bluff banks and points, so they can move either more shallow or deeper along the edge of those walls and points, based on temperature and the movement of the baitfish.

On the bluff points, my back-up bait will be a 1/4-ounce Mann's Stone Jig in black/blue and hot-craw. I'll be fishing the jig on 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy-action Pinnacle spinning rod and a 5:1 gear-ratio Pinnacle spinning reel.

Because the water temperature will be cold and the bass will be sluggish, I'll drag the jig very slowly on the bottom, stopping it occasionally and then letting it sit still. I'll start fishing the jerkbait on these points, and when the bass stop taking the it, I'll start fishing the Stone Jig. Over the years, I've learned that during the winter months, the bass bite is better based on the moon charts and the bass's actively feeding times.

Now, you won't get a lot of bass bites using these two techniques, but you'll usually catch big bass. On a good day at Pickwick this month, I expect to catch 10 bass, and on a bad day, I expect to catch from none to two or three bass. If I catch 10 bass at Pickwick during January, I'll usually have a mixed bag of largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass. Catching a 5- or a 6-pound smallmouth or largemouth, or a 3- or a 4-pound spotted bass isn't uncommon. If I catch 10 bass in a day, I expect to have five or six smallmouths, two to three largemouths and two to three spotted bass.

If you're having a tough day on the lower end of the lake, go to Wilson Dam, and fish the swift water below the dam with the Rogue the same way you've fished it on the bluffs. Jerk the bait down, and let it sit, but allow the current to move it.

Below the dam are big boulders. One of the best ways to catch the smallmouths there is to cast upcurrent of the boulders, jerk the Rogue down and let the current wash it around the boulder and into the eddy area behind the rock. The smallmouths often will pull up and hold behind those rocks, so they don't have to fight the current. When that Rogue washes around the rock and sits motionless, except for the movement from the force of the current, the jerkbait presents an easy meal the smallmouths don't have to exert a lot of energy to catch and eat.