I try to fish Pickwick Lake in April for several reasons, including that the bass primarily will be prespawn or spawning in shallow water. Use your depth finder, but also wear polarized sunglasses to help you see the structure and the type of bottom to target spotted, smallmouth and/or largemouth bass.
Hooking 30 to 40 bass on an April day at Pickwick isn’t uncommon, especially when fishing cover on the bank. I’ll fish pockets, main-river points and secondary points inside creeks with spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and a Mann’s Hardnose Freefall worm.
Bass primarily will be in the pockets and on secondary and main-river points, as they’re moving into the spawn or already spawning. I don’t expect to see any postspawn bass at Pickwick this month.
I’ll fish the banks and cover plenty of water, perhaps 200 to 300 yards without getting a bite. But on the next 100 yards, I may catch four bass. In that same area, you may change baits and possibly catch the same amount. In a full day of fishing, you may identify three or four locations, stretches of 100 yards or less, where you can catch plenty of bass by rotating where you fish.
What baits, why
Tennessee River bass love spinnerbaits and buzzbaits this month. A spinnerbait allows you to cover a lot of water quickly, while identifying the sections, pockets and points holding the most bass. I like to fish a ½-ounce spinnerbait with a chartreuse and white skirt and No. 4 and No. 6 Indiana blades. I’ll use a 7-foot-1, medium-heavy FX Custom rod with a 6.2:1 gear ratio Legend Bruin reel and 23-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon. I’ll fish a buzzbait on the same rod with a 7.3:1 gear ratio reel and 20-pound Iguana monofilament.
I’ll alternate between the spinnerbait and the buzzbait. Knowing that fluorocarbon sinks more than monofilament, I prefer the monofilament when fishing the buzzbait; I want it to ride on top of the water. On the back of the buzzbait, instead of having a skirt, I’ll have one rod rigged with a soft-plastic, white frog and another rigged with a black frog. I’ll alternate between the two, until the bass tell me which they prefer. The frog serves two purposes: it holds the buzzbait up in the water, and its kicking legs give the buzzbait more action to attract more bass. The frog helps me catch more bass than a skirt does.
I’m searching for logs, stumps, boulders, buck brush, willow trees and blown-down trees. I prefer fishing the lower end of Pickwick and primarily will search for pockets off the creek and the main river channels where the bass like to spawn.
Fishing the baits
Initially, I’ll fish the first pockets away from the dam on the main river and then on up the lake. When I reach Bear Creek, depending on how many bass I’ve caught, I’ll cross the lake and fish the other side of the river from the dam up. In April, bass often will simply follow the spinnerbait or buzzbait and not eat them. As a follow-up, I’ll use a 7-foot-3 FX Custom rod with a 7.3:1 Legend Bruin Reel and 23-pound fluorocarbon rigged with a junebug-colored Mann’s Hardnose Freefall worm with a 1/32-ounce nail lead in its head. This worm falls slowly and is an easy meal for a bass to catch.
- Use a 360-degree depth finder like my Garmin with its LiveScope feature to spot bass in less than 1 to 3 feet of water. I can see the cover and bass before I get close enough to make a cast in an area.
- Fish a big, soft-plastic, Lucky Craft swimbait. I’ll fish this 7-inch lure on braid and reel it as slowly as I can back to the boat. You won’t get a lot of bites, but you’ll have numbers of bass following it back to the boat — telling me where the big spawners are holding. Then, I can cast back to them with a buzzbait, a spinnerbait or a worm and catch them. However, most of the bass you’ll catch in April will be males, because they’ll be more aggressive than the females.
These April tactics apply primarily to largemouth bass. To catch smallmouth and spotted bass, target the pea-gravel points, flats and secondary points, and use the same rods, reels and line.