Pickwick Lake’s rod-bending bass action

June is the best month to fish ledges for bass at the Tennessee River’s Pickwick Lake. By June, most of the bass have finished spawning, started to school up and begun to move out on the river ledges. The most productive section of Pickwick in June is from the dam up to the Natchez Trace Bridge. I’ll concentrate on the ledges at the mouths of creeks and pockets that have ditches running out into the river — the first places bass will move to after they spawn. You’ll catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. 

Crankbaits

I’ll fish the ledges with crankbaits like the Mann’s 20+ and 30+ in grey ghost and pearl blue back. I’ll use a 6.2:1 ELS Bruin reel with 14-pound test White Peacock fluorocarbon line on a 7’6” medium heavy FX custom cranking rod. I’ll cast upcurrent, reeling the bait with the current, targeting where the creek channels and the pockets intersect the main river channel. I’ll start on the downcurrent side of these creek channels and ditches — which generally are the most productive bass places where logs, sticks and stumps have lodged.

I’ll idle with my Garmin electronics’ side and down scanning, looking for shell beds, bait and bass 50 to 75 yards above or below where the creek channel runs into the river. I’ll concentrate more on finding the shell beds and the schools of bait. Often the bass will be holding so tight to the bottom, they won’t show up on my electronics. 

When fishing with crankbaits and reeling them with the current, you must make long casts and reel them down quickly, until you feel them hit the bottom. I’ll cast the 20+ crankbait on 15-18 foot deep ledges and fish the 30 + on 20-25 foot deep ledges. I’ll generally use a medium speed retrieve, although sometimes I’ll burn the crankbait across the bottom or pull it along the bottom with my rod. You may catch several bass from the school on the ledges. I’ll use my LiveScope to watch how the bass react to the crankbaits. 

Football Head Jigs

I’ll also fish a 1-ounce football head jig in the green pumpkin color with a crawfish trailer in the same colors on those ledges. Jigs usually don’t spook bass. I’ll tie the jig to 20-pound test fluorocarbon line and fish it on a 7’3” heavy action FX custom rod with a 7.3:1 ELS Bruin reel. When the football jig hits the bottom, I’ll crawl it over the shell beds, dragging the jig with either my reel and/or rod tip. As the boat drifts back, it will pull the jig along the bottom. Sometimes the strike will be violent or a light peck. 

Flutter spoons 

Once the bass stop biting the jig, I’ll use a flutter spoon to catch more bass out of that same school that’s holding tight and deep to the ledges. I’ll only catch two to three bass before the bass will quit taking the flutter spoon. I want to get closer to the school than when using a crankbait. I’ll fish a large, 6-inch flutter spoon in chrome or white on a 7’10” medium heavy cranking FX custom rod and a 7.3:1 Bruin ELS reel with 20-pound fluorocarbon. I’ll cast that flutter spoon upcurrent of the bass and let it fall on a slack line as it comes to the school and hits the bottom. Then I’ll snatch it up off the bottom and allow it to fall back, which is when most strikes will come. Often you’ll get several strikes on the flutter spoon before you finally hook a bass. Bass wise up to the spoon quickly. The flutter spoon is the last bait I’ll use when fishing for bass holding on ledges. 

A lure Elias will fish with when the bass come up to the top to feed is the Zara Spook.

Schooling bass

In June, if schooled up bass see bait just under the surface, they’ll pull off the ledges and attack the baitfish on the surface. Then I’ll reach for a walking bait like a Zara Spook or a popping bait like a Pop-R. Once the school of bass goes down and quits feeding on the surface, I’ll cast a 3 ½-inch pearl colored swimbait with a ¼-ounce lead head to the school. I’ll use 14 pound fluorocarbon on a 7.3:1 Bruin reel and a 7’1” medium heavy action FX custom rod. If the bass are close to the surface, I’ll fast retrieve the swimbait. If they’re deeper, I’ll use a medium retrieve. 

Secrets to June bass 

Not all of Pickwick’s ledges hold bass, so to be successful, I’ll fish numbers of ledges from the dam to the Natchez Trace Bridge. If you use your electronics and find 20 ledges holding bass, 10 ledges probably will be highly productive. On a bad June day, I expect to catch 15 to 20 bass, but on a good day, I’ll catch 30 to 40 bass, primarily largemouths and spots and several smallmouths. I’ll also catch hybrid bass, white bass and some stripers and have a bent rod all day.

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About Paul Elias 180 Articles
Paul Elias, of Laurel, has fished 15 Bassmaster Classics with career winnings of over $1 million, including one Bassmaster Classic Championship. Elias also holds the current record for a four-day BASS tournament weigh-in with 132 pounds, 8 ounces, on Falcon Lake in Texas.

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