Bass Angler Magazine

Winter River Smallmouth With Pete Cartwright

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Winter River Smallmouth With Pete Cartwright

Across the southern-most range for smallmouth bass one hears chatter about “winter smallie fishing.” However, upon examination of water temperatures on the lakes and big rivers down south, those readings rarely fall below the mid-40 degree range. “I don’t know how to break it to them, but to a northern smallmouth bass angler 45 degrees isn’t winter water temp – we simply consider that temperature to be late fall fishing,” says Pete Cartwright, river fishing expert and guide from White Oak, Pennsylvania. “To me, winter fishing is defined as water temperatures consistently below 40 degrees and falling towards ice-up. That’s when our smallie bite really slows down and catching them takes lots of patience.” “As long as water temperatures are in the mid-40s, I can catch smallmouth on jerkbaits and other slowly retrieved soft plastic. But once the water hits 40 degrees, the best presentation – the only effective presentation in my opinion – is deadsticking. Now that’s true winter fishing!” Cartwright offers tips for true winter smallmouth fishing.Smallmouth “Location:

“During the winter, I fish the smaller, fairly shallow rivers. In these waters in the cold water period, smallmouth bass may be almost anywhere – except in the fast water. Bass can be shallow or deep, over rocky bottom or soft bottom. The key is very slow moving water. For example in the Youghiogheny, I find a lot of fish in 10 foot holes. But on the Juniata River, I’m catching them in waist deep water. It depends on the characteristics of the particular river, with the only guarantee being the water must be slow,” stresses Cartwright. He describes one of the most consistent spots being a shoreline eddy where a protruding point of land creates a nearly slack water backwash eddy below it. Feeding smallies typically sit in the quiet part of the current seam right at the top of the eddy.

Tackle & Gear:

Cartwright says winter cold really tests your equipment, so choose wisely. When wading anytime of the year, you are limited to a single rod, unlike boat fishermen who may carry a half dozen. “I want a quality rod that is sensitive, with light tip but powerful backbone and capable of throwing the 1/16 to 1/4-ounce baits I use most frequently. My choice for years has been the G.Loomis Bronzeback 7’4” medium power model. I pair this with a Shimano 2500 Stradic spinning reel spooled with 8-pound fluorocarbon line. I do not drop below 8 pound test because my line takes a beating over rock and obstacles encountered with my bottom presentation of jigs. I spray Reel Magic over my reel and line to help it function in freezing temps.

Lure Selection:

“When water temperature drops below 40 degrees, I use one lure nearly all the time: a 3.5 inch tube with a 1/8-ounce insert head. Furthermore, I limit color selection to two choices: green pumpkin with black fleck or watermelon with red fleck. Can’t get much simpler than that. The tubes I prefer are from a local hand-pour company called 412 Bait. Their tubes are called 412ubes. The plastic formula used in these tubes is incredibly durable yet at the same time super soft – better than any tubes I have used from a large commercial operation. If the water level in a river is particularly low with current lighter than normal, I will drop to a 1/16-ounce head so the tube slides over the bottom with fewer hang-ups. Occasionally for a change of pace, I will switch to a hand-tied hair jig – but the tube is the real star.” “I soak my 412ubes in a mixture of crawfish scents including Gulp! Bang and Bio Edge. I will begin the long term soaking process in late summer so they are ready come December.”

Lure Presentation:

“Basically, how I fish tubes during winter coldwater is best described as deadsticking. I cast the tube to a target area, allow it glide to the bottom and then let it rest,” explains Cartwright. Depending on the amount of current, the tube might tumble along the bottom for a short distance, or the tube may simply sit on the bottom with tentacles waving gingerly. Cartwright does not hop it or jig it or swim it. “It just sits oozing crayfish scent until a smallmouth slowly moseys up to it and sucks it in. Sometimes the pick-ups are incredibly soft, but other times smallies slam it.” After 15 or 20 seconds of deadsticking, he reels the bait in and makes another targeted cast.

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Smallmouth Journal: Real Winter River Smallmouth Winter 2015 Bass Angler Magazine (Darl Black pg. 14 – 15)

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