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Kevin Hawk – Late Fall and Winter Fishing on Lake Guntersville and Lewis Smith Lake
Category : BASS FISHING REPORTS, HAWK TALK
Shortly after winning the Forrest Wood Cup in 2010 I moved to Lake Guntersville for several reasons. It’s centrally located to most of the tournament venues on the major Tours and the lake is one of the best largemouth fisheries in the country. What I didn’t realize at the time, but have come to appreciate is that Lewis Smith Lake (an hour or so from Guntersville) is one of the premier spotted bass lakes in the south.
I’ve taken advantage of my time here in North Alabama and started my Bass fishing guide service that I concentrate on when I’m not on the road fishing tournaments. The fishing on both Gville and Smith Lake has been outstanding over the past month and I’d like to give you insight as to how my clients and I have been fishing each body of water. Even if you can’t make it to Guntersville or Smith I know you’ll find some of this information useful on lakes close to you.
Gville (Lake Guntersville)
Lake Guntersville is filled with lots of vegetation—mainly milfoil, hyrdrilla, and eel grass. The bass live in the grass year round, so I target it most of the year especially in the fall and winter.
The water temperature has dropped from the mid 60’s to the high 40’s over the past month and the bass have been feeding heavily on shad. The most consistent producing lure for my clients and I has been a 1/4oz white 4×4 Swim Jig paired with a 3.5” Blue Pearl Silver Flake Yamamoto Swimbait. This combination imitates a shad perfectly. I’m a huge fan of a paddle tail style trailer for my swim jigs and I’ve found it works in both warm and cooler water temperatures.
There’s a ton of swim jigs on the market and we all have our favorites for certain reasons. I fish 4×4 swim jigs because it has a precisely angled weed guard that comes through vegetation cleaner than any other swim jig I’ve ever fished with. It also has a built-in wire keeper that keeps my trailer secure so I don’t have to super glue.
The swim jig is the most efficient presentation for fishing the grass because it’s weedless and can be fished through both thin and thick vegetation. It’s important to cast into the vegetation and not just along the outside edge as most of the bites occur as the swim jig is being pulled into or breaking free from the vegetation. A 1/4 oz is perfect for fishing in 1 to 6 feet of water, because it rides high in the water. I’ll use a 3/8 oz when fishing beyond 6 feet or if the bass are holding tighter to the bottom.
Sometimes when the bass aren’t in an aggressive mood they’ll bump or just nip at the swim jig. When this occurs it’s important to do what I call “reel through the bite.” The bass will often fully commit to eating the swim jig after hitting it once or twice, but If you pull the lure away from the fish after feeling the initial hit I’ve found they rarely chase it down.
There’s vegetation all over Lake Guntersville, but the heaviest concentrations are in the mid and upper portions of the lake. I like to fish Waterfront up to Scottsboro this time of year, because the grass will be more prominent as winter sets in.
The first time I fished Smith Lake it reminded me of the deep clear lakes I grew up fishing in California, so naturally I felt right at home. Smith doesn’t get near the attention or fishing pressure other lakes in North Alabama get like Lake Guntersville. Undeservedly so, because Smith’s spotted bass population is amazing. It seems like you can catch spots on every point on the lake at times, The spots love to hang close to deep water, so the drop-offs next to points are always productive.
I like fishing both Ryan and Rock Creek and launch at Smith Lake Park in Cullman. The Park has a good ramp and is located in Ryan Creek, which offers some of the best fishing on the lake in my opinion. The Park also has camping and cabins which make it a great place to stay during a tournament or while on vacation. The Park hosts an annual BassFest team tournament every October with a $10,000 guaranteed first place cash prize as well.
Blueback Herring were introduced to Smith at some point and have changed the fishery over time. I think the bigger spots always roam (often in wolf packs) looking to feed on the Herring, which makes a walk-the-dog topwater presentation a great way to target the bigger spots. As with any clear body of water long casts are important. I want to get my lure as far away from the boat as possible to increase my chances of getting bit on top.
We all fish the topwater lures we’ve built the most confidence in. For me, it’s the DUO Realis Pencil 110 and its little brother the Pencil 85. The Pencil has a half sphere on the bottom lip which allows it to start walking on the first rod twitch. It also has an internal moving weight which produces a distinctive “knock” and casts exceptionally well. I always have both sizes tied on because I’ve found on Smith the spots will prefer one over the other at times. Usually, if there’s little to no wind and the surface is calm I have more success on the 85. On the other hand, if the wind is creating surface shop I like the 110 because it displaces more water.
For colors I have two favorites—Neo Pearl and All Bait. I want one with a white bottom and one with a silver/chrome bottom. Spotted bass can be finicky and making a small adjustment between the two colors can often result in catching more fish.
Another highly effective presentation to catch big spots on Smith is dropshotting. A lot of times while I’m fishing topwater I’ll see spots directly beneath my boat on my sonar and the dropshot is the perfect technique to catch those visible fish. If the spots are suspended I’ll stop my dropshot right above the fish first. If they don’t bite my suspended presentation I’ll let it fall to the bottom and give them an opportunity to chase it down.
Guntersville and Smith Lake are tremendous year round fisheries and both are extremely fun to fish. If you’d like to experience either lake first hand please contact me to book your trip.
If you’d like to book a trip with me to learn more about Lake Guntersville, Smith Lake, or just looking to enjoy a good time fishing please Kevin Hawk’s Lake Guntersville Guide Service