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Tips For April-May Stream Bass

By Mike Dial-Tennessee Bass Stream Guide

April and May is one of the most beautiful times of year in Middle Tennessee. Everything around us is returning to life or giving new life! In this day and age everyone seems to think you have to have a sleek, shiny, speckled, mach III bass boat...ZOOOM ZOOOOM! I tend to smile for this is so far from the truth. Tennessee offers an abundance of fishing and having a boat is not always recommended!! Tennessee offers some of the most beautiful streams and small waterways in the United States let alone holding trophy fish!

What Do You Need?

The first piece of material required is a Tennessee State Fishing License. The first piece of equipment one needs is the Tennessee Gazetteer. This map is the best source for road and stream information. Pick a day and go for a ride scouting for that perfect small stream. Most of our streams hold smallmouth, largemouth, spotted bass, rock bass, catfish and many species of sunfish/bluegill. Streams that feed our major rivers like the Cumberland River and the Tennessee River will have a wider variety and many more creatures with fins lurking in their cool waters.

I often fish a flow that is only 20 feet wide and in its extreme sections is only 4 ft deep. I generally catch a variety of fish, but I must admit my main emphasis is the smallmouth bass. Once you find some interesting waters you may need to obtain landowner permission. I suggest dressing presentable and knocking on doors and asking to park or wade through someone's land.

I generally wear waders in early April. I like 6’ to 7' AllPro Medium Action Rods with 6-pound MONOFILAMENT test line. I don’t believe in the super lines, it is a terrible site to see when wrapped around your feet and impossible to get free! It also destroys the environment by hanging in a tree, brush etc. after the lazy and disconcerting individual has discarded a tangled mess. The braids and copolymer lines may never rot.

Suggestions On Bait Selection

I believe you ought to fish with what is comfortable. With so many baits available you can become overwhelmed quite easily. My comfort zone is Charlie Brewers 4 inch Sliders, Charlie Brewer Whirly B’s, Case Hellgrammites and Case Magic Stix, Zoom Tiny Brush Hogs and Hoppy's Dudo Flys. I do have some original Rapalas and AC Shiners for top water action, but I prefer the Fluke type baits such as Case Sinking Salty's and 6 inch Case Jack's Worm.

The above lures will produce larger fish consistently. For the small Sunfish and smaller bass the new Charlie B, Rooster Tails and Rebel Crawdads are good.

I rig the Sliders on the 1/16 ounce Slider Spider Head along with the Brush Hog Lures.

I throw the Stix and the Sinking Salty's with a 1/0 worm hook or #3 offset Circle Hook. I add a Split shot for weight in heavy Current. Hellgrammites are rigged with a Size 1 offset worm hook and a Water Gremlin Split shot bullet weight crimped to the shank after exposing the hook. We will be talking more about these in our Monthly Product Reviews in the near future.

Where Do You Look

During April, I like to key on the deeper holes with current, and the sunny shallower banks. Crawfish are in abundance on a sunny day and the minnows are beginning to spawn also. With high clear skies I like to fish the deeper holes and the lay downs and root balls. I refer to deeper holes in my streams 3 to 6 feet deep.

Most of the time the afternoon bite is better than the morning bite in April. But with Middle Tennessee weather your best bet is to be out all day.

If you arrive at your stream and the water is to high to wade and muddy look for wider sections above narrow sections and eddies. I have found that the fish move to the calmer water during periods of high water. Whirly B’s are great in the muddier water. And you cannot beat a live Creek minnow. I never arrive at a stream with out some creek minnows in the 3 to 7 inch range.

One thing I can’t stress enough is that you need to work each area completely. I have found that fish in our streams do congregate in certain areas and that a 100-yard stretch of stream can produce 30 plus Rock Bass and smallmouth.

Catch And Release Smallmouth

I do practice CATCH and RELEASE on smallmouth in our streams. If you want to eat some fish try Night crawlers and dead creek minnows for Catfish. During the warmer months I will keep a few Rock Bass on a trip freezing them until I have enough for a fry. It is easy to catch a limit of Rock Bass in our streams but you can fish your holes out so be selective with any harvest of fish in your favorite stream.

We see so much press about Dale Hollow and Pickwick and Canadian Lakes and the size of smallmouth people catch. I have had numerous outings where the top five smallmouth of the day were from 17 to 20 inches and I believe our streams offer greater numbers of smallmouth also. My Largest smallmouth from a Middle Tennessee small stream is 22.5 inches.

Final Thoughts

If you like to fish and do not have access to a boat check out one of our many small streams. Once you learn the stream you will have countless hours of enjoyment. If you have young children always carry crickets and/or worms, they will have a ball catching bluegill, rock bass and an occasional trophy smallmouth.

I hope this will inspire you to explore and enjoy our great state with family and friends. Please remember to practice CATCH and RELEASE on those smallmouth! Please keep Tennessee beautiful, any litter that you find please practice proper disposal.

Rick McFerrin,
Stream Smallmouth Guide

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Article about fishing for smallmouth bass in streams.