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MoFisher22

Smallies in the winter

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I’ve fished/floated most the river from Bennett to lead mine in the spring/summer with good success for smallies, always CPR ofcourse. However, I’ve never tried them in the winter and was curious if anyone had any advice on what accesses they’ve found to be most successful and maybe even what baits have been most productive for you in the winter. I’m also curious about if anyone has any info on the habits of the smallies below tunnel dam as to whether they go into the lake in the winter or if they stay in the river. Thanks in advance 

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3 hours ago, MoFisher22 said:

I’ve fished/floated most the river from Bennett to lead mine in the spring/summer with good success for smallies, always CPR ofcourse. However, I’ve never tried them in the winter and was curious if anyone had any advice on what accesses they’ve found to be most successful and maybe even what baits have been most productive for you in the winter. I’m also curious about if anyone has any info on the habits of the smallies below tunnel dam as to whether they go into the lake in the winter or if they stay in the river. Thanks in advance 

I haven't spent a lot of time fishing the lower Niangua, but I do know that there are smallmouth in the lower river throughout the winter; they don't all migrate down into the lake.  Find wintering pools and you'll catch fish.  As for the Niangua below Bennett, I don't think that any one access would be much if any better than others.  Some migrate up into the warmer waters below the spring branch outlet, but others are found in all the wintering pools down to Tunnel Dam.  

The trick, of course, is to figure which pools hold them in the winter.  You can't go too far wrong by looking for water deep enough to make it difficult or impossible to see the bottom, and slow enough that the surface is smooth and anything floating is moving very slowly.  Add in good cover like big rocks or logs, and there will probably be some smallmouth wintering there.

As for lures, just think slow and low.  Hair jigs, Ned rigs, finesse worms work for fishing on the bottom.  Suspending jerkbaits work.  Sometimes deep diving crankbaits will catch them.  A water thermometer is handy, because water temps often determine what will work.  If the water temp is below about 38 degrees, it's going to be really tough fishing most times.  If it's between 38 and 42, the bottom stuff will probably work best.  42-46 degrees, jerkbaits are getting likely to work.  Above that, crankbaits and even slow rolled spinnerbaits can work.  

 

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10 hours ago, Gavin said:

Look for holes that get full sun. Hardly ever do well for winter smallies on a cloudy day. A night or two above freezing seems to help.

Sun is important IMO. Almost all of my best wintering holes have some areas where the fish can get a solar charge from time to time.  Slow moving shallow water near deep water with an eddy or place to get out of heavy current.  Throw in some big rocks and wood and it's even better.  They will change positions in the hole throughout the day as well.  Just because the water is cold, that doesn't mean they are going to be feeding deep.  Try and go when there has been a warming trend for best results. 

I broke ice (here in northern Indiana) to get to a good spot on Sunday, and they were very aggressive for winter.  Suspending jerkbaits fished rather quickly and cranks were the ticket that day.  Caught about 15 smallies per hour and had a bonus 21" walleye.

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I've always done better in the winter for all species on the those nasty dreary days. If the snow is flying, I know it's going to be a killer day! 42* water has always been the magic number for me. Sub 40 is tough unless you're fishing spring water.

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1 hour ago, siusaluki said:

Sun is important IMO. Almost all of my best wintering holes have some areas where the fish can get a solar charge from time to time.  Slow moving shallow water near deep water with an eddy or place to get out of heavy current.  Throw in some big rocks and wood and it's even better.  They will change positions in the hole throughout the day as well.  Just because the water is cold, that doesn't mean they are going to be feeding deep.  Try and go when there has been a warming trend for best results. 

I broke ice (here in northern Indiana) to get to a good spot on Sunday, and they were very aggressive for winter.  Suspending jerkbaits fished rather quickly and cranks were the ticket that day.  Caught about 15 smallies per hour and had a bonus 21" walleye.

What was the water temp where you caught them?  I don't think I've caught a smallie in 42 degree or lower water. 

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56 minutes ago, Seth said:

I've always done better in the winter for all species on the those nasty dreary days. If the snow is flying, I know it's going to be a killer day! 42* water has always been the magic number for me. Sub 40 is tough unless you're fishing spring water.

I've done real well on Largemouth on grey days but not so much for smallies. 

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