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Dale Hollow | A great wintertime fishing opportunity

BY THE TIME THE NEW YEAR ARRIVES, fishing has slowed and most hunting seasons are closed, leaving those who love the outdoors looking for something to enjoy. 

One great way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors this time of year in Kentucky is smallmouth bass fishing on Dale Hollow Lake. Dale Hollow Lake is situated mostly in northern Tennessee but some of the lake lies in Cumberland and Clinton counties of Kentucky. Its 27,700 acres have plenty of great smallmouth bass habitat—habitat to grow not only great numbers of smallmouth bass, but big ones as well. In fact, the world record smallmouth bass was caught at Dale Hollow Lake by David L. Hayes of Leitchfield. Kentucky claims the 11-pound, 15-ounce behemoth along with Tennessee as their state record smallmouth bass. 

There are several ways to approach fishing Dale Hollow Lake in January. Most people think of the float-and-fly technique for cold water smallmouth bass on the big lake. This technique uses a small hair jig under a bobber, letting the ripples on the water or a slight twitch of the rod tip be the only action needed to trigger a strike. There’s a reason that it’s popular: it works. However, I prefer a swimbait for chasing smallmouth bass in the winter. Truth is, I love to throw the swimbait anytime I can get a bass to bite it. The strikes are memorable, and the swimbait seems to attract bigger bass overall. 

The swimbait closely resembles the forage that big smallmouth bass consume in the winter. It is also a versatile bait that can be presented in many ways to convince big bass to bite, even on the slowest days. The swimbait can be rigged weedless to fish in grass. In open water, it can be nose hooked to give the bait a more erratic action that sometimes gets more bites. You can swim it, drag it or tightline the swimbait. I have seen each presentation work better than another on a given day or even a given hour, as conditions change. 

The swimbait can be thrown on baitcasting tackle, but my go-to for fishing a swimbait on Dale Hollow Lake is the spinning reel with a medium power, 7-foot rod coupled with 6-pound test fluorocarbon. Spinning gear handles light line and smaller swimbaits best. 

The water is deep and clear at Dale Hollow Lake, especially in winter when less sunlight and colder water deplete organic growth in the water column. Therefore, it’s often suggested to use natural colors on the lake. 

While Dale Hollow is probably best known, with good reason, for smallmouth bass, the crappie and largemouth bass fishing is excellent as well. Get outdoors this winter and enjoy Dale Hollow Lake’s great wintertime smallmouth bass fishing and maybe I will see you on the water.

KEN MCBROOM, an outdoors writer/photographer, created Growing up in Lynchburg, Tennessee, McBroom now lives in western Kentucky. 

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