12/12/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Midges
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fishing Cold Water - Part Three
Stripers (White Bass) and Jack Salmon (Sauger) were not the only species of fish I fished for
in cold water when I was a kid. Crappie was another one and I lived very near a perfect place
to catch them - Guntersville Lake. I should also mention that I could walk to several farm
ponds from the house, some rather large ones, but I usually rode my bicycle. There are
hundreds of farm ponds in Marshall County and the surrounding counties nearby. All of them
were stocked with bass and bream and I had numerous choices as to where to fish. I fished
many of them and I fished them irrespective of what the weather conditions were.

I can remember going crappie fishing during our Spring Break from high school every day for
the entire week we were out of school the last few years of high school. It was always in the
first part of March and the weather would range from nice to very cold. I spent many days in a
boat drifting across the middle of Brown's Creek in Guntersville Lake. Brown's Creek isn't a
creek. After construction of the lake, it became the largest section of the huge 79,000 acre
Guntersville Lake there is.

During the winter and early March the crappie were located in fairly deep water ranging from
ten to twenty feet deep. At that time in the late fifties, there wasn't any millfoil in Guntersville
Lake. That was somehow introduced in the lake in the late sixties and early seventies. It's now
solid with the grass and it also has plenty of hydrilla in the deeper water. The structure the
crappie held on during the winter was stumps. When we were able to drift across stump fields
located in ten to twenty feet of water, we caught catch plenty of crappie. We used live
minnows, shiners and toughies. We didn't have trolling motors with batteries that were good
enough to troll very long. We used the wind. We would carry a small outboard motor and rent
a small aluminum boat at the lake most of the time. We would head upwind and then drift back
across the lake in areas we knew there were stumps.

Some of you may remember an article I wrote a couple of years ago about "going up Short
Creek without a paddle". That was a saying of my dad's but it turned out to be true, except it
was "going up Short Creek without a motor". It just happened to be one loaned to me by my
girlfriend's dad. I won't get into the details, but it was a cold Spring break day and instead of
Brown's Creek, we choose Short Creek on Guntersville Lake so we could get out of a strong
north wind. My fishing partner and best friend was Don (Mouse) Morton, who as a matter of
introduction, has been the drummer for the Statler Brothers since the day we both finished
high school in 1961. We were swapping places so that Don could run the motor when it
suddenly came off the transom in about twenty feet of water smack in the middle of Short
Creek. We never found it and it took both of us a year to pay for it.

Back to fishing cold water, we would fish during the winter months of January and February on
weekends and during Spring Break in early March by drifting the lake. In April, the crappie
would move into shallow water to spawn and that's when most everyone else fished for them.  
I can remember being very cold and remember my hands getting almost frozen when we put
minnows on the hook and took crappie off the hook. We caught lots of them. Catching thirty or
forty would have been a bad day of fishing. The secret was getting the minnow right in front of
the crappie which would hold tight to the stumps. We often had to use buckets tied to the side
of the boat to slow our speed down. I don't know what the water temperature was. I would
guess it was in the high forties and low fifties at the warmest. I just knew the crappie didn't go
to the shallow water until April.

I also frequently went bass fishing on Guntersville Lake during those same years but usually
with others who owned a boat. I fished some with my girl friend's dad and some with basketball
Coach Jim Grant, who was an all American College basketball player from Indiana. He loved to
fish and knew how to do what he called "slow trolling". I was about 14 or 15 at the time and a
manager on the basketball team. He would fish all winter long. In the warm months I "fiddled"  
worms for him to use slow trolling. He paid me a nickel or dime (can't remember for sure, but I
thought it was a good amount at the time) for each one. During the winter months he trolled
deep diving lures. We would slow troll across the lake and we would catch bass. At that time,
there wasn't near the numbers and sizes of bass that there now, thanks to the millfoil, but we
would catch them off the same stump fields as the crappie would hold on. That was the only
cover for bass and crappie in the lake at the time.

I can remember an important point he made about it. Coach Grant would troll very slow using
his trolling motor. He would tell me the bass were real sluggish in the cold water and that the
lure had to hit them in the head. He had that down right. I guess he learned it by trial and
error.

Years later, with much, much more experience during the five years I was fishing the national
BASS circuit, I learned that it took a lot more knowledge than that to catch enough bass from
very cold water to compete successfully against those that did know more. I'll get to that later,
but I still have some more cold water fishing stories yet to go. Looking back, some of them
were rather incredible.

Tomorrow, I will have the weekly "Fishing Strategy" article for the Smokies and another story
about fishing cold water.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh