Grubbing for East Tennessee Smallmouth with Brandon Card

By Mark Fong

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East Tennessee is home to some of the best bass fishing opportunities in the entire country. Therefore it should come as no surprise that many of the sport’s top touring professionals hail from this region. For BASS Elite Series Pro, Brandon Card, growing up near the shores of Norris Lake proved to be the perfect opportunity to hone his bass catching skills. The highland impoundment is home to an outstanding smallmouth bass fishery. Recently Card took a few moments from his busy tournament schedule to visit with the Inside Line and to talk about fishing the Yamamoto Double Tail and Single Tail Grub for clear cold water brown bass.

The Perfect Crayfish Imitator

“My bread and butter smallmouth bait is a 3/8 oz. finesse jig with a 4” or 5” Yamamoto Double Tail Grub,” revealed Card. “I've caught so many fish on it over the years. It's effective for me from the fall through the spring. It's just a versatile bait that you can fish super shallow or deep and be able to cover a lot of water with it. There are many days, especially in the colder weather when the big fish are sitting up way shallower than what you think, that I'll cast it up to the bank. Then l just drag it out, say from 5 to 30 feet until I figure out where they are for that particular day. Once I get bit at a particular depth then I will be more precise with my casts.”

The East Tennessee Pro likes to target transition areas, in particular rock. He searches out bluff banks that turn to a forty five degree bank, a pea gravel bank that transitions to chunk rock, or an area where clay meets rock.

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Card likes to fish a compact football head style jig. His go to color is a mix of Green Pumpkin, Brown and Orange — a pattern known locally as Norris Craw. He'll pair his jig with a matching 4” or 5” Green Pumpkin (297) GYCB Double Tail Grub. For the most part Card starts with the 4” Double Tail and will switch to the 5” for its added bulk and action when the bite is more aggressive. If he detects that the fish are eating his jig on the fall, he'll select the 5” for its ability to slow the descent of his jig.

Card prefers to fish a finesse jig with spinning tackle. A 7' medium action Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier Spinning Rod paired with a Revo Premier 30 Spinning Reel is his outfit of choice. He'll spool up with 15 lb. Yo-Zuri Super Braid to which he ties an 8-10 lb. leader of Yo-Zuri Top Knot Fluorocarbon. Some may question Card's preference for spinning gear over a more traditional bait casting setup, however Card believes the mix of spinning gear, braid and fluorocarbon actually increases his hookup and landing percentages. 

Swimming a Grub

When smallmouths key in on small bait fish, swimming a single tail grub is a tried and true tactic. “The 4” Yamamoto Single Tail Grub is a really popular bait here in East Tennessee,” said the GYCB Pro. “During the fall and winter when the water is cold, smallmouths will set up on the end of long tapering points and on flats near deep water,” said Card.

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Card likes to make a long cast and slow roll the grub back to the boat, letting it bump along the bottom. Sometimes he will change up the presentation by reeling the grub off the bottom and letting it pendulum back down. Most of his strikes come when the bait is falling.

By his estimation, Card utilizes a1/4 oz. round ball head 80% of the time but he will upsize his jig head to a 1/2 oz. when fishing deeper than 20' or to compensate for the wind. Card's color selection is simple, he likes Natural Shad (306) a lot, but truth be told, his absolute favorite color is Baby Bass (305).

Card reaches for a 7'6” medium action Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier Spinning Rod paired with a Revo Winch 30 Spinning Reel when he is fishing a grub on a jig head. Card pointed out that the Winch's slower 4:7:1 gear ratio is perfect for slow rolling a grub and that it helps him slow down his presentation which is crucial in the cold water. Although his rod and reel choice differs between his finesse jig and jig head grub applications, his mainline and leader preference remains the same.

To learn more about Brandon Card, please visit his website at http://www.brandoncardfishing.com/ or follow him on Facebook or Instagram.


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