Benny, what spinnerbait do you throw?

The Secret Weapon Sidearm fishes better than any other spinnerbait on the market, I think. They are a whole new generation of spinnerbaits — compared to the ones I started throwing with back in the early ’50’s. For about fifty years, all spinnerbaits were just about alike, no matter who made them. That has all changed now. The Secret Weapon is truly the only one that is different. You can add as many blades as you like, in any color combinations. You can buy a few at a time and swap out blades as conditions dictate, or buy them in a component kit that gives 500, 2000, or more configurations. The Expedition Pack I fish out of gives me over 5,000 different combinations that I can present to a fish. If you want to try them out from their online store, use this code and you can knock 20% off the price: BHOA.

I want to catch big rockfish and smallmouth in the boils below a dam. Any suggestions?

Probably half of the TV shows I do are below dams on the Tennessee and other rivers. There are two reasons for that. Number one, there are large numbers and many species of fish below dams. Number two, you will catch a lot of big fish below dams. The current is here, and big fish follow current because the bait congregates in the current breaks and swift water eddies. So if you learn to fish below dams and just pay attention how it’s done, you will catch a lot more fish and have a lot of fun.

First, what equipment do you recommend for fishing below dams?

I start out with a 7-foot, medium-light power spinning rod paired with a Shimano spinning reel. Spool up with 20-pound Power Pro line, which has the diameter of 8-pound mono — that’s important for the clear water you usually are fishing there.

As far as lures are concerned, I prefer half-ounce  Secret Weapon Siderarm spinnerbaits, BoJoLe Flutter Spoons, or 3/4-ounce jigs.

I’ll tell you what, the hottest bait I have ever put on my line, as far as fishing below dams is concerned, is the BoJoLe Flutter Spoon. Smallmouth… hybrid… stripers… it is a killer! The best I’ve ever seen. All four colors of the BoJoLe Flutter Spoon work equally well, but I like the Chartreuse or the Nickel the best where I see threadfin shad floating on the surface below the dams.

For spinnerbaits, mainly I use Chartreuse & White, but other patterns that imitate threadfish shad will work. A lot of time I will garnish it with a grub — either white or smoke with black flakes, which again resembles a threadfin shad.

Often I will use brown or pumpkinseed jigs, sometimes with a craw trailer.

How do you fish those lures?

You can either float with the current and run repeatedly back up to the dam or anchor down, or just fish from the bank. Throw your lure upstream at a 45-degree angle and then let it flutter down to the bottom. Count it down and start walking it back just as it starts ticking the rocks on the riverbed. Turn your reel handle steadily and lift and drop your rod tip to make the bait rise every time you feel it strike a rock. Keep it moving so the swift current won’t wash the lure under a rock where it can become lodged.

 Thowing a spinnerbait or jig directly upstream doesn’t work as well; you can’t get the blades working right, and you have to retrieve faster to keep it above the rocks. Throwing downstream and swimming it back up is difficult, too, because the swift current keeps lifting the bait up off the bottom where fish are lying behind boulders in ambush.

 You might also position your boat beside the diversion walls that separate the turbine outflow from the floodgates or locks. Concrete walls, abuttments, boulders, rip-rap along the bank…. these provide calm-water eddies where the game fish position themselves to ambush passing prey while expending the least amount of energy. Fish along these structures that break the current, or identify the underwater boulders by observing the boils and swirling water patterns they create. Cast up-current from them, walk your lure past the game fish hangout, and hold on!

Any advice on which jigs to use?

I like ones with a wide-gap hook and the line tie loop that comes out right at the tip of the head, not up on top of the head, which make the jig prone to snagging in the current. I also make sure my jig has rattles that help the fish become aware of the approaching lure before it drifts by their hiding place.

 When is the best time to fish below a dam?

Check the power generation schedules and make sure you are there when the turbines are operating. The current produced by hydroelectric generation plus the injured and pulverized shad that are washed through the turbines energize the whole food chain downstream. As long as they are generating, the fish will bite. If they cut off the turbines, the current slows and the bite will, too.

How do you rig the BoJoLe?

I use it with a Carolina rig, but there are several ways you can rig the BoJoLe. Here’s the diagram from the back of the box that shows several different techniques to use this spoon.

 It is by far the deadliest bait I have ever put on my line. Go try them out; I guarantee you are going to catch more fish.

I generally rig it Carolina-style with a 3//4-ounce barrel sinker on 12-pound mono. Your shock leader you always want a little stronger. I use about a 20-pound leader because of rocks and setting the hook into fish. It helps keep you from breaking your line when you set your hook in a fish. I put one knot right above my bait. What that does is, if your BoJoLe hangs up, the knot will cut your monofilament line. With 20-pound test leader, it’s still strong enough to hold a good fish. I use just a simple, black #4 swivel. I recommend black over chrome or gold, because what happens if you use those shiny swivels, it’s just like salt water… you’ll get false strikes all the time from fish. They’ll see that and think it’s a little minnow and hit at it, jerk it and give you false strikes.

Where did the BoJoLe come from?

John Hunter and Dr. Bob Rogers came up with a design that I helped field test and refine. Along the way, it produced an all-line class record rock fish and blue cat. John loved catching big ol’ stripers below Wheeler and Pickwick dams, all up and down the Tennessee River, and he said, “They’re the best thing out there now. It’s a killer if there ever was one!” Most times, when fishing the BoJoLe fish are hooked in their upper lip.

Dr. Bob Rogers, commented,  “They usually don’t swallow them things… just swat at them.  Anything that swims, it will catch. Below the dams you never know what your next cast will bring: largemouth, smallmouth, stripers, hybrids,  walleye, sauger, white bass, and blue cat all jump on this lure.”

Where can I see the Southern Sportsman show on TV?

Comcast 96 Sundays at 8 P.M.  You can also catch them at CW of Chattanooga WFLI channel 53 on Saturdays at 6:30 A.M. However, if you are out fishing, working, or with your family and miss a show, a growing number of them can be viewed online for free.