Catch Broad River smallmouth all winter

Capt. Justin McGrady catches Broad River smallmouth on a variety of lures during winter. (Picture by Brian Cope)

Land your share of winter smallies with these tips

The Broad River is a winter wonderland for anglers seeking smallmouth bass to cure their cold-weather blahs. But with its shallow shoals and limited public access, it’s not the first place most people think of for fishing in January.

But Capt. Justin McGrady of The SC River Guide in Columbia, S.C. is so fond of fishing here that he purchased a boat with a jet drive outboard specifically for fishing the Broad. And during winter, he often has the whole river to himself. And the smallmouth? They don’t mind the cold. In fact, it often triggers them into feeding heavily, much to the delight of anglers looking for a tug.

“The Broad River can look daunting to folks in anything other than a kayak or canoe. But a jet drive boat is perfect for this river,” said McGrady.

This river is known as a hotspot for small-craft anglers who don’t mind wading for fish in the warmer months. But even with waders, a fall in this river during cold weather can be dangerous. So many kayak/canoe anglers wait out the winter.

McGrady’s unique boat gives him access to areas of the Broad that would surprise many anglers. That’s one thing that appeals to his clients, who want to reach smallmouth territory that goes untouched for months.

It’s a numbers game

“A lot of folks are surprised at how safe it is to run a boat like this in this river. And it gets us in places that would take too long and be too uncomfortable for most paddlers to reach this time of year. And the fishing here can be top-notch in winter,” he said.

When it comes to lures, McGrady (803-569-9473) said anglers need to be prepared with a variety of offerings.

“We can go from freezing temperatures one day to 70 degrees the next,” he said. “And even during the most stable weather patterns, these fish can be aggressive one day and picky the next.”

McGrady likes to have a small Alabama rig tied on, a topwater plug, and a Texas-rigged soft plastic. He’s always got a spinnerbait tied onto one rod as well. Some days he catches smallies on all four. Other days, the fish will only touch one.

“You want to fish around structure this month. Downed trees are good targets. The many shoals are too. Eddies and current seams are also great areas to cast. It’s a numbers game this month. The more targets you present lures to, the better your chances of hooking up,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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