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Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is mighty proud of his hometown heritage—and not just for the phenomenal fishing opportunities of the Tennessee River impoundment known as Pickwick Lake. The Bassmaster Elite pro also beams as he talks about the town’s rich history of recording top hit-makers from Aretha Franklin to Bob Seger.

The town traces much of its music mystique to the unique stylings of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, comprising Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett and David Hood. Commonly known as “The Swampers”—the talented quartet of session musicians referenced in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”—was widely regarded as the essential ingredient for countless endearing hits.

Today, if you want to strike a sweet chord with early winter fishing, Horton points to a foursome of essential elements: the seasonal shad movement and the three baits he uses to mimic this forage. During a recent trip out of McFarland Park, across the river in Florence, Horton explained the art of making music on the Tennessee River.

“The biggest thing you want to think about is that those shad are getting stunned,” Horton explained. “When you start getting these transition periods, what that means this time of year is dropping water temperatures—and the shad don’t tolerate that well. You want to mimic that with baits you can use to get reaction strikes.”

Horton’s top fall offering starts with an Azuma Crank Z mid-range crankbait. He’ll start with this one to find those aggressive fish. On windy days, he’ll mix in some spinnerbait action and his favorite model is a ¾-ounce Swampers Falcon Giant with No. 4 and No. 5 willow leaf blades.

On slower days, he’ll back up the reaction baits with the slow, vulnerable look of an Azuma Bray-Z jerkbait. For this and the crankbait, he like the gold phantom color. For his spinnerbait, he’ll go with yellowtail.

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“This time of year, those shad that have moved back into the creeks and sloughs will start moving back out toward the main lake to seek warmer water,” Horton said. “Those bass know that and they’ll stage outside these transition points and ambush the shad on their way out.”

Horton suggests targeting rip rap and chunk rock banks located on the points of these tributaries. Covering water is the key, as the bass are scattered this time of year. However, once you find an active area, you usually find a bunch of fish—and the hits just keep coming.

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