There are many types of situations in fishing where a specific technique is required to be successful at catching. Often times you can still catch a stragler or two doing something different, but the main technique is the obvious winner. There are, however, instances where if you don't follow a certain set of rules, you aren't going to catch a single thing. Wintertime river Smallmouth might be one of the most technique specific fishing scenarios there is and that's what the next paragraph or two will cover.
Remember these words: Low and Slow. Those are the two most significant words you need to remember for catching winter river Smallmouth. Now, to break that phrase down. When I say low and slow, I mean low as keeping the bait/lure/fly on the bottom. If you're not in constant contact with the bottom, you're not going to catch much, if anything at all. When I say slow, I mean 1 short (half to a single turn of the reel) hop for every 5-20 seconds of leaving the bait stationary. Retrieves should take 1-5 full minutes, not 10-30 seconds. Master this kind of patience and body control and you're more than halfway there.
Lure selection is the next thing. Ive noticed that typically in winter the fish prefer either a large profile (thickness vs length) bait, or a small profile bait, depending on the day. Think jig n' pigs for larger profile and 1.5"-3" soft plastics (small tubes, etc) for smaller profile. For color, different variations of watermelon, purple, black or black/blue combinations are the standard and typically the most successful. You can normally fish all winter and never have to leave those 4 colors.
Lastly, please use braided line. If you're not already using it, you honestly don't know how many bites you're missing until you switch. The typical setup is 6-15lb braid with a 2-4ft section of 6-15lb flourocarbon leader, depending on rod/reel size and lure being used.
These are just some quick tips to get you started. There is definitely a lot more to it and just like anything I could go on for days and dive into real specifics, but I'm also a firm believer of "you learn better by doing", so get out to your local smallie stream, find the slowest pool you can find that has good depth and try what I've written above. You just might find out that even though it's slow and methodical, winter time river Smallmouth are a blast and exciting in their own special kind of way.
WV Born and Raised
Multi-Species Fishin' Addict
Appalachian Range Outdoors
Vibe Kayaks Pro Fishing Team