Where the bass are
Most of the bigger bass will be in deep water from mid lake down to the dam during January.
Depending on the air and the water temperatures, bass will be holding on the flats, on the lip of the break (the point where the old creek bank falls off into the channel) or out in the middle of the channel. More than likely, the bass will be concentrating on the bottom or suspended about 5 feet off the bottom.
The colder the weather, the more likely that the fish will be holding in the center of the creek channel.
If Mississippi gets a freaky warm front coming through, the bass may be holding on the lip of the break or up on the flat.
The outside bends of these channels are where we'll spend a lot of time fishing. The bass will be schooled up there in January in numbers of 10 to 30. Often you'll catch more than one bass out of the same location.
You're most likely to catch bass where a creek channel makes a bend.
The lures I use to find and catch January bass include the Alabama Rig, the Mann's HardNose jig, the Little George, the Stone Jig, spinnerbaits and Mann's C4 crankbait. I'll have each of the lures tied onto a different rod and reel.
I'll cast all these lures to the same place before I move until I discover exactly where the bass are holding and which lure they prefer.
I'll cast each lure to the flat and bring it over the lip of the break. After I've made three or four casts this way, my next three or four casts will swim each lure down the edge of the underwater drop-off. Then, on my final set of casts, I'll swim my baits down the middle of the channel.
Using this fan-cast technique with various lures, I usually can determine a pattern that will tell me where the bass are and what lures they prefer.
The Alabama Rig
I fish the Alabama Rig with a Seeker Alabama Rig rod, 50-pound-test Trilene braided line and a 6.4:1 Pinnacle reel.
Calling Panther Lake contains a lot of underwater timber, so to fish the rig through that timber, I have to make each one of the Mann's swimbaits weedless.
I will start off with a No. 6 Gamakatsu wide-gap ¼-ounce weighted hook in a Mann's 4 ½-inch black-back/pearl-sided HardNose swimbait rigged Texas style so the hook isn't exposed.
I'll cast the Alabama Rig out and let it fall to the bottom. I'll slow-reel the rig back to the boat, keeping it as close to the bottom as I can by turning the reel handle about five times, letting the rig fall back to the bottom and continuing that same type of retrieve all the way back to the boat.
Once the rig hits the bottom, I immediately start my retrieve again.
There's not much deep water in Calling Panther Lake, so the flats are in about 15 to 18 feet of water and then drop off into the creek channel, which is usually 20 to 30 feet of water. By the dam, the creek channel may be 30 to 40 feet deep.
By bringing the Alabama Rig 5 to 7 feet up off the bottom and then allowing it to fall back to down, bass that are suspended 5 to 10 feet off the bottom can see and attack it. If they're holding on the bottom, they'll be able to see and bite the swimbaits attached to the rig.
I fish the ½-ounce Mann's green pumpkin jig with a Mann's HardNose green pumpkin Craw as a trailer. I try to keep that jig on or close to the bottom during my entire retrieve. When the jig hits the water, I pull line off my reel so the jig falls vertically. I keep my rod tip at about the 9:30 to 11:00 position during the entire retrieve.
The bite usually will come after you pull the jig over a log or a limb and the jig swims back to the bottom.
I'll cast the jig to the same three areas that I've cast the Alabama Rig: the top of the ledge over the lip of the break, right down the lip of the break and down the center of the creek channel. I'll fish the jig on a 7 1/2-foot medium-heavy Seeker graphite rod and a 7.3:1 Pinnacle reel.
The C4 Crankbait, Stone Jig, Spinner Bait and Baby 1-Minus
If a warm front comes through, I'll move to the points and the side of the dam and fish a Mann's crawfish-colored C4 crankbait, as well as the Alabama Rig and the Stone Jig.
I'll reel the C4 slowly, about 4 or 5 feet deep.
During warm weather at the end of January, the bass will move into the lily pad stems, where you can catch them on the C4 crankbait, a spinnerbait and a Mann's Baby 1-Minus crankbait.
If we have a really cold January, I'll spend more time fishing the lip of the break and the center of the channel with a Mann's Little George.
If the weather stays cold and I have to spend most of my time on the creek channel, I expect to catch 10 to 12 bass with at least one weighing 7 to 8 pounds.
But if warm spells come through, and January is relatively warm, I'll probably catch 10 to 2 bass per day, with my best five bass easily weighing a total of 20 pounds plus.