We’re expecting some cold weather, and the bass that bite the best then are spotted bass. I don’t know why, but you often can catch bigger smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass in January at Bay Springs, a 10-mile waterway.
More than likely, these fish haven’t felt fishing pressure from anglers in several months.
For January, we’re going to find the best bait, locate the depth where the bait is and try to learn the relationship between the bait and the bass.
Electronics will play a major role in our success. To be successful this month at Bay Springs, your first question should be: “What are my electronics telling me, and where should I make my first cast?”
You’ll primarily be fishing with jigs, shaky heads, drop shots and jerk baits.
To try to establish a pattern, I’ll go to where creek channels run into the main river channel, creek beds, feeder creek junctions in creeks and drop-offs and ledges, especially those with brush on them.
In January, I won’t cast to a spot if I don’t see baitfish or a bass on my depth finder, unless there’s cover. Bass under cover won’t be detected by a depth finder.
I’ll use 12-pound-test, 100-percent fluorocarbon line on a ½-ounce Mann’s Stone or football-head jig. When fishing over rock structures, I’ll use these two jigs around brush or logs.
For cold weather, I like a black-and-blue jig with a black-and-blue HardNose Crawfish or a green-pumpkin jig with a green-pumpkin HardNose Crawfish. Before you start fishing, you’ll need to modify the jig and the crawfish, trimming the jig to almost the bottom of the bend of the hook and pinching off a half inch of the back of the body of the crawfish trailer to give it a smaller profile. Bass seem to prefer smaller-profile baits during January.
I’ll be fishing both jigs with a Seeker 7-foot graphite medium-heavy rod with a Pinnacle 7.3:1 gear ratio reel.
Fish that jig right on the bottom, barely shaking your rod to get the jig up and over any bottom structures. The bass want that jig crawling on the bottom because it’s easy to see, and for them to move to and inhale. A hit will be just a light tick on your line, or your line will feel mushy. You won’t get an aggressive strike in January from bass.
Using shaky head worms or the drop-shotting tactic
Even if I’m catching bass on the jig, I’ll still fish the shaky-head worm and the drop-shot tactic very slowly in the same areas where I’ve seen bass or bait.
For both tactics I’ll use 14-pound-test braided line for the main line and tie on 5 to 6 feet of 8-pound-test 100-percent fluorocarbon leader with a uni knot using a Pinnacle spinning reel and a medium-heavy 7-foot spinning rod.
Use a ¼-ounce shaky-head jighead with a No. 4/0 hook with a 6-inch green-pumpkin finesse worm rigged Texas style.
Just cast the shaky head out and make sure it falls straight to the bottom on a slack line. I always leave the bail on my spinning reel open until I’m certain the shaky head has hit bottom.
Then I engage the reel, leave some slack in the line, shake the line and let the bait sit still before I drag it a few inches and shake the line again. I’ll use the same retrieve all the way back to the boat.
When a bass takes the shaky head, you might not even feel the strike.
When you’re drop-shotting, use a No. 2 Gamakatsu drop-shot hook. Slide the hook up the tag end of the line about 10 to 12 inches, and tie it on with a Palomar knot. Take the tag end of the line, put it over the top of the hook and through the eye of the hook. Then pull down on the tag end of the line, which will cause the knot to move to the center or just below the hook’s eye to make the hook stand straight out from the line.
Texas-rig a 6-inch watermelon-red finesse worm for clear water. Pitch the rig at a 45-degree angle, make sure the lead gets to the bottom and then drag the lead on the bottom while shaking your line to make that drop-shot worm dance.
You almost, but not quite completely, fish vertically when you fish the drop shot.
Using jerk baits
Although I’m primarily going to Bay Springs to catch spotted bass, there’s a good population of smallmouth and largemouth bass there. I’ll start checking out points on the main river because often in January smallmouths and largemouths will suspend on or hold close to the bottom on these points below balls of bait. When I run points with my electronics, I’m looking for balls of bait and suspended bass.
Even if the bass are holding on the bottom, they’ll abandon that place to take a chartreuse/shad-colored suspended jerk bait fished on 6-pound-test Berkley 100% fluorocarbon line. Set your drag to slip a little bit when you set the hook; a bass making a hard run should be pulling drag, and since you’ll catch these bass in open water you don’t have to worry about bass breaking the line off in the cover.
Jerk the bait down 5 to 7 feet, stop the bait and let it suspend.
Initially, when the bait hits the water, reel in the slack. Turn the reel handle four or five times to the depth where the jerkbait will suspend. Let the jerkbait sit for three to five seconds before jerking it again and allowing it to suspend.
This time of year on Bay Springs, expect to catch eight to 10 bass in a day. That will could include spotted bass, possibly a 5- to 6-pound largemouth, and one or two smallmouths.