When Jeff Foster caught his 17.34-pound bass at Davis Lake three years ago, it was no fluke.
“I went there, like I always do in winter, hoping to get one bite,” said Foster, of Tupelo, whose fish is the second largest bass ever recorded in Mississippi. “My favorite time of the year is the pre-spawn and I like the coldest, rawest days I can get.
“What that does is make finding where the big bass are easier, because they go deep and they hold tight to cover. You sit in one place all day, casting to the same place, hoping eventually to get a bite.”
Foster caught his big bass on a relatively mild (40-degrees) and windless Jan. 3, 2013, getting the magic bite at 2:15 p.m. after five hours of casting. Had the fish been caught in February, just a month later, there’s a good chance the fish could have beaten Anthony Denny’s state record of 18.14 pounds set on New Year’s Eve 1992 at Natchez State Park.
But as good as the winter fishing is at Davis, autumn action is even better, when the fish feed heavily knowing the colder misery to come.
“Outstanding,” said Billy Jackson of Tupelo. “No doubt about it, Davis Lake offers some of the best bass fishing in the world in the fall. There are some really big fish in the lake, and October and November gives a guy a good shot at catching them because they will eat.
“I’m not saying they eat crazy every day, but if you play the fronts, and fish before one approaches, you can catch the fish when they are feeding, and I mean really feeding. I’ve caught a 10-pounder busting shad on the surface with a school of smaller fish.”
Watching the weather forecast is common sense, and as basic a tip as bass fishing has.
“But don’t think it won’t work on Davis, because it sure will,” Jackson said. “If I see a cold front coming in the fall, then I start making excuses to skip work for a day or two. Davis is my first choice, because it’s small enough to cover in a day.
“But I also consider Bay Springs Lake and Pickwick, too. I also like Trace Park at Pontotoc, but they’ve had the lake closed a while due to repairs so I haven’t been much this year.”
At Davis, Jackson caries every lure type in his tackle box, including topwaters, various crankbaits, jigs, swim baits …
“The kitchen sink, is what I tell everyone,” he said. “You have to take a topwater lure, like a Spook, Hydro Popper or a Pop-R, and a variety of crankbaits including square bills and mid-range divers like a Bandit 200.
“But the No. 1 bait in my box is a lipless crankbait, like a Red-Eye Shad, or a Yozuri Rattl’n Vibe. I love to throw those because they catch big fish. Even after a cold front, on a cold morning, I find a big fish or two by yo-yoing them on deep flats in 6-10 feet of water.”
The other advantage of fishing Davis Lake in the fall is knowing where to fish in the winter.
“You got that right,” Jackson said. “I can follow the fish through the fall and find prime areas that are holding fish. Then I can move to the nearest deep water, like a ditch or a creek, and know that’s where I will need my shaky-head worm in the winter months. That’s when you go and fish for one or two bites a day, because that’s when the really big ones are caught.”