As Sterling Jones worked his way across a shallow flat in Neshoba County Lake, he pitched his lure near a bush, and a lunker bass struck hard. The 6-pounder fought valiantly, but Jones was able to subdue him. After a brief photo session, Jones released the bass and continued fishing.

Minutes later, yet another large lunker smashed his bait, and Jones set the hook. After a short battle, Jones wore this bass down also, and promptly put him in the livewell for official weighing and photos.

After the excitement waned a bit, Jones continued fishing, and another monster bass struck his lure and almost tore the rod from his hands. The veteran of many bass wars knew just what to do, and was victorious in landing this trophy bass also.

A quick trip to the lake manager's scales revealed that Jones had caught a 6.5-, 7.6- and 9.3-pound bass from the same area on the same day. After photographing the fish, Jones quickly released them to grow some more and provide some other lucky angler the thrill of catching a lunker bass.

Neshoba County Lake was reborn after undergoing a transformation and stocking program under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks. This rebirth was first recognized by many anglers around the state last spring as numbers of bass in the 9- to 11-pound range were being caught during the spawn.

Jones is a lifelong angler who has spent a great deal of time on this Mississippi state lake located just east of Philadelphia. Though a veteran of many tournaments over the years, Jones is still competing with anglers many years his junior and coming out on top. In fact, last year he was the Sportsman of the Year for the competitive Philadelphia Bass Club, as points champion for the year.

I was fortunate to fish with the excellent angler, and was a recipient of his expert advice and guiding ability as well.

Though we were fishing on a cold day, with even colder water temperatures, Jones was able to successfully put me on fish, something not many people are able to do in January in Mississippi. After hitting several key points and logging in hotspots, Jones found an area where bass were moving up in the warmer, shallower water. We promptly began catching and releasing bass. After catching and missing a few, Jones switched gears and headed for the deeper water in the main lake.

"This is basically a shallow lake, but it has several ditches and a creek channel that run 6 to 10 feet deep," he said. "You'll catch a lot of fish along the edges of the ditches and in the shallow flats between the ditches also. Before the bass move into their spawning coves, they will relate to the ditches and structure that is found along the channels."

Moving to the deeper ledges, Jones maneuvered his boat across the expanse of ditches and showed me the lay of the lake and the bottom contour on his LCR at the same time. It was obvious that the bass had plenty of structure and edges to which to relate.

As we moved near the visible cover just off the dam Jones, directed me to the front deck.

"You run the front awhile, and I'll take a coffee break," he said. "Be sure and try that brush over there as we usually catch bass out of those tree tops."

Arriving at the top, I pitched a Hoot Gibson Y guard jig near the trunk and let it free fall to the bottom.


A bass sucked in my offering, and I drove the steel home. The enraged bass put up quite a struggle before I wore him down. Jones had called the shot, and I'd caught a Neshoba Lake lunker. No matter how cold it gets, the potential to catch a lunker bass is there, if you know what to do and how to land them.

Though January is the month we picked to fish the lake, Jones advised that springtime was actually the prime time to catch the most lunkers. Once the fish move into the shallows in the grass and pads, it's really a time of feasting for the bass, and they love the topwater plastics. In fact, last spring several anglers caught bass in the 10-pound range.

You might not catch large numbers of bass on this lake, but if you want to catch trophy fish, then head to Neshoba, and try the following spots.


No. 1: N32 42.441 x W89 00.427 - Leaving the ramp, head east to the right side of the main island, and motor up into the main creek channel until you get to the first channel intersection. Fish the mouth of both cuts, as well as the points on either side.

During cold weather, the bass are lethargic, and slow-moving baits such as chatter baits, jig-and-pigs and spinnerbaits with large Colorado blades are productive.

"My son caught a bunch in the mouth of this creek on a white Bandit crankbait," said Jones.

According to Jones, bass will gang up off points and creek mouths as they head toward their pre-spawn haunts. Find one, and you're likely to find a bunch of big old sows.


No. 2: N32 42.537 x W89 00.370 - After fishing No. 1, head north up the old river channel until you get to the next cut. This is another typical pre-spawn location where bass may school up while waiting on the conditions to get right, before moving into the shallows to spawn. Again, slow-moving baits will be the ticket on this point.

"I usually like to fish something different than my partners so we can find out what they're biting," Jones said.

Once you find out what they're keying on and how they want it, you can vary your presentation to suit the bass's taste on that day and hopefully catch a lunker or two in the process.


No. 3: N32 42.429 x W89 00.338 - Leaving No. 2, head back south to point No. 3, turn left and travel in an easterly direction until you get to the next cut on the left. This intersection also serves as a staging point for the lunker bass. Anglers should fish the points and drops on either side and work the banks on either side for a ways in search of a lunker's ambush point.

Jones and I both caught fish on different spots near this point. The veteran angler fished a variety of lures until he found what they liked on this trip, and then we started catching bass.


No. 4: N32 42.491 x W89 00.220 - Leaving No. 3, head north up the channel with your trolling motor, and fish both sides of the channel. The left bank is easily distinguishable by the hump protruding from the water along that side. When the channel was cleaned out, they dumped a lot of the dirt along the left side, thus forming that bank.

Later on in the year, there will be a grass line that marks the right edge.

During our trip, bass had moved up shallow along the channel edges, and were moving around. As we made our way back to the rear of the channel, we continually spotted movement in the shallows. A hungry bass promptly engulfed my offering, and headed for deep water after I pitched a junebug Senko near the exposed bank.


No. 5: N32 42.532 x W89 00.620 - Leaving No. 4, travel back south down the channel and back into the open lake. Head toward the new pier, and stop at No. 5. There's a hump with some visible structure right on the edge of the drop.

"There's a drop right to this side of the structure," said Jones. "Bass will hold along the edge of the drop near the brushtop."

And that seemed to be our best pattern on this day. Brushtops in the 4- to 8-foot depth were holding bass, though the strikes were almost imperceptible due to the cold water and lethargic fish.

Anglers should work their favorite jigs, worms and spinnerbaits right near, and up into, the brush. On this day, the bass were not chasing our offerings - you had to hit them on the head to get a bite.


No. 6: N32 42.477 x W89 00.590 - Leaving No. 5, head in an easterly direction until you get to the next coordinates. This location marks yet another channel that runs primarily north and south. With the aid of an LCR, anglers should be able to pinpoint the channel and fish the ledges on either side. There will also be submerged brush along the edges in various places.

"Fish the edges of the channel, and follow it right up until you see that small island to the north," said Jones.

After you get to the island, you can also follow the channel back into the areas that we first started. Continue working into the main creek channel, and you just might locate a school of large bass.


No. 7: N32 42.426 x W89 00.555 - Head back south and slightly east until you get to this GPS point, which marks another ditch. Fish the ditch with jigs, spinnerbaits and jerk baits until you get back to the deeper water along the dam.

"This ditch runs all the way to the dam, and bass will relate to the edges and the submerged tops," said Jones. "This is basically a shallow lake that has a series of ditches running through it. The ditches were cut with a track hoe when the lake was drained, and that's about all the deep water this lake has."


No. 8: Ditch and brush off small island - Leave No. 7, and head about 200 yards east until you get to the small island. It has one smaller hump just to the south of it. Fish the area around the islands, and then head due south until you get to the visible wood cover near the dam. Fish the flats while targeting any visible structure first, and then cover the surrounding area in fan casts.

Jones has caught a good many lunkers in this area, including a 9-pounder!

"I caught several big bass in the bushes in this shallow flat," he said. "There's another ditch running near the flat, and the bass will move up and feed on the flats in between the ditches."


No. 9: N32 42.342 x W89 00.608 - After fishing the flats thoroughly, head just to the south and west toward the dam. This point is almost due south from the island referenced at No. 8. Anglers should fish the area while keying on the deeper 8 to 9 feet water that has visible willows protruding out of the surface.

"Fish those isolated brush tops you see out there," advised Jones. "We usually catch good ones around those scattered tops."

As we neared one of the tops, I pitched a Hoot Gibson jig into the middle of the top, and reeled in my slack. Feeling something mushy, I set the hook and promptly slammed my hook deep into the jaws of a bass. As the enraged sow fought against me, she bore down into the branches of the tree, and I could feel my line sawing back and forth in the branches.

Thankfully, I had some mighty tough Stren braided line that didn't break, and I was able to work the lunker out of the top.

"Now that made it worth the trip." Jones said.

On a cold, miserable day, Neshoba County Lake had given me a taste of what it has to offer in the way of lunker bass. The big fish had succumbed to my offering at 3 p.m. After a couple of photos, we released her right back into the top.


No. 10: N32 42.433 x W89 00.627 - Traveling due west down the dam, go to the east of the emergency spillway, stop at the visible cover just off the rocks and start working the cover. Anglers should work the visible trees and submerged structure that is located about a cast off the dam.

"Work all the visible cover all the way down the dam," said Jones.

There's plenty of cover to work, and anglers should do so in a slow, methodical pattern in order to get a quality bite. With the water being very cold during January, the bass aren't likely to swim out of the cover to chase fast-moving lures, but if you drop that jig or lure right on their heads, they won't refuse an easy meal.

As I dropped my jig into another top, I felt another mushy bite, and set the hook. This time, a chunky bass bore down into the brushtop before I finally wore her down.

Though you won't usually catch great numbers of bass in Neshoba County Lake, there is a good chance to catch a trophy bass in the 9- to 13-pound range. Although January is usually a tough time to catch bass anywhere in Mississippi, the possibility to catch a lunker in this shallow lake is very good. And don't overlook trying the lake in the spring as the fishing will only get better.

While the lake record currently stands at 12 pounds, it's poised to be toppled again this year. Will you be the one who catches it?