As Ed Aycock launched his boat recently at Chotard Landing, we were quickly enveloped by thick fog that blanketed the lake and cut the visibility to near zero and white-out conditions. Distant memories came flooding back from fantastic fishing and hunting trips to this same lake 25 years ago.

During one of those duck hunts, it snowed so hard you could see no further than the length of the boat. Subsequent trips to the lake provided livewells full of bass, crappie and bream. Though it's been many years since those trips, the lake is still beautiful and a prolific producer of bass, crappie and bream. And when the timing's right and the lake is hot, the fishing is as good as it gets anywhere.

"We'll have to let the fog clear a little before running down lake," Ed Aycock said.

The early morning run would have to wait, as it was too dangerous to put the boat on plane and run very far. Aycock is a talented young angler who knows a thing or two about catching bass on oxbow lakes, as evidenced by his success at finding and catching them under a myriad of conditions. With the water temperatures cooling drastically and the lake at a low level, conditions for catching bass during December are prime for the anglers still out on the water.

All but a few diehard anglers have long since vacated Chotard and other lakes in favor of trips to the woods. A select few anglers such as Aycock and his angling partner Chad Corley take advantage of their absence and enjoy some of the best fishing of the year.

To my surprise, Aycock steered his boat down the lake, and stopped near an old hotspot of my grandfather, J.P. Nolen's. During my younger years, there had been a cool spring that kept the water cool in the area and provided excellent bass fishing during hot weather. On this day, Aycock was more interested in the water level, cover and presence of shad.

Fishing down the willow line with our boat in about 4 feet of water, Aycock pitched his crankbait beside every stump, log or treetop that he could see. We hadn't gone far when he bowed up and set the hook on a nice Chotard bass that succumbed to a Bagley's Balsa B.

"I think they're going to be on the laydown pattern," said Aycock.

"You know it takes two fish to make a pattern!" said Chad Corley.

Truer words were never spoken, and it didn't take long for Aycock to find that pattern.

Aycock had located a portion of the lake that had adequate water depth along the bank with plenty of structure, and it was chock full of shad.

"Find the shad, and you'll find the bass," Aycock said.

Now that may be easier said than done, but Aycock surely found the shad on this trip. With the wind blowing in from the south, the shad were pushed up into the willows and structure along the western bank of Chotard, and the bass were there as well.

Though we tried several other areas of the lake, those were devoid of shad and bass also. Going back to our starting pattern, we worked the laydowns and willow line with crankbaits and jigs, and continued to draw strikes from the bass.

Aycock pitched his lure beside a partially submerged tree top and swam it alongside, but it never made it past the top. As the lure brushed the edge of the top, shad exploded out of the water, and another hungry Chotard Lake bass crushed the lure in anticipation of an easy meal.

Corley quickly pitched a jig into the pocket between the top and stump, got bit instantly, reared back and drove the steel deep into the jaw of the hungry bass. In mere seconds the action had gone from zero to 60, and both anglers had fish on at the same time. There's nothing quite as exciting as catching a double, and both of these anglers obviously knew how to handle explosive bass in tight quarters out of the same hole.

As we kept fishing, we continued to see thousands of shad and baitfish along the western bank of the lake, and continued drawing strikes from bass. Though the midday bite slowed somewhat, most likely because the bass were full of shad, they continued to strike if you put the lure right into their sanctuaries.

"The key to finding and catching fish in the fall and winter on oxbow lakes like this is to find the shad," said Aycock. "The oxbows are basically the same around the entire lake as far as the make-up of the shorelines, with subtle differences of depth and bottom contour, depending upon the current water levels.

"With the shoreline's being almost identical, it's a must for anglers to find out where the shad are during each trip, as the bass will follow the shad this time of year."

While we located shad along the western side of the lake, south of Chotard Landing, that can change from day to day, or week to week, depending upon the prevailing wind and weather conditions. Try a few of Aycock's favorite fishing spots, find similar spots of your own and you just might have the fishing trip of a lifetime. One thing's for sure, there are plenty of shad and bass in the lake, and oxbow bass will strike with a ferocity rarely seen outside of oxbows when the conditions are right.

Anglers should note that the water level was about 15 to 16 feet on the Vicksburg stage at the time of our trip. Check the current weather conditions and water levels at www.chotardlandingresort.net as they also have a link to the daily river stages.

 

No. 1: N32 34.670 x W91 02.681

After launching your boat, turn left, go south about 1.6 miles and stop on the right side. Look for shad and target laydown logs, tops and willow trees. Aycock caught the first bass of the day on this spot.

"I like to throw the original Bagley Balsa B when the bass are in shallow water like today," he said.

No sooner had he mentioned the Balsa B when he enticed a strike from a bass and promptly landed his first fish of the day.

 

No. 2: N32 34.626 x W91 02.823

Continue fishing south down the west bank, and hit any visible structure.

"l like to hit every piece of wood cover until I find a pattern," Aycock continued. "I think they're on laydowns today."

As it turned out, we did get several short strikes, and both Aycock and Corley caught fish on this spot, which is a short distance from stop No. 1. This location has plenty of willow trees, standing timber, laydowns and even a shallow ledge that drops off about a cast from the edge of the timber.

 

No. 3: N32 34.602 x W91 02.891

While fishing the west bank, we continued to draw strikes from finicky bass while occasionally catching one and missing more than our share. Aycock continued fishing crankbaits and worms with limited success.

"When the bass are shallow this time of year, it's simply a matter of finding the shad," he said. "Find the shad, and you'll find the bass."

Aycock went on to say that sometimes the bass will be scattered along a bank when the shad are scattered. At other times, they may be bunched up in smaller areas if the shad are concentrated in those areas.

 

No. 4: N32 34.556 x W91 02.991

Leaving No. 3, continue fishing south until you get to No. 4.

"Once you've found a pattern and lure that they prefer, whether it's a spinnerbait, crankbait or worm, it's pretty much the same on this lake. Just keep putting that bait in the water and hold on," Aycock said.

Some days, they may relate to laydowns or standing timber. You've just got to determine what cover they prefer that day and what mood they're in, whether they're just feeding or resting, and approach them accordingly.

 

No. 5: N32 34.486 x W91 03.179

Location No. 5 is about a half mile to the south of our starting point, and looks much the same as the other spots, but it really held a lot of shad on this day. The shad concentration was enormous, and 15 to 20 at a time would jump out of the water when a lure landed on top of them. It was really something to see.

By now the bass had slacked off of their early morning pattern, but the shad were still here by the thousands.

"I'd cast a shad-colored 100 series Bandit crankbait or chatterbait around the shad pods in addition to the cover," said Aycock. "The bass will hold next to the wood cover at times, but they'll also follow the schools of shad when they're feeding actively."

 

No. 6: N32 34.394 x W91 01.416

Continue on three-tenths of a mile on the right, and stop and work the area over thoroughly.

"Once you find a pattern on this lake, most of the bass will be on the same type cover, and this spot is no different," said Aycock.

Old oxbows like this are pretty much the same all over, except for a few slight variances, and that makes them easier to pattern and catch.

By the time you get to this spot the bass should be located in the same positions and cover, and you should be able to almost pinpoint where they are and what they want. Then it's simply a matter of giving them what they want.

No. 7: N32 34.351 x W91 03.525

No. 7 is about one-tenth of a mile farther south. If you're on a pattern and catching fish, just keep fishing until you get to this location and work it thoroughly.

"Don't forget to hit all the available cover and look for a pattern within each particular area," Aycock said.

No. 7 is basically a carbon copy of the other locations except that there may be a few differences in the pattern of the wooden structure. However, the bottom depth and basic fish-holding structure is almost the same.

 

No. 8: N32 34.304 x W91 08.802

After fishing No. 7, travel to the end of the bank, and there will be a submerged point with live willows extended out into the open water.

"Fish the willows along with any stumps, and laydowns in this area," Aycock said. "The fish will relate to the structure, and may be found on any side of a stump, top or tree. You've just got to hit them all until you find a pattern and then stick with it. If there's not a pattern, just work the entire area hitting all visible cover."

Aycock bowed up on a nice bass on the opposite side of a freshly fallen tree top, but lost him as the line got stuck across the willow log and the bass escaped before we could get to him.

 

No. 9: N32 34.389 x W91 03.777

When you're finished fishing No. 8, head due west across the cove, and continue fishing the willow trees and visible cover. A recent storm popped off quite a few limbs and willow tree tops, and blew them into the water. Areas such as this will be fairly sheltered from the wind, and should provide excellent fishing even if the water rises a few feet.

"Right now, the water is a little low, about 2 to 3 feet in here, but it will only get better in December if there is a rise of 2 or 3 feet," said Aycock. "If you put a little more water on these tops and brush, the shad and bass should move on in, and it will be on."

 

No 10: N32 36.084 x W91 01.859

After fishing No. 9, head back to the main lake, and travel north until you get to the cove just west of Chotard Landing. Turn left, and head west until you get to an opening on the left side of lake where the standing timberline ends.

If the water is up and pushed back into the flats and woods, this area will be particularly good.

"I like to fish that flat and the brush and flooded bushes and grass when the water is up a little more," Aycock said. "Bass will scatter and hold by the brush and timber waiting in ambush mode."

 

For more information on fishing Chotard Lake, contact Ed Aycock at Van's Deer Processing and Sporting Goods (601-825-9087).