Trolling over a submerged stump field, Jeff Collum pitched his jig-and-pig combo to a likely looking spot, and hesitated for just a second when a bass struck. Collum reared back, and drove the steel home, deep into the lip of a cold-weather lunker.

After a nip-and-tuck battle, the talented angler landed the lunker bass and quickly released him.

Collum, a Meridian resident, has been catching bass and lots of them since he was just a youngster tagging along with his dad Gordon Collum. The Collums are well known around the East Mississippi area for their bass-fishing expertise. Jeff has taken it a step further and become one of the anglers to beat in almost any tournament in which he competes.

Collum cut his bass fishing teeth on the Tennessee Tombigbee River, and knows a thing or two about locating bass under extreme conditions during tournaments. That has given him an edge during cold weather. That edge allows him to find and catch bass that others usually miss during harsh winter conditions.

After I had experienced a fruitless fishing trip in December, Collum stepped to the plate and volunteered to guide and help me find a bass or two.

Our trip took place on Dec. 17 with extremely cold water and high winds. Collum was noticeably upbeat about finding and catching fish though he had never been to this lake in December, and only on a few occasions previously. Though Lake X is fished regularly by many anglers, like most lakes it receives little bass fishing pressure during the winter.

"I don't fish in December," Collum said. "I'm usually in the woods deer hunting, but I believe I can find them and get them to bite a jig. We might have to slow down real slow, but I believe we'll catch them today."

 

8:00: I meet Jeff Collum at Collinsville, load my gear into his Ranger boat and we are on our way to Lake X, a mystery lake in East Central Mississippi, with air temperatures in the upper 30s and a brisk 10 to 15 mph wind.

 

8:30: Collum launches his boat at a secluded ramp, and we're only minutes away from making our first stop of the day.

"We've got a 45-degree surface temperature," said Collum.

With nighttime temperatures in the 20s, the water temperatures have been plummeting the last few days with little hope of a reprieve. With cold temperatures more conducive for deer hunting, we're hitting the water in hopes of bettering my outing with another angler the previous weekend.

 

8:45: Collum cranks the big Mercury, and we motor away from the landing in hopes of getting a few bites in the cold weather. Collum is noticeably concerned with the frigid surface temperature of the water and the effects it will surely have on the bass.

 

9:00: Collum picks up a Gary Dobyn's Rod sporting a jig.

"I'm starting with a watermelon-candy football jig since the bass like them so well," he says. "With falling water temperatures and cold weather, the bass will probably be lethargic and have a slight case of lockjaw. Hopefully we'll get a few of them to bite."

Collum positions his boat in 15 feet of water, and makes repeated casts to a 10-foot ledge. After about 15 minutes and no takers, he looks down and chooses another rig.

 

9:15: Collum switches to a Norman DD14 in citrus shad color to try to entice a reaction bite from suspended bass he sees on his LCR. Collum has chosen a rod teamed with a Shimano reel and fluorocarbon line on his crankbait rod.

"I'm going to get that crankbait down and reel through them and try to get a bite," he says.

After combing through the suspended fish with no takers, Collum puts the crankbait rod down and moves downlake to try another area.

 

9:30: Collum stops adjacent to a clay bank, and throws a Storm Wiggle Wart in chartreuse/green back. Collum gets his first strike of the day on the Wiggle Wart as it comes off of a tree. The bass comes off, however, as the bait gets hung in the submerged top.

 

10:03: We move up the lake farther, and stop and work another submerged shelf in 10 to 11 feet of water with the boat positioned in 13 to begin with.

"We'll work this area over real slow as the bottom has a lot of wooden structure that I've found on my depthfinder," Collum says.

At his direction, I pitch my Hoot Gibson purple/blue/black jig into an area chock full of brush. As I move the jig slowly through the top, a bass grabs it and starts moving to the side very slowly. I rear back and set the hook, and our first bass of the day is on. After a short battle, I land a nice 5-pounder.

As soon as Collum nets the fish, he casts out to another area and bumps a stump or two.

"There he is," Collum says, as he drives the steel hook home.

In seconds, a monster bass with a mouth the size of a five-gallon bucket busts through the surface and wallows like a big old sow hog. Collum battles the lunker bass back and forth, and finally wears him down and put him in the boat. The huge bass weighs over 11 pounds, and is a trophy for anybody, anytime, and even more rare on a frigid winter day such as this.

Collum has kept the faith and found something that the bass want on a tough winter day, although the bites are hard to come by. A fish like that, however, would make any angler's day!

 

10:10: Collum sticks another bass and loses him after a short battle, as the bass struck short.

 

10:15: Collum reares back, drives the steel home again and boats another nice bass.

 

10:25: Collum pitches me a blue/purple Lake Fork Craw tube, and I put it on my jig as a trailer. A few casts later, a lunker bass sucks in my offering. I set the hook, and battle it back to the boat. The bass nips the 7-pound mark.

 

11:20: Collum switches to a crankbait, and bangs it down along the submerged brush with no luck.

 

11:35: Collum switches back to a jig, and misses a short-striking bass. He has found another area with a few fish, but they keep spitting the baits before we can set the hook.

12:00: With the fish's finicky cold weather behavior now evident, Collum pitches a Lake Fork Craw Tube to me and suggests I try it while he combs the water with a slow-moving spinnerbait.

"Try this on a shaky head, and see if we can hook up with some of those subtle bites since they're striking so light today," Collum suggests.

Wham!

A bass samples my newest offering, and I set the hook. A fine bass wallows on the bottom a few seconds before I start him toward the boat and the waiting net. Another 4-pound bass is in the boat.

 

12:15: Collum draws a strike from a fish, but the bass spits out the bait before he has a chance to connect. I follow up with another jig, and a bass sucks it in and keeps hold of it until I set the hook and break off in a brushtop.

 

12:25: Collum moves to another location off of the dam, and stops in 15 feet of water. The power fisherman switches to light tackle with a shaky head rig tipped with a Lake Fork Hyper Finesse worm, and begins fishing methodically. It doesn't take him long to draw a strike on this spot.

 

12:30: "There he is," Collum says as he sets the hook on another bass.

"We're sitting in 15 feet of water and casting up onto that ledge that is 6 to 10 feet deep," Collum said.

 

12:40: Collum continues working the ledge and draws another strike from a solid keeper on the shaky head rig. He quickly catches and releases him.

 

12:50: Collum gets another bite on the shaky head, and catches yet another keeper bass.

"These bass are feeding actively and are more aggressive than those we were into earlier," he says.

Though these bass aren't the size of the others, they are fun to catch and obviously hungry.

 

12:55: Collum sets the hook on another solid keeper bass tipping the scales at 2 1/2 pounds.

 

1:15: With a limit of bass in hand to go with an 11-pound kicker, Collum moves back up the lake, stops in 11 to 13 feet of water and directs me to cast in the direction of a submerged stump field.

"Try working that jig ultra slow when you feel the brush, because these lunkers are not nearly as aggressive as those smaller bass we were just catching," says Collum.

 

1:30: I pitch my purple/blue jig tipped with a junebug Paca Craw back into a submerged brushtop, and draw a strike from a bass. I set the hook and catch another nice fish.

 

2:10: Collum moves to another location, switches to a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hog and works the middle of a cove in 8 feet of water. He continues working the lure around, over and through stumps looking for another hungry bass.

"We could probably catch those smaller bass, but I'm looking for something to improve my weight before we're through today," Collum says.

 

2:20: Bam! Collum suddenly sweeps the rod to the side, and it bends double and freezes in place for just a second before the bass starts to move and wallow on the bottom.

"There he is!" he says. "It's another lunker, and right where I thought he'd be."

After a good fight, Collum lands the lunker, and we take a photo before releasing him.

 

3:00: Collum makes one last move back to the area where we had found the larger bass this morning.

"I think we can catch a couple more before we quit, if we can get them to bite that is," he says.

 

3:15: "Why don't you try that jig again and go back to that large Paca Craw trailer?" suggests Collum.

Seconds later, I start working the lure super slow. A few casts later, I draw another strike from a finicky bass, but he doesn't hold on long enough for me to set the hook.

 

3:20: Collum switches tactics once again, and works a large 1 3/4- ounce spinnerbait, the Big Nasty, as he calls it.

"I'm going to work it reeaall slooowww and bang it around the stumps and bottom," he says. "I think I can get them to bite it if I work it just right."

 

3:25: I cast my Hoot Gibson jig and Paca Craw worm combo out a couple more times, and draw another light bite. Feeling the tension, I rear back and drive the Gamakatsu hook home. The lunker just wallows on the bottom for a few seconds before I turn him around. In seconds, I have another lunker in the boat. This one matches my largest of the day, and is a fitting way to end the day.

 

3:30: Our weigh-in time is at hand when Collum suddenly bows up and connects with a sow bass. The enraged big momma tears out like a small freight train. It's obvious this is no ordinary bass. Collum works the fish back and forth, and finally wears her down. He has finished up with a stout 7-pounder to anchor our creel on the last cast of the day. What a fitting way to end our day on Lake X.