Slow it down at Barnett on riprap

Rigging the SpringR worm wacky style is slow, patient fishing for bass that can pay off big in January.

Generally, January is a tough month to catch bass. However, one of the advantages to fishing Ross Barnett this month is the abundance of riprap. Riprap holds heat, and I’ll be fishing those rocks.

You’ll find riprap, especially down by Ross Barnett Dam, near deep water. Once the sun warms the riprap, bass will move out of their deep-water homes onto the rocks to feed, although the feeding times will be short. This time of year, shad are searching for warmth, just like bass. You must be prepared to fish very shallow water when the bass are moving up and fish 10 to 12 feet deep when the bass aren’t as shallow. 

Early morning  

I’ll fish parallel to the rocks and start with a 1/2-ounce, white, single-blade Mann’s spinnerbait with a trailer hook. I prefer a No. 7 Colorado blade that I’ll slow-roll out on the deeper section of the rocks where they meet the bottom. I don’t use any type of trailer. I’ll cast about 4 to 5 feet out away from the rocks and slow-roll the spinnerbait back about two-thirds of the way to my boat, which will be sitting in 8 to 10 feet of water. I try to cover as much water as I can with this method early in the morning. 

If I get two bites on a certain section of the rock, I’ll mark that as a waypoint on my GPS and return and fish it three to four times during a day. I’ll fish 20-pound test White Peacock fluorocarbon with a 6-foot-8 heavy action FX Custom Rod and a 5.2:1 Bruin reel. The reel allows me to wind slowly and still keep the blades on my spinnerbait turning. I want the blades to thump slowly; that’s why I use a No. 7 Colorado. Usually the water is stained in January, so I’ll need that thumping sound to attract bass. 

Paul Elias likes the red Baby 1-Minus (bottom) in January at Ross Barnett.

Shallow tactics 

As the sun comes up and warms the rocks, I’ll have a red Baby 1-Minus tied on 23-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon on a 7-foot-1, medium-action FX Custom Rod with a moderate-fast tip. I’ll cast this lure as close to the rocks as possible without hitting them, using a 7:1 Bruin reel. I’ll let the bait bump the underwater rocks while reeling slowly. The Baby 1-Minus runs in about 11/2 feet of water, and I’m using it to catch the bass that are moving up to feed. I’ll be watching the rocks closely to see shad activity and possibly bass feeding on the shad. The color red seems to produce the best in cold, muddy water. 

I’ll also have a Mann’s SpringR worm in junebug rigged wacky style, tied to an 8- to 10-foot piece of White Peacock fluorocarbon leader tied to 10-pound braid on a spinning rod. The line causes the SpringR worm to fall very slowly, while wiggling some. I can fish this very shallow water with this Spring-R worm and also fish out to the 6- to 8-foot deep water. If I don’t get a bite there, I’ll pump my rod two to three times to move the worm out to deeper water.  

This strategy catches the lethargic bass holding from the shoreline out to about 8 feet of water. When that SpringR worm comes past these bass, very slowly and moving just a little, they can’t seem to resist eating it. The key to fishing this SpringR worm wacky style is to fish it extremely slowly, since you’re attempting to catch bass that don’t want to bite. I seem to get more bites on a junebug worm when fishing muddy water than I do on any other color. I’ll also spray some chartreuse dye on each end of the worm. 

“Although I fish the SpringR worm shallow, I’ll also fish it in 6 to 8 foot deep water for January bass.” — Paul Elias

Changes to make

If I’m not getting any bites or catching any bass by the dam, I’ll make a run to the riprap at the Pelahatchie Bridge where Pelahatchie Creek flows through, especially if this area has had a good rain, and current is coming down that creek. I’ll start out fishing the points of the riprap with the same bait I use to fish at the dam, and then fish the riprap on both sides. 

My next stop will be at the Highway 43 bridge; I’ll fish the corners of the riprap and the bridge pilings using the same baits and techniques. I’ll spend all my days this month fishing the rocks. 

Something about January bassing that makes it different from other times is that warming days will often appear at the end of the month. So, if I’m fishing, and a warm front moves through, I’ll begin fishing the lily pad stems with a Baby 1-Minus and also a 1/4-ounce rattling bait like a Rat-L-Trap. I’ll reel both these lures slowly through those stems.

Paul Elias
About Paul Elias 151 Articles
Paul Elias, of Laurel, has fished 15 Bassmaster Classics with career winnings of over $1 million, including one Bassmaster Classic Championship. Elias also holds the current record for a four-day BASS tournament weigh-in with 132 pounds, 8 ounces, on Falcon Lake in Texas.

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