ALSO AT THE END OF THESE WINTERTIME FISHING TIPS, ”FISHING FOR BASS WITH TOPWATER LURES DURING THE WINTER SEASON”
By Reed Montgomery
All written By Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service (205) 663-1504
Wintertime Bass Fishing Tips for Targeting Largemouth Bass, Alabama Spotted Bass (all lakes) and Smallmouth Bass (Tennessee River lakes).
THE COOSA RIVER SYSTEM (6 LAKES) / Weiss lake, Neely Henry lake, Logan Martin lake, Lay lake, Mitchell lake and Jordan Lake.
THE TALLAPOOSA RIVER SYSTEM (2 LAKES) / Lake Harris (or Lake Wedowee) and Lake Martin.
THE TENNESSEE RIVER SYSTEM (4 LAKES) / Guntersville lake, Wheeler lake, Wilson lake and Pickwick Lake.
THE WARRIOR RIVER SYSTEM (2 LAKES) / Bankhead Lake and Demopolis Lake.
* Television; Reed Montgomery can be seen on Birmingham’s WBRC Channel 6 / Fox 6′s “Good Day Alabama” morning show. Reed is on this very popular TV show with his, “Ask the Angler” live question and answer session, all about freshwater fishing here in Alabama.
* Birmingham Boat Show; Reed Montgomery will again host his 11thAnnual “Kids Fishing Show” held at the 41stAnnual Birmingham Boat Show / Scheduled to be held four days in Birmingham, Al. at the Birmingham – Jefferson Civic Center Thursday through Sunday, Jan.19-Jan.22 of 2012.
In February of 2011 Reed Montgomery’s, “10thAnnual Kids Fishing Show” had over 500 kids and their parents attend his free show. We would like for every kid at this year’s show to go home with some free, donated gift! But this is only possible with your help.
KIDS SHOW DONATIONS – If you or your company want to get involved and help us out making a lot of children very happy, we need your help with your donations! Anything makes these kids happy and helps us commit to seeing to it that everyone goes home happy with some free donated gift.
Its never to late to help with this free Saturday Kids Fishing Show to be held 2 p.m. January 21, 2012 at the www.birminghamboatshow.com or you can donate for next year’s show to be held in 2013!
In return we help you! Donators are welcome to come on stage (in front of over 1000 people) to promote your business or your donated products.
This, “Reed Montgomery’s Kids Fishing Show” has been a huge success each year now for over 10 years! With a lot of help from some very kind donators such as yourself. If you can not be there we will promote your business on stage for you!
Come by and visit with us in Reed Montgomery’s, ”Reeds Guide Service” booth, held upstairs at the Birmingham Boat Show annually! Listen in on Reed’s fishing seminar, “Bass Fishing Alabama’s Lakes This Spring Season” and bring your kids to the free kids fishing show!
REEDS GUIDE SERVICE
Alabama’s Oldest, Professional, Licensed and Insured
“Bass and Striper Fishing Only” Professional, Freshwater Fishing Guide Service For Over 40 Years.
“Guiding, Tournament Fishing and Exploring all of Alabama’s Lakes For Over 40 Years.” With several Boats and professional guides available year-round for fishing any Alabama lake.
Birmingham, Alabama Phone (205) 663-1504
Internet Website: www.fishingalabama.com
WINTER BASS FISHING ALABAMA’S LAKES
During a period from early December through late February throughout the 40 plus years of my bass fishing most of Alabama’s Lakes, I can recall the many memories of fooling some true trophy, wintertime bass, while fishing from one end of the state to the other.
Clients of my guide service as well, with dozens of bass taken, those exceeding that almost seemingly magical weight of ten pounds, while bass fishing state wide!
Featured Lakes; Here are some of Alabama’s Lakes I guide on frequently;
Upper Tallapoosa River System (Two Lakes / LAKE HARRIS AND LAKE MARTIN)
LAKE HARRIS (Impounded in 1983)
LAKE HARRIS, Alabama’s youngest Lake is situated on The Tallapoosa River near the town of Wedowee, Alabama. This is a true, trophy largemouth bass Lake. They prefer to call it Lake Wedowee!
Lake Harris (Or Lake Wedowee) has yielded many big, largemouth bass, some weighing over 10 pounds. Records show that winter and early spring are the most productive seasons to target these true, trophy largemouth bass. They can be fooled by a variety of lures.
Largemouth Bass on this upper Tallapoosa River Impoundment are of huge proportions. There are dozens on record caught in years past during winter and early spring seasons, some bass weighing 10 to 16 pounds. Close to being a new Alabama state record largemouth bass!
Lower Tallapoosa River System
Lake Martin (Impounded 1926)
Lake Martin does not yield largemouth’s as big as the Upper Tallapoosa River System, Lake Harris. Some largemouth bass in the ten pound plus category have been caught in years past on Lake Martin (now over 80 years old), but they are rare.
But Lake Martin does show some really true trophy-sized Tallapoosa River Spotted Bass. Some “spots” exceeding 7 pounds have been taken on Lake Martin in past winter seasons.
The Tennessee River System (Four Lakes / Guntersville Lake, Wheeler Lake, Wilson Lake and Pickwick Lake)
Guntersville Lake (Impounded 1939)
Guntersville Lake is Alabama’s largest, man made reservoir. Winter always brings to thought some very memorable wintertime fishing trips to Guntersville Lake, situated on the Tennessee River near the town of Guntersville, Alabama. We are talking about big bass!
Largemouth’s exceeding that seemingly impossible weight of 10 pounds or better, are fooled during winter by many lucky anglers. But they don’t come easy. Winter in North Alabama can be brutal.
Anglers must often face the elements braving the cold and rainy winter weather, seen all throughout the cold months of December, January, February and often on into March…pre-spawn time on Guntersville lake.
The Tennessee River System
Wheeler Lake (Impounded 1936)
Wheeler Lake Alabama’s second largest Impoundment. Wheeler Lake is a very popular fishery for anglers seeking largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass. It is loaded with wood and rock cover.
Some aquatic weeds exist during full pool conditions (about 6 months), from spring around April through early fall around October. The lake is drawn down as much as 5 feet below normal full pool lake level, usually killing most aquatic weed growth, for 6 months out of the year.
Although the lake is drawn down for winter pool (often as low as 3-5 feet below normal full pool levels), it is still a good lake during winter for anglers targeting trophy-sized bass. Wood and rock cover become an anglers targets for shallow largemouth bass then.
The lake is mostly void of grass in winter, but it does have some milfoil and hydrilla aquatic weed growth in the early and late winter months.
The Tennessee River System
Wilson Lake (Impounded 1924)
Wilson Lake is a rather small Lake, especially when compared with other Tennessee River Impoundments. It is only 17 miles from dam to dam.
But Wilson’s size cannot be compared with the excellent fishing it offers for a variety of fish species, including a past world record smallmouth bass exceeding 10 pounds.
There are more species of freshwater fish in Wilson Lake than there are in any other lake in Alabama.
The Tennessee River System
Pickwick Lake (Impounded 1938)
Pickwick Lake is noted for its trophy, smallmouth bass. Anglers come from all over the world to sample its trophy smallmouth bass during winter. Winter is when these big “brown bass” are fooled each year.
Pickwick Lake is drawn down during the winter months and then, it has very few weeds. It does offer anglers a chance at fooling some big striped bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass and is recognized with world renowned trophy-sized smallmouth bass.
The Coosa River System (Six Impoundments)
Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Mitchell Lake and Jordan Lake
From North Alabama to mid-Alabama runs the famed, Coosa River System. Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Mitchell Lake, and Jordan Lake. This Coosa River System always shows many largemouth bass taken each winter.
This includes excellent bass fishing throughout the rest of the year during spring, summer and fall. Many dozens of largemouth bass exceeding five pounds are fooled year round in Alabama on this Coosa River System.
There are also some very big Coosa River spotted bass. My personal best spotted bass was caught on Mitchell Lake on the Fourth of July, 2002 on a zara super spook topwater lure.
This was a really, true trophy sized spotted bass any angler would be proud to do battle with. A huge spotted bass, that after a very lengthy heart-wrenching battle, turned out to weigh 7.12 pounds! I took some pictures and let it go…to live and fight another day.
Winter is when many trophy-sized spotted bass are taken all throughout the Coosa River System. I’ve had a couple of six pound spotted bass. One six pound spotted bass I caught on Jordan Lake a few years back during winter, was fooled with a home made spinnerbait.
Just recently this past winter season while fishing on Lay Lake, I had another six pound spotted bass, I fooled on a zara spook topwater lure.
These big spotted bass are rare. Most anglers never even fool a spotted bass weighing six pounds or better. Much less land one of these hard fighting, tackle testing bass and getting it in the boat!
Read on, for more tips on fooling Alabama’s feisty spotted bass!
On the Upper Coosa River System three lakes, Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake and Logan Martin Lake are drawn down for winter pool. These lakes will be down until mid April.
Lay Lake, Mitchell Lake and Jordan Lake on the lower Coosa River System are all kept at full pool, year round. These lakes also display several types of aquatic weeds year round.
The Warrior River System (Two Lakes / Bankhead Lake and Demopolis Lake)
Bankhead Lake (Impounded 1916)
Bankhead Lake is only 20 miles from downtown Birmingham, Al. It is a barge-navigated waterway loaded with weeds, wood cover and rock cover.
Lots of places for anglers to target largemouth bass, spotted bass and striped bass this winter season. Bankhead Lake on the Warrior River starts at the tailrace waters of Smith Lake dam and extends to Tuscaloosa.
Then the Warrior River winds down south Alabama to the town of Demopolis where it joins the Tombigbee River System, to form Demopolis Lake. I have seen dozens of largemouth bass in the 5-10 pound class, fishing past winter season’s on Alabama’s Warrior River and The Tombigbee River.
Fishing Shallow Water in Winter – This is not common with most anglers. I’m known for my shallow water tactics. Not only in the Spring, Summer and Fall months, but during Winter as well.
Topwater Fishing is even more unheard of when it gets cold. This affliction for seeing a big bass explode on a well placed (and well maneuvered) topwater offering, can’t be compared to any other type of bass fishing.
No, this is not all I do, but, its my year round preference for shallow water action. There’s no comparison to seeing a huge bass explode through the water’s surface attacking a well placed (and like said, “a well maneuvered”) topwater lure!
On Alabama’s Guntersville Lake it is not all that uncommon (on this big bass lake), to entice a topwater bite in winter. What is unusual is most of these largemouth bass are taken in water less than 3 feet deep on cold winter days, with highs of 50 degrees and morning lows near 30 degrees.
After fishing with lures from to bottom, in water less than five feet deep for over 40 years all throughout all of Alabama, it kind of grows on you. I’m especially known for fishing one particular topwater lure, year round. The Zara Super Spook.
See: “Everything you always wanted to know about fishing the Zara Spook” information on my website home page at: www.fishingalabama.com.
Also See: “Topwater Fishing In Winter” article link on my website.
As I wrote these Wintertime fishing tips, I think back on two of the best winter trips I’ve had, while fishing with only one topwater lure all day. Pradco’s Zara Super Spook.
One early winter this trip took place while fishing all alone during a cold, rainy winter day. The unseasonably warm, week long front preceding this trip had really turned on the Big Bass.
It was a very miserable, 40 degree day winter day, fishing in falling air temperatures and plummeting water temperatures. But Lay Lake’s Big Bass were feeding.
On this memorable occasion, I found the “Mother lode Of Big Bass” fishing several locations on Alabama’s Lay Lake. After boating the first big bass of this very cold morning, a spook-busting 7 pound largemouth, I immediately hooked into another line stretching hog (only 10 feet from that spot). It weighed about 5 pounds.
Already, I knew this was going to be an exceptional day. How exceptional? In the “Articles” section at my website read, “Lay Lake 5 Bass Over 30 Pounds” for the entire story on this cold, winter day. Look for pictures at my website.
Also Mitchell Lake produced another very memorable winter trip. On that day, I had 3 largemouth bass, (an 8 pounder and two 5 pounders), all weighing 18 pounds, along with 10 other very nice 2-3 pound bass.
All of those bass were caught on a cold, overcast day using a variety of lures such as shallow running crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and the 8 pounder came on a zara super spook.
Catching bass in very skinny water is not unusual in Alabama during the winter season. There are many occasions each month, when a lot of trophy-sized largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass and spotted bass are fooled by the persistent angler that refuses to hang up his rods.
Warming trends make it even better.
This also includes fooling some huge, striped bass, if you know where to find them! What is unusual, is that the majority of these lure-busting bass come on various shallow-runners and topwater lures.
In Alabama, warming trends take place throughout all the winter season!
Water temperatures can fluctuate from the mid-40′s to upper-60′s during winter warming trends in Alabama. Rising water temperatures always influence the bigger bass (with bigger appetites) to feed.
For no matter how cold it gets in the south these huge bass must eat every few days. Thus they are much more active while roaming around in search of food and they become very interested to a variety of shallow running lures and topwater lures, including various lure presentations.
In shallow water situations (less than 5 feet deep) unseasonably warm, rising daytime air temperatures, can bring up the water temperature as much as five to ten degrees in one day. This also brings up the bigger bass to a well placed topwater offering.
This untimely occurrence takes place after several consecutive days (and nights) of unseasonably warm weather. Always followed by a rainy, low-pressure system, usually followed by a severe, cold front featuring bright, bluebird skies.
During the early-to-middle portion of this warming trend, bass move shallow and feed. Falling barometer levels, peak air temperatures, along with approaching cloudy, rainy conditions all influence (otherwise very sluggish and cautious) bass to move shallow and feed in reckless fashion.
This timely occurrence is when these bass become very active and they can be fooled into biting…but only if your there to throw at them!
Read on! There are more topwater tips on this rarely practiced, off-the-wall wintertime “Big Bass Tactic” possible on each featured lake in Alabama in this season’s tips.
Along with hot-spots such as dam discharge areas, spring-fed creeks, water treatment plants, steam plant warm-water discharges and creek or main-lake flats. All places that hold some big, wintertime bass.
The Tallapoosa River System
Lake Harris (or Lake Wedowee) Impounded 1983
Alabama’s biggest, trophy largemouth bass are taken from this small lake each winter. Dozens of largemouth bass from 12-16 pounds have been caught in the past dozen years from Jan-March on Lake Harris. Often called Lake Wedowee after the nearby town of Wedowee, Alabama.
This small lake (10,660 acres – 27 miles long) was impounded in 1983 and is Alabama’s youngest impoundment. Perhaps its last.
This could be the last man made reservoir to be built in Alabama for a long time. During impoundment, wood cover was left in Lake Harris to enhance the growth of the many resident bass, most of which once lived in surrounding farm ponds, small lakes and creeks, including native bass species.
This impoundment of Lake Harris inundated the Big Tallapoosa River and the Little Tallapoosa River. Many stumps, standing timber and brush have long since deteriorated away or broken off, due to severe lake draw down each year (the lake is drawn down up to 15 feet below normal full lake levels at times during winter months).
Many bass exceeding 10 pounds are caught in or near deep water, especially when water temperatures are in the low-50′s down into the low-40′s during the winter.
However, as seen in past winter’s there can be “winter warming trends” that can suddenly influence some of the lake’s bigger pre-spawn bass to suddenly move into some very shallow water.
Lures fished around deep points, islands, humps and old river channel ledges should include; 1/2 ounce rattling jigs with pork or plastic trailers.
Colors of black and blue or brown and orange combinations, Carolina-rigged lizards, worms or crayfish imitations. Use natural colors in clear water and darker colors of black, brown or purple in stained water conditions.
Some huge bass are caught on these lures each winter in water depths of 5 to 25 feet deep. Very slow presentations are needed during slow bite periods and stained water conditions.
Vary your lures and leader lengths on the Carolina rig. Try several different types of lures and various sizes of each lure, various lure styles and experiment with lure scents and colors.
Experimenting with trailers of pork, plastic chunks, creature lure trailers, beavers, even lizards or plastic crayfish imitations, attached to the hook of the jig, will help you determine the day’s bite.
Spinnerbaits also take a lot of these tackle-testing giants, from the shallow to deep water drop-offs. This especially holds true while winter fishing around wood and rock cover in the mid-to-lower lake region. (Often, winter rains can muddy up the upper portion of the lake).
Heavier model spinnerbaits are favorites due to water depths, easier to cast great distances and generally they are good for “bigger bass bites“
Big spinnerbait blades in sizes of #7 and #8 in both single and tandem, with either Colorado or Willowleaf blades, can be a matter of personal preference. But, they work!
Colorado blades are better felt by the angler and produce more vibration in cold water for the bass to home in on. Gold blades are better seen by the bass during sunny, stained water conditions.
Vertical jigging 1/4 to 1/2 oz. jigging spoons in depths of 10-25 feet (or deeper) can entice some big bass bites.
Deep-diving crankbaits and rattletraps fished with a stop-and-go retrieve, long casts, and a very slow presentation, entice these somewhat sluggish bass into biting when water temperatures are low.
The Tallapoosa River System
Lake Martin Impounded 1926
Lake levels are currently down for winter pool. Drawn down in late Fall, this lake can be dropped from 5 feet, to drastically down as much as 15 feet in winter.
During winter pool Lake Martin is reduced in size as bass move out to the security of deep water. Holding on points, creek and river ledges, islands (both visible and submerged), rock bluffs and boulder-strewn banks. These bass relate to, but don’t always hold in deep water.
Warming trends occur statewide in Alabama during December, January and February. After a few days of sunshine, bass are influenced to move into water less than 5 feet deep to feed.
Many small pockets adorn this lake and face the sun’s direction from mid morning until late in the day. Some are protected from cold, northerly winds and when bathed in sunlight, can show water temperatures rise a few degrees each day.
Bass will migrate to these areas – not in search of warmer water – in search of crayfish or baitfish, that emerge as they become more active with rising water temperatures. Many ways exist to fool these bass into accepting an unreal meal.
When fishing Lake Martin this winter, begin your search in or near deep water. As you approach the changing bottom depths that rise to shallower water you will find ledges, old creek channels, points, ditches, humps or depressions.
These are underwater travel routes that bass will relate to as they travel to and from the shallow water feeding grounds.
Vertical jigging with 1/4 to 1/2 oz. spoons works very well as you eye your depth finder and look for fish holding on bottom irregularities.
Jigs, worms, lizards, crayfish imitations and other bottom-bumping lures, should be fan-cast in these areas and fished very slowly, to entice sluggish bass into biting.
Backing off from these sudden bottom changes and making long casts with deep-diving crankbaits and lipless lures such as Red Eye Shad, Cordell Spots, Rattlin’ Raps and Rattletraps, will help you find the more active bass.
A stop-and-go retrieve with these lures can influence otherwise slow moving bass to strike. Often this ploy will entice extra bites.
In shallow water spinnerbaits, shallow to mid-diving crankbaits, jerk baits, and bottom bumping lures will also fool skittish bass.
Topwaters such as Zara Super Spooks and buzz baits work well, utilizing as slow a retrieve as possible. Always look for baitfish in these areas to assure that bass are nearby.
The Coosa River System
Weiss Lake Impounded 1961
This first impoundment on the Coosa River System, situated in north Alabama, is actually not noted for its winter bass fishing attributes. But the huge sacks of bass brought in during springtime bass tournaments have defiantly reserved a place in the record books.
The bass are there. So where are these monster bass, during winter, when the mercury drops and water temperatures plummet to the low 50′s?
On Weiss Lake that question is pondered by many very adept anglers. Some anglers fish Weiss Lake on a regular basis but still falter somewhat when winter arrives.
The answer could lie from the mid-to-lower lake region where-like other lakes with winter drawdown-the fishing is generally better. The lake is currently down and on Weiss this empties out to about half of the impoundment.
Stretching into upper Georgia, Weiss Lake does show a lot of water northward. But these headwaters of the Coosa River mainly consist of a long, narrowing river channel.
Many feeder creeks in the lake’s upper regions consist of flats and are now all but dried up until the lake returns to full pool in April.
There are big bass here but they tend to spread out and can be hard to decipher with cold, running water and oftentimes stained to muddy conditions.
The lower Weiss Lake offers a lot of bass holding cover-even during draw down. Rip-rap (man-made rocks) line the causeways, bridges and both lower lake dams. An excellent place for schools of big bass to gather especially during unseasonable warming trends. These rocks hold heat.
Bass, baitfish and crayfish scour these irregular features in search of food and become much more active after the water warms a few degrees. Water temperatures that rise to the mid-to-upper 50′s can induce otherwise sluggish fish to feed.
Crankbaits can be the ticket when you are in control of the speed of the lure. Unlike burning these bottom bumpers along river channels during summer fishing forays when bass go deep, you concentrate on a slow, stop-and-go retrieve with every cast and generally catch suspended bass other lures fail to entice.
Combining a Jig Combo or Carolina-rigged offering with these crankbaits will pick up the less anxious feeders on a second or even third pass in an active-bite area and usually the bigger bass in the group.
Dropping heavy spinnerbaits along these rocks is a big bass tactic that requires a lot of patience and concentration. One-half to three-quarter ounce model spinnerbaits with either a willow leaf blade or single Colorado blade are suggested, fishing in depths of 5-20 feet.
Vertical jigging spoons is also a one-of-a-kind presentation that often gets bites on very slow winter days when other lures won’t. Following a week or two warming trend, these shallow water bass will hit topwaters, especially prior to or during the next approaching rainy front.
Watch your depth finder for irregular underwater features and be careful during low pool when navigating Weiss Lake.
The Coosa River System
Neely Henry Lake Impounded 1966
Like any Coosa River reservoir it can be difficult to narrow down the fishing to any specific area.
On Neely Henry, low water (1-3 feet) and cold, winter days influence your predictions on where they should be. Currently down for winter pool, means some bass are positioned in or near deep water.
However, “deep” on the Coosa River System, usually means exploring the depths of 5-15 feet. Bass are deeper at times, but rarely discovered in a feeding mood. Schools of bass grow in size (or numbers) with each passing week, during winter, on Neely Henry Lake.
Spotted bass and Largemouth bass usually travel in groups of the same weight class, but mixed bags can hold in the same areas as they follow (or await) the baitfish moving about the lake. Changing conditions shift baitfish about as they drift-or are blown over deep water structure.
From the upper river-type terrain to the lower lake, creek mouths are holding spots for sizable numbers of bass as they feed each day. All of these variables position bass on upper and lower points leading into these slack water areas.
They also hold along ledges and drop-offs, flats, over submerged bars and around submerged humps. Bass of both species can be found around areas where rock bluffs meet creek mouths and even on old roadbeds that span the mouths of many major feeder creeks on the lakes lower end.
Exploring these low-water areas this winter, anglers will discover cover that bass relate to many unseen hideouts, places many other anglers overlook.
With some depth finder use, map study and marker buoys you can find (and mark) areas that are usually 3-5 feet deeper (at full pool) and oftentimes a honey hole for the remainder of the winter. Lures mentioned for Weiss Lake will also take bass in these deep water areas.
Look for baitfish or feeding bass to assure active fish in these areas. Upriver, about one mile above Gadsden City launch, is a warm water discharge. Check it out and the banks below it.
River bends and creek mouths hold bass throughout the winter months in these river-type lake headwaters. Again, use caution when navigating this lake in winter during low pool.
The Coosa River System
Logan Martin Lake Impounded 1964
The name Logan Martin brings memories as the chosen site of three of the past Bassmasters Classic World Championships held in Alabama.
Bass tournaments are held on Logan Martin every week out of the year. But mention Logan Martin during the dead of winter and most anglers shun away.
All but the adept regulars that know the rewards of exploring this rather desolate lake in December, January and February. Logan Martin is one of three upper Coosa River reservoirs drawn down for winter and is currently down 3-4 feet.
Like Weiss Lake and Neely Henry Lake, the lower portion of Logan Martin Lake is safer for navigation than the lakes headwaters and the lower lake generally has clearer water and better fishing throughout winter.
But there are exceptions!
This is not to imply the upper lakes headwaters are not worth investigating – but proceed with extreme caution due to low water obstructions now hidden just below the water’s surface.
With lightly stained water and warming water, the main river flats and ledges hold some big wintertime largemouth’s and some hefty Coosa River spotted bass.
Far upriver, along the lakes eastern banks, just below upper Neely Henry dam are several spring-fed creeks worth exploring -if you like to idle or troll long distances.
Use caution, less than one half mile below the mouth of Ohatchee Creek, near Neely Henry Lake dam are rock bars. Some are visible and some are not.
Its all according to the water draw down found here at mid lake. These are very dangerous rock piles and extreme caution is advised for first timers in these lake headwaters.
Logan Martin dam downriver has deep water, clear water and baitfish holed up in the major feeder creeks and pockets that still harbor good water depth.
Check out the lower lake creeks Clear Creek and Rabbit Branch Creek.
During cold fronts and high pressure conditions stick with slow, bottom-dragging worms, lizards, jig combos, tube baits, creature baits, shad imitations and crayfish imitations.
Deep running crankbaits and jigging spoons also fall in this category.
When warming trends bring bass shallow, look for aggressive bites on these types of lures;
Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, mid to shallow running crankbaits, rattletraps and yes, even topwaters such as: buzz baits, zara spooks, Sammies, Spittin’ image, Baby torpedoes and Pop-r’s. Yes, they hit topwater lures in winter!
The Coosa River System
Lay Lake Impounded 1914
Full pool, full of bass, and just waiting for some persistent angler to discover. I recall one particular trip that took place in late January. On a cloudy, warm day following a three-day warming trend, we had over 30 bass in one day of frantic feeding fish.
Seven spotted bass, averaging near 4 pounds each, weighed in at Paradise Point Marina (site of the Bassmaster’s Classic) topping the scales at over 28 lbs.
Most of these bass were caught on jerkbaits and zara spooks. One month later, at the peak of this 6-week warming trend, I spooked up a largemouth bass weighing 8 lbs. It was caught in a creek in water temperature near 60 degrees!
In between these normally cold months, we caught and released several bass from 5-7 lbs, all on topwaters and shallow running lures.
These abnormalities could take place again this winter, if warming trends once again encourage bass to move shallow. In between these spring-like conditions, bass can be caught by many means.
Flipping and pitching jig combos and tube baits to weed edges, piers, thick matted weeds, rock banks and bluffs, or fan-casting creek and river flats, when schools of baitfish are evident, are also great tactics for winter bass on Lay lake.
Some weeds die during winter, but still some dead weeds hold bass that relate to them as cover. Either that or they are holding on wood or rock cover within these once green hideouts, many bass call home.
Swimming a jig, is a popular tactic on Lay Lake for covering water fast and getting the big bass bite.
“Flipping or Pitching” in an around these dead or decaying weeds with jigs, tube baits, worms and lizards take a lot of semi-dormant bass, bass just waiting for a easy meal dropped right in their faces.
Keep it in mind on some days a mouthful of pork, plastic or an over-sized offering, will get the bigger bass bite. On other days you must downsize your lures to even get bit.
Spinnerbaits catch bass year-round on Lay Lake and during December, January and February, many anglers take their share of line-stretchers as they slow-roll or drop heavy spinnerbaits in deep water haunts.
Spotted bass are suckers for these flashing and vibrating lures as they invade their domain. Largemouth’s found shallow around weed and wood cover are very susceptible to spinnerbaits, especially when the water temperature is in the upper 50′s, with a slight stained look to the water.
When targeting these feisty Coosa River bass many anglers fish the main river. Often in winter they are in creeks as well!
From top to bottom these tenacious bama bass will nail lure such as;
Buzz baits and zara spooks (the louder the better), spinnerbaits and jerk baits (with erratic retrieves), jig combos, Carolina-rigged and Texas-rigged worms, crayfish and lizards (slow), tube baits, and other gaudy-type plastics like creature baits and even swim baits.
Deep-diving crankbaits (especially chartreuse), rattletraps (red is good in winter) and grubs, just to name a few are good lures. During water generation, try fishing the outside bends of the main river.
Especially where slack water, eddy areas, provide ambush hideouts for spotted bass that seem to tolerate swift current a little more than the largemouth bass.
Although a few largemouth hogs can be had at times around stumps, weeds edges, lay downs, points and the lower ends of islands. Up and down river these tactics work around cuts, pockets, islands and creek mouths or other current-breaking sanctuaries.
The Coosa River System
Mitchell Lake Impounded 1923
When Spotted bass come to mind, the lower you go on the Coosa River, the bigger they get. I caught my personal best spotted bass on this lake on the Fourth of July, 2002. I caught this fat spotted bass at 10 a.m. on a zara super spook.
It weighed a whopping 7.12 pounds and was released. Mitchell Lake has given up hundreds of these Coosa Spots, many over 4 lbs. and some close to 8 pounds, in years past. Many tournaments are won with 5-fish bags of spots, weighing close to 20 pounds.
The lakes headwaters give up many of these current-oriented bass. Below upper Lay Lake dam are deep washed-out holes, huge underwater boulders, rock bluffs and towering islands. All are homes to these bass that favor a little depth nearby during winter.
Many lures take these bass. Near the dam try spinnerbaits, spoons, or light-line finessing with smaller 4 in. worms, grubs and lizards on jig heads. Crankbaits, bumped along the bottom during water generation, account for a lot of these bass feeding for the upcoming winter.
Shad and crayfish colors are popular. Jig & pork (or plastic chunks) combos dragged along the bottom in the swift current take some of these finicky bass when the bite slows.
Down the lake some hefty largemouth’s refuse to take a back seat to the noted spotted bass on Mitchell Lake. Right after Veterans Day a few years back, I had two five pounders and an eight pounder, all on the same day, fishing shallow 60 degree water.
They were caught on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, spooks and rattletraps. Some weeds remain green in sunny areas throughout January, and February attracting baitfish and some large heads, some in the 6-8 lb. category.
Many of these big bass will still hit topwaters during these warming trends. They will nail a buzz bait, spinnerbait, rattletrap or crankbait when they are active. Other bass must be coaxed from cover with very slow presentations and stealth in your approach.
The Coosa River System
Jordan Lake Impounded 1928
Lower Mideastern Alabama
As previously mentioned the spots get bigger as you head down to the last impoundment on the lower Coosa River chain. Jordan Lake – noted for some of Alabama’s biggest spotted bass – surrenders trophy, line-stretchers each winter, with some exceeding 8 lbs.
Many of these Coosa River native bass are caught near the lakes headwaters on previously mentioned lures. But a lot of these hefty spots are caught along the river type banks that are 5-10 miles down river before the lake begins to widen.
Deep, rock bluffs have secondary ledges, broken-off banks, or washed-in underwater debris that attracts schools of both spotted bass, stripes and largemouth’s.
Explore the bluffs on the deeper outer river bends first. When combing the lake in this upper terrain fish the mouths of the many small cuts and pockets that are adorned with miles of stump rows, standing timber and aquatic weeds.
Deep-diving crankbaits and rattletraps fan-cast across the two points leading into these out-of-the current areas will determine any active bass that may be shallow.
Suspended bass can be caught in this same fashion casting out from these areas away from the bank. Parallel casting the main river bank and just inside the mouth will also pick up bass other anglers fail to entice.
When a few bass are fooled into striking active lures, re-work the area and slowly probe the bottom. Pay close attention to the depth bass are holding and duplicate this tactic in similar areas.
Current or the lack of current, including wind and cloud cover and the availability of food, are just a few of the many factors that will determine the days holding depth for these bass on Jordan Lake.
Even these factors and conditions can change many times during the day when conditions move bass either shallower or back to deep water.
The Warrior River System
Bankhead Lake Impounded 1916
Last year in January alone, I recorded catches of a dozen bass weighing from 4-7 lbs. Fishing either the Big Warrior River or the Little Warrior on Bankhead Reservoir near Birmingham from December through late February.
During Winter, this can be feast or famine in some situations. Heavy rains can muddy the lake and cause bass lockjaw until conditions change for the better.
Added to this, cold days and below freezing nighttime temperatures can lower the water temperature into the mid-to-upper 40′s. After living only 20 miles from this lake and fishing it most of my life there is one evident fact. I know during winter warming trends big bass move shallow.
As on any body of water during these adverse conditions cold, muddy water can shut down the bite entirely. Finding the warmest water, with as light a stain as possible, is the only ticket to getting bit.
When warming trends occur, and the river and creek waters have had a chance to warm and clear up, is the time to go fishing!
Flats near deep water, log jams, rock bluff banks, even the mid-to-back ends of major feeder creeks on Warrior River’s Bankhead Lake can have schools of bass suddenly move up in areas where you haven’t had a bite in weeks.
Find the schools of baitfish that appear each evening and you have a feeding zone to begin with the next day.
The Warrior River System
Demopolis Lake Impounded 1954
South Alabama, featuring Demopolis Lake is blessed with a winding river that has hundreds of hiding spots for the bass to reside in. Backwater sloughs and feeder creeks hold bass year round on The Warrior River in Demopolis.
In December, January and February the mid-to-back ends of these backwaters that have an abundance of baitfish, will hold bass that can drop back to the deeper water when not feeding.
In some of these small cuts, backwaters, and pockets the creek mouths can be silted in as you enter from the main river giving a false impression of some very shallow water.
But after a little investigating you will discover many of these backwater sloughs have depths of 5-10 feet deep. These backwaters can heat up tremendously, during winter warming trends.
According to the suns direction, some of these hidden pockets can receive more water-warming sunlight than others. These areas attract baitfish and bass that become more active with rising water temperatures.
When winter rains swell the river these backwaters can have much clearer water. Some have no feeders or streams in the backs to muddy the water and can be the clearest water around for bass to migrate to out of the main river.
In addition to all these attractions all have weeds, blown-down trees, stumps, brush and thick cover for bass to hide in as they await unsuspecting passer-bys.
Shallow to mid diving crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, jig & pig combos, and even topwaters, are just a few of the lures needed to take these bass usually in less than 10 feet of water.
When conditions change and cold fronts move in, the mouths of these backwater refuges, are holding stations for transition bass.
Jigging spoons, fishing with deep diving crankbaits, suspending jerkbaits, Carolina-rigged plastics, Texas-rigged worms and lizards, tube baits, jig combos, creature baits and finesse lures all work while targeting depths of 5-25 feet.
The Tennessee River System
Guntersville Lake Impounded 1939
The northern waters of Alabama feature the mighty Tennessee River System, noted for its smallmouth bass attributes. Massive impoundment’s, such as Wheeler Lake and Pickwick Lake are noted for producing tremendous catches of these hard fighting (and high jumping ) brown bass during the winter months.
Sandwiched between these huge impoundment’s is a rather small lake, but only in size. Wilson Lake is also noted for its world record size smallmouth bass.
So how does Guntersville Lake fit into this picture? With very few smallmouths on record, as ever even being caught, there has to be a dominant species of bass to take the place of this ever-popular Tennessee River bass and there is, Largemouth’s, plenty of em’…and Big ones!
Guntersville Lake, situated near the town hailing the same name, is Alabama’s largest reservoir at 69,100 acres. It is the first in a series of four lakes on the winding, Tennessee River System.
Deemed popular due to the ever increasing varieties of aquatic weeds such as hydrilla and milfoil, Guntersville Lake does go through some changes each season.
Winter is one of those 3 month periods when major changes take place lake wide. Weeds begin to die (or cease growth) becoming dormant forcing bass and baitfish to seek out new homes.
Varieties of weeds such as, milfoil, hydrilla and moss will begin to turn brown, especially in very shallow water coupled with a series of cold fronts, cold nights and cold, cloudy days.
With very little water-warming sunshine, December and January in Alabama can be either cold and rainy or show weeks of sunshine and mild nights. This dictates where bass will be lake wide. But this is also trophy bass time on Guntersville Lake.
With heavy rains the lakes upper portions have shown to be quite muddy in winter. Cold, muddy water must be avoided when targeting these huge, wintertime largemouth’s. Mid-to-downriver sections of the lake are best suited for wintertime bass.
Clearer water, deeper water access, and with lake drawdown, more areas to roam with deeper feeder creeks, river ledges and drop-offs.
Fishing in or near deep water around hydrilla, a deeper growing aquatic weed (which can still show signs of growth in December and January) will place your lures near the trophy sized bass that emerge for one last feeding session each winter.
The colder month of February can be downright slow and test the patience of even the most determined trophy bass-seeking angler. But the efforts are well worth it with bass in the teens taken each late winter season.
From top to bottom bass will still take lures as aggressively as during any other time of the year.
Buzz baits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and bottom bumping worms, lizards, crayfish imitations and jig combos have taken huge largemouth’s throughout the winter months.
With low, fifty degree water temperatures a slower presentation will help entice these rather slow, lethargic monsters to attack.
Stout tackle is recommended for these fish of a lifetime. Week long warming trends, followed by an approaching rainy front, bring Guntersville’s big bass shallow.
This calls for topwaters and shallow running lures, fished in 1-5 feet of water. Fish with stought tackle and heavy line.
A good landing net, sharp hooks and strong line, is all that is needed to complete this recipe for hog hunting on Guntersville Lake, until spring when it just gets better.
Or biggest bass, several weighing 8,10 and 11 pounds came out of Guntersville lake from January through late Spring in May.
The Tennessee River System
Wheeler Lake Impounded 1936
Lake draw down shows Wheeler Lake lacking the weeds that upper Guntersville lake is so noted for. Wheeler lake, the second largest impoundment in Alabama, makes up for this very little greenery with wood and rock cover lake wide.
The lower section of the lake is fed by The Elk River. This huge feeder river is loaded with huge log jams, brush, laying trees and scattered stump rows.
A few resident built piers and rock bluffs make up the mouth of this long, winding river where it enters Wheeler lake. Dropped 4-5 feet for winter can scatter bass that were buried up in aquatic weeds all through summer and early fall.
These fish, mostly largemouth bass, relate back to the wood and rock cover that lies near deep water drop-offs. There are some huge largemouth bass that roam shallow water (less than five feet) in search of food, for they still must eat during December, January, February and on into March.
Mid lake, many of these largemouth’s have homesteaded the hydrilla and milfoil this area is so noted for, for the duration of summer and throughout the months of fall.
This was before December, when the lake has been lowered for winter 4-5 feet and the cold nights of northern Alabama have killed most shallow growing aquatic vegetation.
Most bass merely move to the nearest drop-off and cling to whatever wood or rock cover or bottom irregularity they find comfortable.
Warming trends throughout the winter months can trigger some fantastic shallow water angling when these largemouth bass come to life with water temperatures in the upper 50′s to low 60′s at times.
Smallmouth bass are known for being fooled around lower lake points and rock bluffs during winter with lures from top to bottom.
Jerk baits, crankbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits and jigging spoons are just a few of the known lures that are favorites for attracting bites from smallmouths in the trophy-class range.
Finesse lures are at their best during winter with very clear water and oftentimes sight-feeding finicky bass.
Light line and lures such as grubs, jigs, shad imitations, small worms, crayfish, spinners, crankbaits and mini-sized topwaters can be very enticing to these small-mouthed bass.
Rock bluffs, secondary ledges, small pebble points, and main lake cover near deep water, are favorite haunts of these hard-fighting brown bass.
Check your reels drag, bring a long handled net and sharpen all your hooks, your gonna need em,’ when tackling these hard fighting and tackle testing smallmouth bass of Wheeler Lake.
The Tennessee River System
Wilson Lake Impounded 1925
A small lake. That only briefly describes this 15,930 acre lake situated between the towns of Florence and Decatur in north Alabama. In terms of size, Wilson Lake has small acreage but its Big in terms of world-record size smallmouth bass.
A lake this old would seem to be fished out after all those years, but not Wilson lake. This minuscule lake once held the world record for smallmouth bass (10 1/2 lbs caught in 1950 ) and is far from fished out.
Wilson lake contains the most varied species of fish compared to other lakes in Alabama and a lot are game fish.
The largemouth bass does not take a back seat to their wily cousin the smallmouth bass, on Wilson Lake. Many largemouth bass in the 5-10 lb range are caught each winter.
Striped bass, white bass and hybrid-striped bass are just a few of the line stretchers you can target when fishing Wilson Lake this winter.
During December, January and February the smallmouth bass fishing gets noted as some of the best in the southeast.
Fishing for these heavily sought after jumping, brown bass can be fantastic, or slack off at this time, or it can get a lot of fishing pressure especially below Tennessee River Impoundment dams.
Its all according to the weather. Actually this is one species of bass, the colder it gets and the more miserable the weather becomes, the better the chances are for catching some real trophy-sized smallmouth bass.
December, January and February can show huge schools of these bass feeding in areas such as below Tennessee River Impoundment dams.
As winter progresses and water temperatures stabilize huge, female smallmouth bass will continue to fatten up for the coming spring spawn. There are many ways to fool these tackle-testing giants.
When searching for these nomadic bass you can find them one day and discover that ‘s exactly what you did, found them! These bass prefer deep water and can be found in or near some of the main lakes deepest sanctuaries and some live out their lives in deep creek waters.
Rock bluffs, ledges, drop-offs, small rock and small pebbled points, humps, bars, submerged islands, and man made rip-rap around bridges, causeways and dams are just a few of their wintertime haunts.
Speaking of dams, these are areas where smallmouth bass congregate during the winter months and the best place to connect with one or more of these elusive bass. On Wilson Lake at its headwaters, lies some of the best “dam” fishing waters for smallmouth bass in Alabama.
Just below upper Wheeler lake dam an angler has a chance at a world record size smallmouth bass fishing on Wilson Lake. Many anglers either drift in the oftentimes swift current with live bait or troll or cast lures.
You can catch your live bait near the dam or you can go up in the creeks and net them. Live bait is also sold at the nearby Fisherman’s Resort in Big Nancy Creek just below Wheeler dam on Wilson Lake.
Small lures are the norm when targeting these picky feeding “small” mouthed bass. Small worms, jigs, grubs, shad imitations, tube lures, jig and pork combos, Slider rigs, Texas rigs and Carolina rigs, all catch these ever-moving bass as you make several “drifts” in these dam tail race waters.
Jigging spoons and lead tail spinners is a good tactic but bring plenty, the rocks and rough bottom can eat em’up.
A word of caution, life jackets must be worn below any Alabama dam. Its the law and the water patrol officers enforce this rule. Besides, wearing a life jacket could save your life!
Many anglers have been toppled over by the sudden rush of water escaping the dam discharge area, stay away and use extreme caution in these areas, unless your experienced. Lives are at stake…
The Tennessee River System
Pickwick Lake Impounded 1938
World records are made to be broken. Pickwick lake holds the title for a line class smallmouth bass weighing 8 lbs 6 ozs. caught on 17 pound test line. It also holds the state record for sauger, paddlefish and a huge muskellunge.
Like upper Wilson lake, only much bigger in size, this 47,500 acre reservoir on the Tennessee river, situated near the town of Florence, has a tremendous smallmouth fishery worth bragging about.
During December, January and February like any Tennessee river impoundment, the dam discharge area is a good place to begin your search of these hard fighting and high jumping brown bass.
On Pickwick Lake there is also a lock at the upper Wilson Lake dam area that constantly opens and closes each day allowing barge and boat traffic to navigate the mighty Tennessee River. Bass gather and feed here and can be caught be any angler that is there at the right time.
Largemouth bass are well worth mentioning, as many as a dozen from 5-10 lbs are taken each winter by the angler willing to do a little exploring and a lot of casting on Pickwick Lake.
During the many bass tournaments held on Pickwick Lake in years past several largemouth’s in the 5-10 pound class have been weighed in.
From one end of the lake to the other are major feeder creeks with plenty of deep water, even with the lake down for winter pool, most creeks average over 10 feet deep during winter season and they hold quality bass.
Below Natchez Trace bridge a few creeks worth exploring are Bear Creek, Indian Creek, Panther Creek, Yellow Creek, Whetstone Branch, Short Creek and Second Creek.
Lures mentioned for Wilson Lake will fool the smallmouth bass so targeted during winter on Pickwick lake. However, when chasing after the largemouth bass a little more on the hook catches a little more in the landing net.
These largemouth’s can be taken with oversized jig and pork combos or with crayfish trailers, big bladed spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and even topwaters when conditions arise.
As December, January and February get underway many anglers in Alabama park the boat and hang up their rods for the season. Many go hunting until spring comes around expecting instant fishing success.
Some anglers do this every year and never fish during the winter season, always saying “Its to cold to go fishing”. Those that are willing to brave the cold await the few warming trends Alabama has every winter and do a little exploring on their own.
These are a select few of anglers that have pictures and can tell the tales of the BIG wintertime bass they caught…. while the others just sit at home and wait. Which crowd do you want to be a member of?
Thanks and Good Fishin’
Reed’s Guide Service (205) 663-1504
E-mail : email@example.com
Internet Website : www.fishingalabama.com
ARTICLE; FISHING FOR BASS WITH TOPWATER LURES DURING THE WINTER SEASON
It’s rarely discussed. Few even mention it, probably for fear of being labeled a liar. Non-believers must actually be shown and many still have trouble giving in. I’m writing about it and already the majority of you (that have got this far) still have your doubts…
Catching bass on topwater lures has been written by famed authors for many years. Every Spring, Summer and Fall it is described with an ever increasing adage.
But how many times have you read or seen anything on topwater fishing during the dead of winter? Very little I’m sure. You see, there was a time I was a non-believer.
Sure, I had heard a little talk about this unusual wintertime tactic for Big bass action on top. I had even got all geared up, headed for the lake and commenced to thrashing the water in all directions with any lure that would leave a trail of bubbles in it’s path. All to no avail.
Three hours later, I was sitting in some warm cove as the sun warmed my aching bones, sipping on a warm cup of coffee and “worming” the secluded bank.
All the while, looking down at the array of lures laying at my feet and wondering, “what I was doing wrong?” Soon I found out it was all just a matter of timing.
Being in the right place at the right time, throwing the right lure, has left many an angler heading home from the lake with a big smile rather than bearing a big frown.
Recognizing these conditions is the key to success. Actually, its as simple as the old saying. What, when, where?
What Lure? I believe this to be a matter of personal preference. Although I have seen days when certain lures and imparting certain actions, have caught far more bigger bass and achieved more strikes overall than other similar lures. Many variables may govern your lure choice.
The conditions, such as rain, wind, sun, cloud cover, shade, rising or falling air and water temperatures, water clarity, current and especially previous weather, all dictate a different approach and weigh heavily on your decision in choosing the correct lure.
In addition, you have got to keep in mind, these are off-the-wall tactics and all previous rules and regulations don’t apply. Therefore let me say right now, “Throw out the Bassin’ Book”! As during the rest of the year when trying to figure out the many species of the ever-elusive bass, experimenting is the key.
There is nothing like on the water experience to answer your own questions. Here’s a rundown of my personal preference of lures. When applied in certain situations and during favorable conditions, they will catch Big bass during the winter months.
THE ZARA SPOOK – This lure will catch BIG Bass year-round in very clear to stained water. It is my personal favorite, so I throw it a lot more than the average angler would.
It has always been considered a BIG bass lure, and compared to the average, much smaller offerings most anglers have grown accustomed to, it is BIG in size as well.
Earlier model zara spooks, both wooden and molded plastic models were 4.50 inches long and .75 of an inch wide and could be cast quite some distance.
Many old timers fished the turn of the century with these new lures with phenomenal success. However some anglers had trouble “walking” these zara spooks and interest soon dwindled.
Casting and retrieving other topwater lures of that era was much easier, less tiring and required a lot less effort on the anglers part. These were two hook model lures with no rattles.
Now, well over 70 years later there is Pradco’s, “Zara Super Spook, Jimmy Houston Signature Series models”, now featuring three hooks and internal rattles.
This lure is much more durable (with a much thicker body) than earlier models and in addition these super spooks features a very realistic-looking paint job. The super spook is much bigger than the original Zara Spook at five inches in length and one eighth of an inch wider.
It also casts further and walks a whole lot easier than the earlier model zara spooks. With its holographic eyes and very realistic paint job, age-old Bass are fooled into blasting a very realistic looking, easy-to-catch, seemingly injured meal.
There is no certain time to throw a zara spook. However, favorable conditions will enhance more strikes. I have caught numbers of BIG bass in low, 50 degree water temperatures.
On one occasion (Feb, 1999) I had two bass in one morning (spooking), weighing over five pounds each, in 46 degree water.
On another cold, January 2006 day, two bass one on scum frog weighed four pounds and another four pounder caught on a zara spook, in 43 degree water temps!
But this was a rare phenomenon and a rising water temperature situation. Usually, in water temperatures from the mid-to-upper 50′s is the best time to plan a topwater outing.
This takes place during, or following, a warming trend with clear water conditions.
An approaching, rainy, cold-front after several of these mild days and warm nights, accompanied with a rising barometer and followed by clouds and high winds, are perfect conditions for 2-3 days of wintertime spooking on top.
A slight chop on the water, plenty of baitfish, cover and the security of deeper water nearby completes this recipe for some Big bass action throughout winter.
All BASS species, means smallmouth bass , spotted bass, largemouth bass and some huge stripers, that will all nail these zara spooks during the Winter season.
BUZZ BAITS – Like the zara spook, this is a Big bass lure, but will cover a lot more water faster and it’s a lot more weed less.
Trailer hooks are a must on these lures known for attracting missed strikes, boils, and aggravated bass that will even explode on the lure knocking it in the air.
Louder models have a blade that either knocks the head of the lure or has a small flag that clacks against the main blade.
These lures can be used in stained or clear water with repeated casts to a known Big bass lair. The noise can only scare the bass away or aggravate it into displaying some very vicious strikes, especially after you have seined the area from all angles.
With stained water you are at a distinct advantage with a slow, steady retrieve with these buzz baits, usually fished near the thickest portion of the most attractive BIG bass cover available. Both loud and quieter model buzz baits may be needed on any outing this Winter.
These BIG bass of winter can be anywhere the prevailing conditions take them. Choosing cover now becomes a matter of ambush rather than choice like other times of the year.
Even dead weeds will hold bass during winter, using them for cover or ambush spots. Although low in oxygen, these are homes to numbers of Summer and Fall bass, that refuse to abandon these weeds during Winter.
Thick, laid-over clumps of weeds serve the same purpose as when these bass are hiding next to a stump ready for ambush. The combination of the two calls for repeated casts from many angles with the buzz bait.
Even bumping the lure into wood or rock cover with repeated casts, may be needed to provoke strikes from these often skittish and tight-holding bass.
During an all day, steady rain with no thunder and lightning, action can occur from dawn to dusk. Calm conditions call for a very slow retrieve, utilizing long casts and sometimes fishing with quieter model buzz baits.
Quieter model buzz baits, like a blade-in-blade model, has a small blade, within another bigger blade, that counter rotates. It also has holes drilled in both of these blades and when retrieved across the waters surface, it leaves a trail of bubbles in its wake.
The swishing sound it makes, simulates a school of fleeing shad. As mentioned before, sharp hooks, heavy line and stout tackle are a must for success while fishing both of these topwater lures in Winter.
JERKBAITS AND FLOATING WORMS – Erratic retrieves should be practiced when fishing jerkbaits during winter. Suspending, hard-bodied model jerkbaits, such as Pradco’s suspending minnow, and slow rising lures, are best for lethargic bass that must be coaxed into striking.
This goes for soft plastic jerkbaits to. Adding a small nail, rattles or an oversized hook can be all the extra weight needed to get semi-submerged results with these slow, enticing lures.
Even glass rattlers inserted in different parts of the lure can add weight and cause a more dipping action on retrieve.
Line in the 12-15 lb. test category is required to correctly work these semi submerged soft plastic shad imitations, and to impart the most action. This goes for floating worms or lizards to.
“Action” with these delicate lures can be lost and the lure will sink much slower when fishing with heavier line. Some sacrifices must be made when fishing for trophy wintertime bass.
When fishing these lures, always cast far past these bass usually holding around wood and rock cover and slow the retrieve when in the strike zone.
Even stopping in or on cover will entice strikes from skittish age-old monsters. These lures are also good when sunny, high pressure conditions trail a cold front and bass must be drawn-out from cover.
Keep one rigged for missed strikes on the spook and buzz bait. They are great follow up lures. Even allow them to sink out of sight and watch for line movement when cast back to the missed strike.
POP-R’S, BABY TORPEDOES, PROP-BAITS AND CHUGGERS – These topwaters all fall in the same category. Fished with short flicks of the rod tip, all with a similar popping retrieve, they often call bass up from deep water or from great distances.
Cold water calls for slow retrieves and these lures can be fished as slow as you and the bass can stand it. When bigger and more gaudy type lures won’t work, the bass often want a smaller offering, especially in very clear water.
Short hops with little or no added action can be all that is needed to entice a strike for selectively feeding bass. This also keeps the lure in the strike zone longer.
When bass are feeding on small baitfish these are great lures for casting right on top without worry of spooking the bass.
These are just a few of my proven favorites for this exceptional Wintertime technique of enticing bass with topwater lures. There are many other lure choices when fishing for bass on top during Winter.
Many of which you may discover by trying different styles, sizes, color choices or noise making attributes.
When do you catch these bass ? During winter in Alabama there are days when the temperatures are in the 50′s and 60′s for a week or more sometimes even warmer.
This is always followed by a rainy front that peaks the day and night temperatures to the fullest. When this front approaches, the barometer falls down to 29 usually just below 30.
As the barometer again begins to rise and light rain or drizzle sets in, is when these bass are triggered to feed and you need to be on the water.
Other times exist such as during an extended front lasting for days. When a front immediately follows another front, or on cloudy days with little or no rain, with mild temperatures and good conditions. Early or late in the day are also good times for the bigger bass to feed on top.
Fog can extend an otherwise high pressure morning into a top water bonanza. Even moon fazes increase your chances of getting a BIG bass bite during Winter. My records show (as during the rest of the year) that either side of a full or totally dark moon are best.
The best answer is whenever you can be there. Many weekend anglers are fortunate to hit a front just right and seldom do many working anglers have consecutive outings of just loading the boat. But if you can pick your days to go fishing timing is everything.
So when the weatherman predicts rain a few days away and you have been fortunate enough to get a few days of sunshine, start planning a wintertime topwater fishing trip.
This is the one you’ve all been waiting for. I have an area that is a sure fire winner on any lake where waters can warm. But first let me say that anything is possible.
I have caught Big Wintertime spotted bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and striped bass, parallel casting a Zara Spook on rock bluffs while sitting in fifty feet of water.
I’ve called-up huge largemouth’s in a three foot chop, in low 50 degree water along dam and bridge rip-rap (man made rocks) with loud chuggers. Buzzed-up lake and river bass of all species in swift, running water-below dams and in the backs of swift feeder creeks.
I’ve caught my share of bass on topwater lures, but often there are still times when I’m still surprised with the end results and I’ve been doing this for over thirty years!
So, let me say throw out the book! Try these techniques and a few of your own and enjoy the thrill of hitting that feeding frenzy of wintertime hogs coming up to feed in shallow water.
It could be weeks before it takes place again and the conditions are just right.
Oh yeah, I mentioned a sure fire honey hole for success. Flats. Why, you may ask? They heat up the fastest when bathed in constant sunshine.
Flats, whether they are main lake flats or up in some major creek all have one thing in common, they maintain warm water through a series of mild days and nights. Flats also get slightly stained when water is generated, stirring up the lakes bottom.
This can be a very important factor, especially during drought conditions with little rain to stain the water, creating clear, shallow water conditions. Some flats are midways to the back ends of major feeder creeks.
Others are huge, main-lake flats with scattered cover and usually out of the current. This means a refuge for baitfish escaping the swift current and the bass are always quick to follow.
On the other hand torrential wintertime rains can have an angler searching for clear water conditions. Big, bowl-shaped pockets, especially those with no feeder creeks, remain the clearest, longer, when lakes muddy up from winter rains.
These cuts or pockets with stumps, rocks or a dark bottom have an added bonus, for all this cover and bottom composition helps retain and hold heat while attracting roaming schools of baitfish and bass.
With a few days of slow, steady warming water from a few days of steady rain, some feeder creek flats will have a mild increase in current flow.
Plus incoming edibles and a light stain to the water for bass traveling in security. This stained water will in turn heat up faster than clearer water and soon clear, creating some fantastic fishing right before another severe cold front moves in.
WARM WATER DISCHARGE FROM WATER TREATMENT OR STEAM PLANTS – Warm-water discharges around water treatment or steam plants, can be excellent places to find these topwater bass during the dead of winter, especially when its really cold.
Water temperatures of 70 degrees or more can exist around these discharge areas and even along banks as far as one-half a mile below these cold weather bass magnets. This can be when main lake water temperatures hover in the mid-to-upper 40′s, the toughest time to fish with any lure.
I’ve caught bass while it was snowing around these type of areas during the dead of winter, while fishing on cold 20 degree mornings with topwater lures.
SPRING FED CREEKS – Spring-fed creeks can have water temperatures as high as 10 degrees warmer than surrounding main lake areas during the coldest days of Winter.
When these unseasonably warm waters are mixed-in with warm rain waters, these often gin-clear backwaters get even warmer and slightly stained, creating shallow water feeding and inducing feeding among resident bass for days.
Keep one thing in mind-this is fun fishing. (If you call standing in a pouring down rain catching five bass weighing over 20 pounds fun!)
December, January and February are slow times for bass tournaments and besides these are not dependable tournament tactics. (Although I have won a few wintertime tournaments and taken Big Bass of the day with as many as 20 topwater strikes).
There are many other lures, tactics, color combinations, lure modifications and even rod and reel choices to consider for each situation. To many to go into depth describing, so a little experimenting on the part of the angler, must be employed.
TACKLE AND EQUIPMENT – To really be successful at this tactic of, “Fishing for Bass on Top During Winter”, requires paying close attention to many variables, besides knowing which lures to choose and where to fish them.
Remember, to sharpen or replace old hooks, always use strong, dependable monofilament (at least 20 pound test) or one of today’s many brands of braided lines, choice tackle, rods, reels and other quality fishing-related equipment. This goes for a Big, long-handled, wide hoop, hook-proof, rubber coated *net.
* This is of most importance.
A good, dependable net man to handle these BIG Bass, when you finally do get it alongside the boat. This is where many BIG bass are often lost.
Always lead the bass into the awaiting net, never allow the net man to jab or stab at the bass with the net. Submerge the net up to the handle, and allow the angler to lead the played-out bass into the net.
Also keep in mind that, Big lures mean Big bass and above all, “confidence and persistence pays” when attempting to fool a few Big bass bites on top.
Its worth a hundred casts to a potentially known, ”Big Bass hideout”, just to see one monster bass explode on a well-maneuvered topwater lure. Especially during the dead of winter, when fishing is generally slower anyway.
Self-satisfaction is achieved, when the action you impart into these endless array of topwater lures, provokes the strike of a lifetime and often the bass of lifetime. Many Big bass are fooled during the dead of winter.
For regardless of the conditions they must eat. Practice CPR (catch, photo and release) this winter, so these huge bass, full of roe, can spawn and thrill another angler, as he or she discovers the joy of catching bass on topwater lures during winter.
When you see the rewards of your efforts don’t bother telling anyone. They won’t believe you anyway.
Just the thought of catching a bass on a topwater lure in winter? Sure, imagine that.
See you on the water! Reed, The Spook Man…
*NOTE* For more info on fishing topwater lures See;
“Everything you always wanted to know about fishing the Zara Spook” featured on my website cover page at; www.fishingalabama.com
This article furnished by: Reed Montgomery, Owner of
Reeds Guide Service / B’ham, Alabama (205) 663-1504
“Over 40 Years Fishing Alabama for Bass and Stripers”