You’re not going to catch me around crowded shopping malls much this time of year, but I do like to spend a lot of the offseason fishing. The reason is the opposite of why I avoid malls — the water is much less crowded.
When a lot of folks head to the woods, you’ll often have the water mostly to yourself. That’s great because this time of year you can catch a lot of fish and big fish. Leading up to the prespawn, the fish are approaching their heaviest weight of the year, so you can find some giants.
In December, I like to fish Lake Pickwick and Lake Okatibbee, which is right next to my hometown in Eastern Mississippi. When these lakes are pulled down to winter pool, the fish can get really stacked together and that can lead to some fun days on the water.
There are probably a lot of ways you can approach late December fishing, but here’s how I do it:
Lipless bait: I’ll always have a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap tied on this time of year — shad colors for early winter and then craw colors as we get into the new year. The key, I’ve found, is to slow down and yo-yo the Trap in a creek channel. If we get a warming trend, the fish might move out of the channel and onto the flats where you can catch them by reeling the bait, but if it’s cold, yo-yoing is most effective.
Jig: I like a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce Angler Assets flipping jig in black and blue, but if I’m on the Tennessee River, I like a green pumpkin jig with a few strands of orange in the skirt to give it a little flash as it swims down. I’ll pair this with a Net Baits Paca Swim trailer that I’ve trimmed down for a smaller profile.
When the water gets below 50, the fish get lethargic so you have to fish slowly. They might get a little more active during a warmup, but most of the time in December, you have to be patient and give the jig more soak time. That’s the key to getting bit.
Spinnerbait: When I’m targeting shallow flats with laydowns and stumps, or slow rolling along a creek bed, a 1/2-ounce Angler Assets spinnerbait with double Colorado blades does the trick. Those wide blades slow the bait down and create a lot of vibration to trigger those fish when I pass their ambush spot. I use an orange kicker blade for maximum appeal.
Crankbait: On the Tennessee River, I’ll use a medium diver to target 45-degree banks with chunk rock and laydowns. In the wintertime, 45-degree banks are key because the sun warms the rocks and fish can easily move up and down on those steeper banks to find the temperature they like.
In the wintertime, staying warm is key. Those rocks soak up the sun’s heat, kind of like a human wearing a dark piece of clothing — maybe an ugly Christmas sweater?