Don’t get iced by January bass

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Alan McGuckin

Hey everybody, Happy New Year. My name is Cody Huff, and I’m competing as the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series angler at the upcoming Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville. If that isn’t humbling enough, I never dreamed I’d have my own blog either. So I thought I’d tell you a little bit about myself since this is the first one I’ve written.

My family is from the same little Ozark Mountain town as bass fishing icon Rick Clunn, about one hour southeast of Springfield, Mo., and I’m finishing my college education at Bethel University in West Tennessee. 

My grandpa is a dairy farmer who is still milking cows, my dad is a Carhartt-wearing man who fills potholes and clears brush for the Missouri Department of Transportation and my mom works hard stocking shelves in a large retail store. I guess you could say, we’re proud proof that you can make a lot out of a little with hard work as the common thread. 

In addition to obviously loving bass fishing, I love a loaded baked potato next to a medium rare rib eye, country music, whitetail deer hunting, and at this time of year, even though it’s the coldest month of the year – I love bass fishing. Once you figure out the pattern in January, it seems like 90% of the bass in the lake are doing the same thing. And there are two lures that will help you catch ‘em, even when water temps are in the 40s. 

The first one is super popular this time of year because it does such a great job of mimicking slow moving or dying baitfish. It’s a suspending jerkbait, and I love Rapala’s Shadow Rap series in a color called “haymaker.”

The best winter days for making long casts with a jerkbait are when it’s sunny with a decent breeze. This is the lure I use around main lake points, and places where you see changes in the shoreline rocks, from say boulders to pea gravel, with water depths of 10 to 30 feet. I throw it on 10-pound line. And as you probably know, the key is to let it sit dead still a couple seconds between each jerk of the rod tip so that cold-blooded bass have a chance to eat it.

The second lure may be really familiar to folks where lakes are covered in ice right now, but is just beginning to grow in popularity further south during the heart of winter. It’s the Rapala Jigging Rap, originally designed for ice fishing, but one heck of a tool for cold water bass fishing in January. 

A Jigging Rap is great for getting in the face of bass that are chewing on really deep schools of bait in say 40 to 90 feet of water. Jigging Raps are small finesse-looking lures but pretty heavy at 5/8 and 7/8 ounces – so they fall vertically below the boat fairly fast. I tie mine to 12-pound line, and again, the whole key is spotting the deep schools of shad on your sonar screen with bass feeding on them. I usually look for this kind of mid-winter action in the biggest creeks on the reservoir.

Lastly, let’s be honest, if you’re physically chilled to the bone and miserable, you’re not going to stay on the water long this month. If you do, you still aren’t likely to fish as effectively as you should if you’re cold.

So invest in good clothing, trade the ball cap for a quality beanie, and here’s one last tip in my first ever blog – in addition to jerkbaits and Jigging Raps, pack a Carhartt fleece neck gaiter. You can’t imagine how much more warm and comfortable you’ll be when fishing in January if you’re not losing crazy amounts of body heat from the bare skin on your neck.