After a relatively balmy fall so far, I’m convinced that bass fishing prospects for January are going to be different than the long-term norm at Toledo Bend.

It’s been on my mind the past few days, and it’s time to go out on the proverbial limb. Due to changes in seasonal weather patterns and temperatures, I wouldn’t put the bass boats up too quick because I’ve got a strong feeling some hawgs will be roaming the shallows in January.

Why? Our winters seem to be getting weaker and weaker. Plus, the long-range forecast released recently by the National Weather Service in Lake Charles calls for drier and much warmer weather in December, January and February in eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

That and the fact there was hardly no winter last year have got me excited for bassin’ action this month on Toledo Bend. I remember the high number of double-digit bass caught last January and February during what were almost springtime conditions over a two-week period. The 10-pounders were rolling in, and many of them got caught before Old Man Winter —  who doesn’t seem as powerful any more — chilled Toledo Bend again.

The weather was pretty much the same in January, 2016, too.

This is Toledo Bend we’re talking about. I’m going to say January could be really above and beyond what we normally expect as far as bassin’ success. People generally don’t like to go bass fishing when it’s cold. But January could be a very dominant big fish time, both shallow and deep. I don’t think it’ll be a “pre” situation, as in prespawn, but warm water like that can generate action. And we could possibly see isolated bedding fish from mid-January on.

Today the pool stage is 167.50 and there’s a lot of wood showing. The water temperature ranges from 62 to 65 degrees. I wouldn’t be surprised to see water temperatures like that on some days in January in the backs of creeks and coves, particularly along the northern shorelines in midday hours. Even if the water temperature dips to the mid-50s, the sun pops back out and eventually warms it up.

Sure, we’ll get cold fronts — perhaps some major cold fronts — in January. But based on the last two years, in two or three days the Indian Summer returns. With that in mind, right out of the gate in 2018, who wouldn’t want to go catch a double-digit bass that this lake is famous for? I hope it happens, and I think there’s a very good chance. I know I could be wrong, and this might prove to be one of the most miserably cold winters ever. I just have a strong feeling that won’t be the case. I think the old February-March patterns are now January-February patterns.

I’ll target 10-foot depths and much less during midday hours with moving baits, unless I spot a bass on a bed and, well, then we all know what to do. As for the artificial lures of choice when the trolling motor’s down and humming and I’m chunking and winding, I’ll throw ½-ounce orange, red, gold and even chrome Rat-L-Traps, ½-ounce shad-colored spinnerbaits, similarly colored ChatterBaits or gold/orange jerkbaits. 

I’ll be checking out some of my favorite creeks and coves, for sure.

Ridges might produce bass, too, in this new January age, but I’d concentrate on the back ends of coves and creeks from, say, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Look for the warmest water available. Until the water warms up in the day, it’s a pretty darned tough bite early in the morning when the water temperature is in the mid-50s range.

If you need or want to probe deep water, 20- to 25-foot depths for bass in January, the main meal ticket this year is a dropshot rig. Also try a jig-n-pig combination and, of course, a Carolina-rigged soft plastic. 

Remember, use your marine electronics because to catch deep you’re going to need to see bass, of course, and there must be baitfish present.

As for crappie fishing, the warmer winters the past few years have all but quashed the phenomenal bite along the river channel in places like the Chicken Coop on the Texas side above Pendleton Bridge. The water temperature needs to get into the 40s to get the shad balled up to attract the crappie. 

If you want to catch bass in January, I’ve been guiding on this lake most of my life and you’re always welcome in my boat. Give me a call at (936) 404-2688.