Don’t let weather fool you; most good bass fishing will still be in shallower water
Two mid-winter trips, one in January and another one many years ago when fishing a major bass circuit, come to mind when I write about fishing Toledo Bend in December.
In January 2018, when the water temperature was 55 to 57 degrees, a man and his 16-year-old son joined me when the lake was at nearly 170 feet. We fished with suspending Rogues and boated numbers of bass, and we did the same thing the next weekend with the father and son targeting ridges in 5- to 7-foot depths with those Rogues.
Each time there were 30 to 35 bass — most 2-pounders, but some up to 4 — hooked and boated. We had a great time both days. Even though it was bitterly cold, that 16-year-old had it down pat working the suspending jerkbait as we fished outside ridges in the 57- to 58-degree water.
December can be equally, or even more rewarding. I still remember a trip many years ago after I fished a tournament on the Hudson River out of Catskill, N.Y. A New Jersey man approached me and said he had read about my exploits on Toledo Bend and wanted to fish there in January or February. He made the trip, and we stayed with Rat-L-Traps and spinnerbaits until the third day, when I decided to try a pattern that works in December and January.
Go shallow in December
We went into ditches and fished along the shoreline with 4-inch, soft-plastic ringworms and caught bass all afternoon. The results were a pleasant surprise. I had told him that was what you need to do even though the water was cold. There’s a prevailing attitude that just because it’s cold, you have to second-guess the fish. Just fish, even though you’ve got winter clothes on. But most of the time, you have to have a warming trend. That’s the end-of-the-year December pattern. The best thing to do is go up shallow and do it. Remember that this month.
I believe Toledo Bend’s pool level will rise to around 170 feet before or during December. It’s hanging at 164.99 in mid-November. The water temperature had been at a consistent 72 and 73 degrees before a cold front on Halloween. The pool level and water temps will change over the next few weeks.
All it takes for fish to move up to the new, green growth — one of the positives from the extremely low lake level the past several months — is some cooler water, like in the 60s and even the high 50s. Then, they’ll be up in it, on warmer days and especially from mid-day on.
Deer hunters will miss some good bass fishing. I’ll hunt until I get a deer or two in the freezer, then I’ll be done and will focus on bass fishing in December and January.
What to look forward to
You never know what your next cast might bring. Starting in December, several double-digit will show up at Toledo Town and Tackle. Those big girls get more biologically fit for the prespawn situation, based on my experiences, and many of them will be up skinny, up in the shallows. Everybody thinks because the water gets cold, they’ve got to fish deep. There are fish deep, sure, but fish will get skinny and feed.
On warmer days, the bite gets more than sporadic as the bass get frisky and get in, say, 5- to 7-foot depths to chase and eat shad. When the water cools and they don’t feel like it, they stay deeper.
This is a time of year when horizontal baits come into play. Chatterbait-style lures, swim jigs, jerkbaits and ½- or ¾-ounce Rat-L-Traps (chrome/black, chrome/orange or crawfish-colored depending on the water color) and chrome/black or gold/orange jerkbaits can produce more than other artificials.
If you want to catch bass in December, when the bassing should be fair to good, I’ve been guiding on this lake most of my life and you’re welcome in my boat. Give me a call at 936-404-2688.