Punch your ticket for Tchefuncte River bass

Sam Jenkins hits the outer flats for chunky river bass like this one. (Photo courtesy Sam Jenkins)

Don’t trade in that trusty baitcaster for a blanket and fireside rocking chair just yet. Bass fishing finds a punch of excitement in late December and January, with the bass stacking up for the pre-spawn activity, which brings a big bite. For anglers who know how to read the conditions, a massive catch of big numbers and size is an attainable reality.

“Late December and January are my favorite time of year to fish the Tchefuncte,” said Sam Jenkins, local angler.

Jenkins has been fishing the Tchefuncte and local waterways for many years now. He has even ventured further north to take advantage of big bass fishing on Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs. He has done his homework, carefully studied the areas he fishes, and is meticulous in his approach to landing fish. I recall him telling me a long time ago when discussing Tchefuncte River fishing that anyone can cast and reel any bait. It takes patience and a keen understanding of what the fish want and mimicking that desire with perfection.

While conditions change throughout the year, so does the plan of attack when it comes to locating and capitalizing on the largemouth gulpers. During this pre-spawn, it can take some effort, but outer flats can be the sweet spot.

“A good indication of pre-spawn bass is about 4 feet of water,” said Jenkins. “They seem to like the flat bottom.”

Try the lily pad sticks

So as fishers search for those flats in primarily 4-foot water depths, a bonus can be found in the leftover sticks from lily pads. That extra structure can provide a sought-after cover along with a grassy bottom.

“You want to work that bait along the bottom,” said Jenkins. “Cast and let it drop just far enough down where you can reel it through the grass and bump it along without getting snagged. They should swallow it hard.”

The deep swallow has certainly been my experience. The bite is not necessarily a hard strike with a dramatic splash on the water’s surface, but instead what feels like a snag. Once the hook is set, the fight initiates. Experience reveals after landing the bass that even though the strike was not violent, the bass inhaled the lure.

So, what lures seem to make bass anglers hearts skip a beat during December and January? While I have been partial to the Chug Bug with a gold belly, Jenkins gives thanks to a tried and true selection of specifics for the time of year.

“It all depends,” said Jenkins. “I love to throw a square bill crankbait or a Rogue, and I’ll throw into the trees and reel it back over the drop where that flat bottom is.”

It takes getting on the water and exercising patience to capitalize on the December and January pre-spawn mecca of fishing. Scan the banks for some decent cover and utilize electronics in search of those flat bottom beds. When it comes to real estate, they say that it is all about “location, location, location.”

That same business model applies to Tchefuncte River pre-spawn bass fishing.