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Frogs -- The Bait Bass Can't Ignore
Largemouth bass, ferocious predators, will eat whatever moves on top of matted weeds or other aquatic plants. That spells success for those who fish with fake amphibians. ... [+] Full Article
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Frogs -- The Bait Bass Can't Ignore

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Texas Sportsman
Three Hot Bass Lakes
For winter fishing in East Texas, it's hard to beat this trio of proven bass producers! (January 2006)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

East Texas bass anglers have plenty of opportunities to score on their favorite quarry during the winter.

The landscape of the region is dotted with worthy fisheries. Some are highly publicized; others, for a variety of reasons, get very little media attention. Here, we'll look at three lakes that offer serious opportunities for largemouths this month, when anglers can target them with very specific methods suited for the bass' slow wintertime metabolism.

Neither Sam Rayburn nor Toledo Bend needs any introduction, as the legendary bass potential of both is undiminished, despite their having been impounded many years ago. Lake Livingston, however, doesn't get much press for its bass fishing. But as you'll see, anglers willing to fish slow and easy can set a hook in the jaw of some serious largemouths this month.

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The best thing going for Rayburn bass fishing this month is targeting big schools of shad that gang up on the main lake and in the mouths of deep creeks.

For example, during the winter of 1997, I ventured to Sam Rayburn from my home in Orange to try and fill an ice chest with big crappie. A tip from a reader of my newspaper column led me to an area of the lake with large concentrations of shad.

He told me that the crappie weren't hanging around the artificial brushpiles and baited holes as usual. Instead, they were suspended around these big schools of shad, especially in the deep coves around Powell Park Marina and just off the main lake.

By running the fishfinder, it didn't take long to find the shad. There must have been millions of them as the entire middle section of my screen looked like a solid piece of structure!

I grabbed my medium-heavy action spinning combo spooled with 30-pound Berkley Fireline, put on a shiner and lowered it down. Within 10 seconds, I was battling a fish that turned out to be a 4-pound bass.

It was the first of 20 bass ranging from 2 to 5 pounds that I caught that day. And, yes, I eventually found the crappie. Looking back, it might be fair to say that I was a lunatic for even being on the water that day: The air temperature was in the mid-30s, and the wind chill had to be in the upper teens. I rarely go bass fishing during periods of cold weather, but that trip proved that there are good reasons to haul the bass boat to the lake during winter.

Michael Cole of Warren agrees. He likes to fish for bass in the winter because he said it's possible to catch more fish then than any other time.

"The key is that bass are concentrated during winter," he said. "If an angler were to wander aimlessly on a big reservoir like Rayburn, Toledo Bend or Choke Canyon, he would likely come home empty-handed, or close to it. But by looking for large concentrations of fish in a small area, the opposite can be true. You can have the trip of a lifetime."

Cole likes to run his boat around the main river channel in a reservoir and along steep dropoffs adjacent to large creeks and river mouths during winter. That's where shad "stack up" and that's where the bass will be.

"Anglers catch those bass while crappie fishing over shad," said Cole. "That makes perfect sense because some bass act a lot like crappie when it gets cold. Their metabolism is not going to be high enough for them to roam around, chase and corral the shad. So they suspend around big schools of them.

"Oftentimes the bass will lurk around logjams and structure that is located just under the shad, and so they can be hard to locate on electronics. My best advice is to locate the shad and the bass will usually follow."

It's best to locate the shad and put out a marker buoy. You may put out as many as half a dozen buoys before fishing, so you have plenty of spots to hit. For best results, use a 1/3- to 1/2-ounce spoon on a 2-foot leader attached to 15-pound-test Stren Sensor.

Simply lower the bait into the bass' zone, work the bait up and down, and hold on and wait for a hit. If you're not bit within a few minutes, move. It usually doesn't take long to find them when they're actively feeding.

Guide Roger Bacon recommends anglers try to fish along the edges of large submerged weedlines with a Senko. "It sinks slowly," he said, "and because of that, it gives the bass that live inside the weedline a chance to grab it. It really gets their attention. It's a real go-to bait for bass on Rayburn."

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