While fishermen may shiver because of winter weather, the largemouth and spotted bass in Belews Lake think it’s spring. The hot-water discharge from the Belews Creek Steam Station keeps the water temperature in the 60s and 70s, which makes the bass bite better.

“In all the years I’ve fished Belews, I’ve never seen the water temperature drop below 50 degrees, even in the coldest winter,” said guide Joel Richardson of Kernersville (www.joelgrichardson.com).

Though the water is warm, Belews Lake is exceptionally clear, and bright conditions often drive the bass down to depths unreachable by conventional casting and trolling methods.

“I’ve caught fish as deep as 65 feet at Belews,” said tournament fisherman Tim Grein of Winston-Salem, although he and Richardson agree that most fish are taken suspended in 25 to 40 feet of water.

Though baits like tail-spinners and Hopkins jigging spoons can reach those depths if fished vertically, the bass at Belews are skittish in the clear water and more prone to strike small, plastic worms and crawdad imitations delivered on light line

The most-effective way to get these tiny baits to the fish is by drop-shot fishing.

Drop-shot fishing employs light spinning tackle, light line and small weights and hooks in conjunction with small plastics.

The standard drop-shot rig consists of a No. 1/0 finesse drop-shot hook tied to the main line so that it rests 6 to 18 inches from the end of the line. A 1/4- to 3/8-ounce, round, drop-shot weight with a clip is connected to the end of the line via the clip. The line can be jerked free of the clip should the weight snag. The plastic bait is added to the hook either nose-hooked, Texas-rigged or rigged wacky style.

Some fishermen use a leader that’s smaller than the main line, connecting it so that it rests 12 to 18 inches above the weight. The light leader is less visible in the lake’s gin-clear water. They use 8- to 10-pound test for the main line and lighter line for the leader.

With the boat positioned directly over the fish, the rig is lowered to the appropriate depth based upon depth-finder readings.

For that reason, neither Grein nor Richardson wet a line until they’ve located a school of fish and forage. The best scenario involves seeing string images below pods of baitfish. The strings, indicating fish feeding upon baitfish, resemble strings of spaghetti.

Another benefit is the small size of Belews Lake. At 3,864 acres, locating fish involves motoring only short distances.