It’s not winter yet, and bass aren’t acting like it
If we really think about January and February being cold, winter months when bass fishing in the Carolinas is often very difficult, then December and March are months when bass should act similarly, living in the same kind of water and feeding the same amount.
December is actually a good month if it doesn’t get too cold, too soon. I really like to fish in December — when I’m not deer-hunting — because the fish are up, and they’re catchable. They’re going to be shallow, but at the same time, close to deep water. If a cold front moves through, it’s going to shut things down. Doesn’t that sound like March?
In December, a lot of fish are going to be in the creeks, and the backs of creeks can be really good. I’m probably going to start by going about halfway back and fishing my way to the backs of the creeks. I want to fish in places when my boat can be sitting in 15, 18, 25 feet of water, but where I can still hit the bank with a cast. Those are the kinds of places I like to fish. If I was fishing High Rock, my home lake in North Carolina, I’d start by looking for the clearest water, which would be in Flat Swamp and Second creeks. I’d go back to the bridges — NC 8 across Flat Swamp and Bringles Ferry Road across Second — and fish back.
Hit the rocks for December’s bass
Rocks are awfully good this month, plus riprap, bridges and bluff walls. We don’t have a lot of bluff walls in our Carolina lakes. But fishing them is a really good idea when you can find them. Fish will move vertically to feed in December because the water is colder and they don’t want to exert a lot of effort feeding.
When I fish bluff walls, I like to parallel them so I can keep my baits at a certain depth. I will make little parallel casts, sort of the same kinds of casts you make when you’re fishing riprap. If you can find some little points sticking out off those walls, or big, isolated rocks all by themselves, those are great. You just have to figure out how the bass are positioned. When there’s a lot of current, they’re going to be facing the current.
If the water stays warm well into the month, and if it’s up and not falling, you can probably catch bass on a Chatterbait or a spinnerbait. But these kinds of patterns are much better for crankbaits. I like to fish a Berkley Digger 14.5, and little crankbaits also work. This is the time of year when flat-sides like my Frittsides are at their best. The fish like a bait with a real tight action, because they’re not as aggressive. If you find them aggressive, you can catch ‘em on a Digger, which has a harder, crawfish action. You just have to fish around and figure out what they want.
Creek channels are places you can find them. Sunken roadbeds or railroad trestles can be great. They’re the kinds of places where you can be sitting in 15 feet of water, throwing into 6 or 8 feet. Most of the bass you catch in December will be 3 to 10 feet deep, and they should be ganged up. When you catch one, there will probably be several more around, so you need to keep fishing those places.
When it comes to tackle, I’ll be using a crankbait rod, but I’ll downsize a little. I’ll be using my signature series Lew’s Perfect Crankbait rod in a 6-foot-8 or 7-foot length. Using a slightly shorter rod sort of helps, because you can be much more accurate casting, and that really helps if you are fishing a bluff wall. And you don’t need those long, long casts because you aren’t fishing way offshore and extremely deep.
I still fish with a Lews BB1 reel spooled with 10-pound Sensation monofilament. Any kind of mono is going to be hard to beat, because mono has less stretch, and that’s what you need with a crankbait. Fluorocarbon has too much stretch to fish a crankbait. Some fishermen might think 10-pound test is light, but you need it with a crankbait. Your bait will have more action, and it will run to its maximum depth, which is an advantage, and you need all the advantages you can get.
Shad colors rule
Most bass are still concentrating on shad; they haven’t moved to crawfish yet, so the shad colors like honey shad, oatmeal cream pie and even spicy mustard are good. I’m a big fan of shad colors in December.
Another plus for bass fishing in December is that it’s a great time to get your line stretched by a striped bass if you’re fishing a lake that has stripers. They might get on the same places that bass do this month, especially bluff walls. Mostly, you’ll find them in areas that have a lot of bait.
So when you get a few deer tags filled, and you get a day off on a warm day, don’t hesitate to hitch your bass boat to the back of your truck and head for the lake. If the weather is good, the fishing should be.
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