I know that winter arrives in the Carolinas on the 21st of this month, but the really cool thing is that December is a transition month, and a lot of times, it seems like December fishes more like fall than winter for bass. We really don’t get true winter patterns until January and February.
That said, bass moving between fall and winter patterns can provide an awful lot of great fishing for anglers who don’t really put their tackle away when deer and duck seasons arrive, or for those who have filled all the tags they want to by Thanksgiving.
One thing December bass fishermen need to know that it’s very, very important to pay attention to the water temperature, the water clarity and what the bait fish is doing.
It seems like the past six or eight years, where we have usually had a lot of rain in the fall, we haven’t had nearly as much, with the exception of tropical storms. When we don’t get as much rain, we get good water clarity, and I tend to fish deeper when the water clarity is better. I also fish deeper when the water temperature is higher. Because the water is clear, I tend to throw a jerkbait, a swimsuit, even a little topwater in early December. These are all visual-type baits, and I like to fish them in deeper creeks and channels.
If we haven’t had a lot of rain, I will fish a square-billed crankbait like a Rapala BX-Brat and a Mop Jig. If we’ve had a little more rain, I’ll fish maybe a Shad Rap or a Storm 360GT Coastal, a swimbait that’s got a different body, a little thicker shad profile. If the water stays warmer, I’ll had a topwater bait into the mix.
Where am I going to fish? I really like main creeks, deeper creeks. In October, in early fall, I like flatter creeks. I like deeper creeks in December, the ones that have a little ditch with a sharper contour. It is really important to look in those creeks, pay attention to the water clarity, use your electronics to get around some bait and fish.
What is a deep creek? That’s relative. If you’re fishing the Santee Cooper lakes, if you get a 5-foot contour change in 30 to 40 feet of water, that’s deep. If you’re somewhere else — Lake Norman, Lake Murray, High Rock Lake — it’s not. It’s all relative.
What I want to do when I turn on my mapping software — and I use LakeMaster maps — is I look for creeks and the contour lines. I want to fish those creeks with tight contour lines around the channel; they’re easy to see on the mapping feature on your electronics.
I hate to be redundant, but it is so important to use your electronics to find bait. If you aren’t fishing around bait, you aren’t going to catch any bass. It seems like the improvements in our electronics are never ending. We’ve come so far with them that you should be able to use yours to see bait and fish. Even when I’m fishing with buddies who use a different brand than I do, I can still see bait and fish.
If I can find bait around those channels and ditches, then I’m going to be very interested in fishing them, because bass are still totally concentrating on shad and herring in December. They aren’t really ganged up — that will happen when it gets to be sure-enough winter, but that isn’t until January and February.
I want to throw those baits, the BX-Brat, the Shad Rap, the 360GT swimsuit, maybe a Mop Jig. And when I catch a fish or two, I’m going to be very aware of how the bass wanted my bait. I am going to start off with a slower retrieve than normal in December. I may add some stop-and-go, maybe a little twitch or two, but I’m going to fish those baits more slowly, because as the water cools late in the fall, into December, the fish get a little more sluggish and aren’t as likely to chase baits.