To me, December is very much a transition month in a lot of ways. I spend most of the fall using shad-type baits, trying to imitate blueback herring and shad, because bass are so keyed in on those baitfish in most of our Carolina lakes. I probably use them 90% of the time. And I don’t stop using them in December, because I think bass will stay on shad and bluebacks all the way into January and February.
But December is the month when I start looking for more than just baitfish, the way I have all the way back to October or September. In December, I start fishing around places where crawfish can be found, like around a variety of different rocks and vegetation. And I begin using baits that imitate crawfish: mop jigs in reds, oranges and browns, especially in tournaments.
I know that tournament schedules start to slow down in December. But through the years, I’ve fished a number of them this month. And if you’re fishing for five bass on tournament day, you started thinking about catching five larger bass.
I can probably catch more fish looking for baitfish using my Humminbird electronics, and you can catch a lot of different kinds of fish using baits that imitate shad and herring. But if I’m fishing a tournament in December, I’m going to throw baits in places where crawfish live. That’s because bigger bass start to concentrate on crawfish this month.
Main lake move
My favorite baits to imitate crawfish are a mop jig with a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog as a trailer, and a Rapala DT-4, DT-6 or DT-8 in crawfish type colors. I think the “demon” color is the best. Those baits will run in the depth range I’m usually targeting.
When I fish a jig in December, I’m not flipping and pitching as much as I’m casting. So instead of using a rod that’s as long or heavy as I do when flipping and pitching, I go with a 7-foot, medium-heavy Team Lew’s Signature Series baitcaster, paired with a Lew’s Pro Spool reel with an 8.3-to-1 retrieve ratio. I really think reels have come a long way. They’re set up to where you can have the speed of retrieve with the internal strength you need to fight a big fish.
In December, fish are moving back toward the main lake. But they’re still in creeks. I don’t think all of them come out on the main lake as the water cools. But they won’t be way back up in the creeks. They’ll be in the creeks closer to the main lake.
Another thing about December, the days you’re fishing can be so different. So you have to adjust the way you fish. Some days you’ll have highs in the low 40s. Other days, the high temperature will be 70. The colder it gets, I’ll slow down my retrieve. With a jig, I want to keep it in contact with the bottom, hopping it along. I’m not swimming it. I fish it pretty fast. I don’t let it sit still.
I want my baits to remain in contact with some kind of cover, either man-made or natural rock and vegetation. Riprap can be good in December because those rocks hold heat. I’ll fish rocks and vegetation with the crankbaits and the mop jig. And another bait I like to fish is a Spot Remover, a shaky head, with something like a 5-inch Senko. That can be a great presentation when you know you’re fishing the right places but they aren’t hitting a crankbait or a jig.
Hopefully, the guys who interrupt fishing in the fall to deer hunt (and I’m one of them) will have filled enough tags to have a freezer full of venison. That way, it’s fairly easy to squeeze in some time on the water, because the fishing can be great.
Fish can often be very aggressive, because December is more of a fall month than a winter month, and bass will really feed up in the fall.
Winter or fall?:
It may seem like an overused phrase, but December in the Carolinas is more of a transition month than a winter month. The first part of the month is usually more like fall, and that can extend throughout the whole month during some years, depending on weather cycles