Kerr Lake’s bass are on the rocks

Bundled up against the cold, Joel Richardson shows off a chunky Kerr Lake largemouth. (Picture by Tony Garitta)

Crankbaits fool plenty of fish when the water temperatures turn towards cold

Grab your rod and reel, tie on a crankbait, add rocks tempered with chilly weather, and you have the perfect components for an exciting day of bass fishing at Kerr Lake, aka Buggs Island, on the North Carolina-Virginia border.

“December is the best month of the year for catching bass from rocks at Buggs Island,” said guide Joel Richardson of Kernersville. “Buggs is a great winter lake for catching bass.”

Unlike most winter bass havens, Kerr does not have any hot holes where warm-water discharges influence water temperatures. The key to catching bass involves targeting abundant rock formations that can be found from mid-lake to Clarksville, Va., according to Richardson (

“Some bass are taken from stumps about midway back in the creeks. But the majority of winter bass are caught from rocks with shallow- to deep-running crankbaits and lipless crankbaits,” said Richardson, a crankbait fanatic. “The fish can be taken from rocks in water 2 to 14 feet deep.”

Oddly enough, Richardson does not stress looking for bass in conjunction with baitfish along rocky structure.

Crawfish are big bass magnets

“Crawfish lingering at the rocks are more important than baitfish,” Richardson said. “When largemouth are feeding on forage, the tendency is to catch smaller bass and more striped bass. The bigger largemouth feed upon the crawfish and are usually taken from the main lake.”

For that reason, Richardson carries an ample supply of crankbaits in crawfish colors and some in shad patterns. If the water is stained, he includes crankbaits in chartreuse. He also adds jigs to his arsenal. But he maintains that crankbaits are better for winter bass.

Richardson does most of his cranking with 6 1/2- to 7-foot, medium-action Shimano rods and matching reels spooled with 10-pound monofilament.

“I use a slow-retrieve reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio for less-aggressive, cold-water bass, “ he said.

Typically, Kerr Lake experiences a winter drawdown of 4 to 6 feet. This exposes numerous rock formations, much to the benefit of fishermen. There’s little joy idling along its 850 miles of shoreline in search of rocks in the bitter cold.

Some years, finding rocks visually is more challenging if the lake remains high.

“As long as the lake doesn’t flood, the bass fishing should be good,” said Richardson. He said winter catches usually consist of bass running from 2 to 4 pounds. And anglers always have the chance for quality fish up to 6 pounds.

Productive fishing occurs with the water temperatures in the mid-50s.

Bundle up in December. But don’t let the cold discourage you. Richardson has had some of his best catches in the snow.

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