Mrazek’s favorites for the start of the season in Texas - Major League Fishing

Mrazek’s favorites for the start of the season in Texas

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The start of the cast-for-cash season in Texas is exciting for everyone. Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Chad Mrazek.
January 1, 2024 • Jody White • Invitationals

Tournament season in Texas kicks off hot and heavy as soon as folks hang up new calendars to start the year, with a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event literally the first Saturday of January on Sam Rayburn Reservoir and major pro and team events in short succession. Though winter in Texas doesn’t produce the most consistent fishing of the year, it can produce the biggest top-end bags, and if tournaments are your thing, you’d better be bundled up and out there.

Toyota Series Championship winner Chad Mrazek is most at home on Lake Conroe, but he has diverse experience around the country as well as plenty of time on the tournament hotbeds like Sam Rayburn. According to Mrazek, this is the season to keep a big crankbait, a jerkbait and a ChatterBait on deck to maximize your time on the water.

The baits

A jerkbait is a go-to in the wintertime for Mrazek. Photo by Cobi Pellerito

On the jerkbait side of things, Mrazek prefers a Megabass Vision 110 in French pearl.

“From early fall until the end of winter, I’ll have a jerkbait on my boat the entire time,” he said. “I try to keep as many moving baits on the boat as possible, because I think it makes me a lot more confident. I’m a lot more confident in the winter with a deck full of moving baits than I am with a deck full of dragging baits.”

In grass, he goes with a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer, which gives him a lot of versatility to adjust to the fish.

“I feel like the fish in the grass are still eating everything,” he said. “It’s almost like there’s no wrong color. Crawfish that time of year get really red, but I think you can still catch big ones on black and blue. I feel like black and blue ChatterBaits get big bites, and white works, all of them work.”

Mrazek bases his trailer selection on water clarity.

“If it’s dirty, I like a Strike King Menace Grub trailer; if it’s cleaner, I throw a Yamamoto Zako or a fluke or a Castaic Jerky J or something straight-tailed, that’s something I’ve always done,” he said. “I color match – black and blue and black and blue, fire craw with fire craw, white with white.”

The final arrow in Mrazek’s wintertime quiver is a crankbait — typically a big one like a Strike King 10XD or 8XD.

“I’m a big profile guy with cranking. I always like to throw the big baits – I’m never afraid to throw an 8XD or 10XD in 12 feet of water,” he said. “But, as the day goes on, I’ll switch things up. I like the Berkley Dredger or the Rapala DT when they want something smaller, especially on those bigger schools. But, that’s if they stay. If they stay long enough to have to worry about downsizing your profile, that’s usually good.”

Wintertime strategies  

In the winter, Mrazek likes to start early and target small groups of bass. Photo by Tanner Lyons

Per Mrazek, the winter demands a slightly different strategy to really maximize potential. For one, he’s often looking for small groups of fish.

“The times you see the big bags being weighed, those miserable days, north wind, rain, you don’t get many bites, but if you have the right spot you can win the tournament in five casts with a big crankbait,” he said.

“The schools I fish for, you’re lucky to get five of them to eat. I don’t ever look for big schools in the wintertime. I like to look for schools of five to seven big ones, giants. Those schools set up on specific things in the prespawn, and they eat very early, in the low light, and then they shut down.”

According to Mrazek, getting out early can be really important in the winter. Especially if you want to actually make a wily old Texas bass bite.

“This time of year, I take advantage of being on the water early. I think the water temp doesn’t change that much throughout the day in the winter, so they are going to eat first thing, low light, and then they go suspend,” he said. “I’ve always tried to bang ‘em in the head with something early, while they’re feeding. Then, it’s pretty hard to catch them the rest of the day.”

As far as finding the fish goes, Mrazek likes to focus on drains, the backs of drains and flatter sections, and he finds time behind the wheel to be invaluable in the winter. One semi-constant is that he tries not to stray far from the main lake.

While enduring cold conditions might not sound appealing, given a little luck and plenty of time on the water, winter fishing can really pay off.

“I feel like the wintertime is your best shot at catching a giant, if you tackle it the right way,” Mrazek said. “If you’re out early, it’s so rewarding catching a giant when you can’t feel your hands.”