By Lynn Burkhead - January 20, 2012
One of the best times of the year to fish the vast Amistad Reservoir is not too many weeks after the Christmas decorations have come down and the year has flipped over on the calendar.
That’s because Amistad bass begin to go pre-spawn in the latter half of January and continue in this phase through much of February.
The Southern latitude of this fishery and the season’s lengthening days begin to warm the water temperature back into and through the 50s during this time of the year and the lake’s bass will begin to prepare for the coming spawn by staging on main lake points, humps, and ridges.
How do you catch bass at this time of the year?
First, watch the weather and look for a tranquil, sunny period of several days that warms the water temperature steadily. Then, make sure you pack your thinking cap, and a good map, into your tackle box.
Why? Because you want to figure out where the bass will be spawning in a few weeks and then backing up from such spots to find them somewhere along a migration corridor, or aquatic pipeline, that bass use to move from winter haunts to spring spawning grounds.
Those piscatorial causeways are typically going to lead from deeper main lake points near major creek channels through the middle portions of those creek channels and onto the shallow spawning flats.
A good place to begin fishing for pre-spawn fish is on the main lake points at the entrance to such creek channels.
If the bass aren’t on the points, then the odds are that they have moved deeper into the creeks and will position themselves along structural features like drop offs and ledges in addition to hanging around submerged timber and grass.
Keep in mind that bass are very much thinking about moving shallow during this time of the year, so you’ll typically find them in 10- to 15-foot staging depths or less, depending on recent weather, during the pre-spawn phase.
“The hard part is finding them and not (so much) catching them,” says Major League Fishing pro Alton Jones. “Learning to identify the pathways that bass will use in going from their wintertime haunts in deeper water to shallow water, (that’s the key).”
“When I think of cold water, I think of late December and January when bass can go deep if they want to. By February, fish are starting to think shallow and that’s why (it) can be so good. If you find those deep water pathways that lead to the shallows, that’s where those fish are going to be concentrated in February.”
One bait that Jones prefers at this time of the year is a red lipless crankbait for fishing around hydrilla beds.
“Generally, I’ll fish it real slow and when I feel it tick the top of the grass, I’ll jerk it free,” he said. “As it falls back, those fish will grab it just like when a crawdad is jumping back.”
Another bait that Jones will often throw at this time of the year is a suspending jerkbait.
“The key to that is that you jerk it down, let it sit motionless for sometimes 15 to 20 seconds at a time and then twitch it again,” Jones said. “That’s a dynamite technique for big fish and it doesn’t really matter how cold that water gets, they’ll come up and bite that rogue.”
As Jones alluded to, the pre-spawn phase is indeed a great time to fish for bigger fish in many Texas waters, Amistad included.
In fact, you could argue that Amistad’s lake record was ostensibly caught during the absolute earliest days of the pre-spawn phase when Tom Sutherland of Del Rio landed his 15.68-pound largemouth bass on Dec. 28, 2005. Fishing in just 15 feet of water at the confluence of the Devil’s River and the Rio Grande, the 28.3-inch long behemoth hit a Bill Norman DD-22 crankbait.
This certainly provides the inspiration for loading up and heading for Amistad during the first two months of the year.
“February is maybe the best month for big fish (in Texas waters) for the entire year,” Jones said. “Even though the water is still cold, by February, most bass are beginning to move shallow in anticipation of the spawn. Anglers can use shallow water techniques (to catch fish).”
Even when the occasional cold front or winter storm impacts the region during this time, the effects of such weather don’t typically last too long. Thanks to the season’s lengthening days and gradually climbing water temperature, a trip to Amistad for high quality size bass is a great way to start off the year.