When it's time to bundle up, Berkley pro Justin Lucas focuses on key spots and baits to catch cold-water bass.
By Dave Landahl - November 27, 2019
Justin Lucas has a stout competitive bass fishing resume, built with years of hard work and time on the water. But he’s not just about fishing the Bass Pro Tour: Lucas simply loves to fish, and cold-weather months are some of his favorite times to be on the water slinging baits for bass.
“Living in Alabama, I have plenty of options to catch bass even when the weather is cold outside,” Lucas admitted. “There are fewer anglers on the water and the fishing can be really good. There are a lot of ways to catch bass, but for me, I’ve narrowed it down to a few key areas and lures. I’m generally talking about Tennessee River impoundments and some highland lakes here, but you can apply these ideas to any similar bodies of water.”
Get to a Rocky Break First
Rocky current breaks are one of the first forms of cover Lucas keys in on in late fall and winter.
“On the Tennessee River systems, you can find really good main-river current breaks,” Lucas said. “You’ll often catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass on these spots, if both species are available where you’re fishing. I’m usually fishing in water about 4 to 8 feet deep, but sometimes up to 10. Lots of rock cover is the key for the two lures I like in this situation.
“First is a Berkley Frittside crankbait in size 5 or 7. It’s a flat-sided crankbait and I have to tell you, it’s tough to beat in this situation. You need to work it slowly, make sure you make lots of bottom contact. The other lure that is a good choice for me here is a 1⁄2-ounce Molix Kento Jig. Like the crankbait, work it slowly, maintaining bottom contact.
Work the Grass, Too
Current breaks are still the prime area for Lucas’ next winter location, just add grass.
“If you’re finding more grass on the current breaks, you’ll need to modify your approach a bit,” Lucas said. “The grassy current breaks are primarily largemouth locations. I’m still talking about water from about 4 to 8 feet deep. Fish will often tuck away on the backside of points or things like shell beds and other cover.
“I’ll throw a lipless crankbait here. My choice is the Berkley Warpig: Comes through the grass better than most and has a big thump. It’s an excellent lipless crankbait.”
Also in ‘Cuts and Guts’
It’s not all about shallow current breaks for Lucas’ cold-water fishing forays.
“Smith Lake in Alabama is one of my favorite lakes to fish in the cold weather,” Lucas admitted. “The highland reservoirs, like Smith, that have spotted bass can really produce when it’s cold outside. One of the best places to locate bass on these lakes is in the middle of short and steep creek channels, in cuts or guts. You really need to use your electronics and find the right depth because it varies from day-to-day, but the fishing is generally pretty easy once you find them.
“I load my spinning reels with 8-pound Berkley X-5 braid and a 100% fluorocarbon leader. I tie on a new Berkley Shaky Head and fish a 6.25 Bottom Hopper on it. Cast out and let it sink to the bottom. Slowly work it back to the boat. That’s it. It’s not complicated, but it’s effective.”
Time of day to chase down bass in the cold months isn’t as important as the moon phase, according to Lucas.
“The moon is more relevant than the time of day,” he said. “The full moon is the worst time to fish in the winter. A new moon or a quarter moon is a much better phase to fish. Remember, the water is usually under 50 degrees, so fish slowly and always keep in contact with the cover you’re fishing.”