A few nights ago, we were having our usual Thursday night dinner with our fishing friends and of course the topic of fishing was on my mind. It had been on my mind all day and I was just waiting for someone to strike up the right conversation. My old buddy Jimmy Sanders was sitting across from me and asked how the fishing was going. That’s all I needed to get to talking. Jimmy is recovering from a recent knee surgery, and he is just getting back on the water after a couple months off. Jimmy is a few years older than me and a good litmus test for me when it comes to tracking physical ailments. It seems we both kinda have the same breakdowns, only Jimmy is a few years ahead of me. We have both had multiple shoulder surgeries and we both tried to plan our surgeries for the “Resting Phase” or a period just after the holidays until early March. To me, it’s usually from the full moon in January until the full moon in March. That’s usually when the water gets it’s coldest and when the fish take a little break from the action. It’s the dog days of winter and that’s the time that Jimmy and I plan our repairs and recovery time.
Don’t get me wrong here, the fish still need to eat during this period but in terms of the bass moving around and aggressively seeking food, the window of opportunity can be very small. It’s all for good reason as the bass need to rest for an upcoming event that keeps them busy for a while, in the spawn. Right now, as I write this, the days are getting longer, and our little spring Lilies have just broken the surface of the ground. The water temps are down in the upper 40’s right now and unless we see a very cold February, the water temps shouldn’t get much cooler so we should be on our way to another awesome spring bite. I can tell that the fish are slower to react to a bait and are refusing to chase a bait very far, and I can also tell the difference in catching a fish in 40 feet of water verses catching a fish in 10 feet of water right now. The fish in the 40-foot depth are chilling for the most part. They are resting and eating the occasional bait pod or school that drifts overhead. They are stuck to the bottom like glue until something triggers them to move. This week I only fished a few fragmented days, but I actually caught fish in both deep water and shallow water. On Tuesday a buddy came over to fish some docks with me and we wound up finding fish in a 40+ feet deep ditch and pulling fish off the bottom. It was just dropping on faith and waiting to see if the fish showed up. My buddy caught his fish on a 3.3 Keitech and ball head and I was dropping an emerald-colored Damika rig. It was slow but every once in a while, the fish would just show up under the boat if I hit the Spot Lock very near some kind of structure or just vertically jigging from the bottom up about 5-10 feet very very slowly. The fish would usually pop the bait on the fall so controlling your baits decent was a good way for feel for a very soft strike. We ended our 3–4-hour trip with a small limit from the deep water but it was fun to jig the fish up from the depths.
I went back out for a while on Wednesday and played around with the deep fish again with basically the same result. Nothing to brag about, just some very cold 2lbers coming off the bottom and not giving much of a fight on the way up. On Thursday the rains came in and a by Friday morning the lake had shot up more than a foot. The back of the creek looked very stained, and we had some new debris in the creek to deal with. Water temps in the back of the creek were 47 yesterday morning so I headed out into the main part of the creek to try and find the clearer water to check the shallow bite. My experience is that anytime the water rises the fish instinctively come to the shore to investigate the newly submerged, even in the coolest part of the year. My buddy Kevin “Kbad” Badgett made some special looking, emerald-colored baits for me and last week I caught them on his little drop shot bait and his emerald trick worm. On Thursday this week I got a few more baits to try from Kevin, one of which was a little Ned bait that I really liked. I had just been going over my reports from last Feb. and I found that a year ago around this time I had sized it down to the Ned rig to get my bites. The Ned rig was on my mind at dinner Thursday night when I told one of the guys at dinner how the fish seem to really like the smaller stuff in Feb.
I knew exactly how I was going to rig the little Ned rig for fishing shallow yesterday and my little rig worked to perfection. Here’s a picture of the little rig and all the parts I used as well as my rod and reel of choice. The reel was loaded with KastKing 20lb high vis braid and a 20 foot KastKing 10lb Kovert fluorocarbon leader line.
Yesterday the rain ended mid-morning and I headed out to the main body of the creek and a few docks to try the new Ned rig on. The wind really kicked up and I think the fish were kind of shut down from the storms and the sudden rise in water level. It will probably take the fish a few days to get used to the new water levels, but I was still able to catch a few plinking the little Ned rig around the docks. Here’s a picture of my first fish on the rig, caught between 2 docks in about 10 feet of water. I caught 3 others while I was out, but this was definitely the highlight of my short trip out in the cold wind. My KastKing Speed Demon rod and reel combo with the medium tip worked well for the task and enjoyed putting the KastKing spinning rig to the test.
The lake is still on the rise at 1.5 feet above full pool and the corps is moving water for a few hours in the evening right now. It looks like we have a pretty good run of upcoming stable weather, so I expect things to pick up next week. Water temps are in the upper 40’s to near 50.