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"Cold Weather, Hot Fishing"
By: Chad Morgenthaler

www.chadmorgenthaler.com

 

Winter is typically the time of year when most anglers put their boat in storage, stow away their tackle, and wait until springtime temperatures call them back to the lake. Winter is a great time for hunting, but December, January and February also offer very productive fishing days. Dedicated diehard anglers already know that not only do the winter month offer great fishing, but there’s also very little boat traffic as well.

There are several lakes in Southern Illinois that I really like to fish during the dead of winter. These lakes have one common factor, they are power plant lakes. The power plant provides the lake with a warm water discharge keeping at least the upper part of the lake from freezing (if not the entire lake). Although the lake isn’t frozen, anglers do have to watch out for varying water temperatures.  I’ve found there is a tremendous difference in water temperature from one area of the lake to the next.

Fortunately one of my favorite power plant lakes is close to home, Lake of Egypt . Egypt is chocked full of grass and the bass are thriving there. As I’ve indicated in previous articles and pro tips, winter is a great time to get out and get familiar with your onboard electronic equipment such as Lowrance’s LMS332c. This is especially true for Egypt because during the winter months an angler needs to target grass lines, irregular grass line features, and the main lake points. More often than not, bass will relate to these specific types of areas.

When I head out to bass fish Egypt in the winter, I recommend using jerk baits, lipless crankbaits, or jigs. Try using a jerk bait on a 6’10” Kistler Senko Special Rod (www.kistlerrods.com), with 10 lb. Maxima Fluorocarbon line.  I also recommend using Lucky Craft 78 or 100 Pointer series jerk baits in clown or shad colors.

To retrieve a jerk bait start off with a twitch-twitch-pause movement. If this seems a little too quick, or if the water temperature is in the 30˚–40˚ range, anglers may have to pause the bait longer. As always, vary the retrieve until a productive method is found.  Expect to change retrieval methods with the time of day, weather conditions and of course, water temperature.  

For an alternative try a lipless crankbait in red, chrome and blue, or a black and chrome. Retrieval for the lipless crankbait works best when moved slowly over the grass. Wait until the bait is slightly hooked on a clump of grass, and then rip it off. This quick movement, considered an erratic action, will trigger bites.

My personal favorite lure for Lake of Egypt during the winter months is a jig.  I like to stay on the outside of the weed line, pitch my jig a short distance then swim it back to the boat.

All of the baits listed above are great to use in the winter and they have one thing in common. They all allow an angler to cover a lot of water.

Another good lake for bass fishing in the winter months is Lake Coffeen in Montgomery County , Illinois . Coffeen is also a power plant lake, so anglers can anticipate water temperatures to vary.  Anglers can also expect to fish this lake in a very similar manner as Lake of Egypt . As far as baits go, jerk baits, lipless crankbaits and the occasional jig will work well on Coffeen, too.

The main difference between Lake of Egypt and Lake Coffeen is that this time of year Coffeen has a great spinner bait bite. Keep an eye on the depth-sounder temperature readout, and when the water temp reaches 45˚–50˚ the spinner bait bite is almost a sure thing.  I regularly throw a chartreuse and white 1/2 oz. War Eagle spinner bait  (or a 3/8 oz. if the wind is not blowing) with silver and gold willow leaf blades.  I use this bait on a 7’ Kistler Heavy Action Helium rod with 15 lb. Maxima Ultragreen line. At this time of year Coffeen’s water color can become off-colored, so I turn to a spinner bait made by Chompers with painted willow leaf blades in chartreuse and white. If the water is extremely off-colored I use a Colorado or Indiana blade for the extra water displacement.

Just like Lake of Egypt , target weedy areas and main lake points. A great place to find weeds on Lake Coffeen is in the backs of the pockets. Coffeen also has a lot of submerged stump areas that the fish might relate to on any given day. So don’t forget to check them out.  The fish will also be moving this time of year, so follow the bait fish. Anglers will have to move around until a productive area and pattern is found.

If an angler receives an abundance of “short strikes, in other words a lot of bites but no catches, add a trailer hook and grub to the spinner bait. On chartreuse and white spinner baits I use a white 3” grub or something of a similar nature. This extra target will give the bass a better chance of “hooking-up”.

There really are some great wintertime fishing opportunities here in the Midwest .  If you haven’t tried fishing a power plant lake this time of year, then get out there and give it a try. Remember, even though the temperatures are cold it does not mean that the fish will be less aggressive. 

A special “Thanks” to all of my sponsors: Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Yamaha Motors, Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Svanda GM Motor Group, Maxima Line, Kistler Rods, Minn Kota, Plano , Reaction Innovations, Solar Bat, and Nameoki Village Marine.

Make sure and log onto my web site www.chadmorgenthaler.com and signup for my fan club.  E-newsletters are forwarded monthly and one lucky winner each month receives a prize.  Tournament summaries are posted after each tournament and pro tips are updated every two weeks.  It’s a great source of bass fishing information.