Ringing in the new year on the lake is the perfect way to spend a cool January day. For the Northern anglers, January marks the height of ice fishing, but down South the bite gets tough, and we trudge on, looking for those few bites left. Once we find those bites it's time to hold on for a great afternoon of fishing.
January isn't the month that most anglers think about picking up the Carolina rig with a 10-inch worm, but that was the old way of thinking. Big worms usually find themselves stored away for the winter months, only to be replaced by shallow divers and slow moving creature baits. It's not time to write off the 10-inch worm as a summertime bait.
Big worm rigs have their rightful place in the heat of the summer, but when the bite slows and anglers find themselves reaching deep into their bag of tricks, the 10-inch worm is the ticket.
Before you grab the worm bag, don't forget to let someone know where you will be fishing. Cold weather compounded with boat trouble spells disaster. Maybe you'll get by with perhaps just a cold swim back to the shore, but don't risk anything. It is far better to be safe than sorry.
During the months of November and into early December, fish are on a constant gorge fest, trying to prepare for the long winter. I've found reactionary baits do work, but slowing your presentation down while fishing the colder water in January and February and letting them look at that Carolina rig will pay big dividends at the end of the day.
I like to keep my presentations to secondary points and where available, shell beds that might offer a little warmth from the chilly waters. It's important to keep some distance between you and your target. Using your electronics that have marked locations during the warmer months, cast out the Carolina rig and let it hit the floor.
The bites will be subtle because bass aren't hammering baits like they do earlier in the winter. So work the rig slow, very slow. It will be tough to find a feeding fish and the bass are not going to race after a bait or swim very far in pursuit. The PowerBait will be a big help.
Ten-inch worms have been around for as long as I can remember. The black with blue fleck PowerBait ® 10-inch Power ® Worm with a 3/0 or 4/0 wide gap hook is my first choice.
Varying the weight size between a 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce will enable you to mix up the presentation. If I want to stir up the dirt and rock, I will use the heavier of the two, but for a subtle approach the 1/2-ounce weight is the only way to go.
The rest of my setup is pretty basic. I use a 7-foot, 4-inch medium-fast All Star ® Pro Series casting rod because it has the right action to make the bait crawl over the limbs and down points. Also, this rod handles the 50-pound Spiderwire ® Ultracast ® that I like to use with a 2-foot Berkley ® Trilene ® 100% Fluorocarbon leader.
I use an Abu Garcia ® REVO ® SX, with a 6:4.1 retrieve ratio, so when a bass gets hooked, I can hit it hard and wind fast to pull its head away from whatever cover it might be headed toward. If it runs toward the boat, I've got plenty of retrieve speed to keep up with it.
One of the key things to watch out for is the large schools of fish that run together this time of the year. Once you get the first fish on the line, make multiple casts to the exact same spot. If you find one, you'll find a bunch more.
This is the time of year when anything can happen on the water especially finding big schools of bass.
Keep an eye on the graphs because they will point the way to where the bait is located, which is where the bass are found. If you are able find a few bites, hang on for a great day.