Hello, Anglers. Hunting season is mostly over and the trend now is less camo and guns and more fishing duds and rods and reels. It won't be too long before we start seeing extended warming trends but I would keep those Gortex bibs handy as we will have night temps in the 30s and 40s for another month or so. I often have clients arrive at the lake underdressed as they come dressed based on the temperature the afternoon prior. That first run up the lake at dawn can be an eye-opener in the early spring if all you have on is sandals, jeans and a light jacket. Not to fear, I usually have plenty of extra clothes on board for those who want to push spring's arrival a bit.
LAKE CONDITIONS: The lake level is 169.3' with both generators running 24 hours due to heavy rains last week. Water temps are running from 49 to 52 degrees with north Toledo stained, mid-lake is slightly stained to clear and south Toledo is clear to very clear. However, all major feeder creeks have stained conditions due to rain run-off and both generators running pulling water from the back of creeks.
FISHING REPORTS/BASS: We are still fishing mostly deep structure from 18 feet and deeper. With water temperatures around 50 these patterns will not change much until we see water temps move to mid to upper 50s. When this happens, we will see a significant number of bass begin to migrate up creeks and ditches. Most female bass are heavy with roe (eggs) currently and are just waiting for the water to warm. Currently, many bass are holding in deep water close to spawning areas so they can move up when conditions improve. Many anglers refer to this situation as "staging" and it can be a time when you can find a school of big bass and really catch some nice fish.
I look for these fish on the end of long points in depths of 15 to 30 (plus) feet as well as on the edge of creeks and ditches with similar depths. I also like deep flats that are close to spawning areas. For this pattern, we use deep diving crankbaits, Carolina Rigs, Stanley Bug-eyed Football jigs (1/2 and 3/4 oz), drop shot and jigging spoons.
Our crankbaits are Norman's DD22s, NXS and DLN. The NXS is one of the newer crankbaits from Bill Norman and is a medium deep diver. The Deep Little N runs from 8 to 12 feet, the NXS runs from 12 to 16 feet and the DD22 runs from 16 to 20 feet depending on line choice and presentation. I normally use 10 and 12 lb. test Berkley Trilene 100% pro grade Fluorocarbon on my crankbaits and use a slow retrieve (5.4 : 1) Abu Garcia Revo Winch which is a reel made especially for crankin' with a slightly larger handle than most conventional reels. The slower ratio/retrieve, strong gears and special handle really makes a huge difference in the presentation of the crankbait as well as relieving the angler from much of the effort normally associated with deep crankin'.
On our Carolina rigs we use a variety of soft plastics but really use a lot of the old reliable plastic lizard using both 6 and 8 inch sizes. I use 17 lb 100% Fluorocarbon(Berkley Trilene) on both the leader and main line on Carlina rigs with a 7' 2" medium heavy/fast Fenwick Elite or HMG Series rod with a Revo SX reel. We also use a Abu Garcia Veritas rod in medium heavy for C. rigging. I like to Carolina rig in depths of 15 to 30 feet in late January and February.
On our Stanley Football jigs we use a similar set-up of 17 lb fluorocarbon and long, medium heavy rod action. I like the basics as far as jig colors and mainly use a black/blue and green pumpkin. Trailers vary but when the water is still cold I use a trailer with minimum action like a pork chunk. Our drop shot rigs are in 8 and 10 lb test fluorocarbon, #1 widgap XPoint hook and 1/4 oz dropshot sinker with a Revo Spinning reel and 7' Veritas or Fenwick HMG medium action spinning rod. My hands-down favorite drop shot worm is a 4.75 inch Havoc Bottom Hopper Jr in watermelon, w.m. red and shady watermelon candy. We are fishing these in 15 to 30 (plus) feet. Jigging spoons are 1/2, 3/4 and 1 oz versions hammered. I often change out the original hooks and replace with Daiichi Death Trap trebles which is a very high carbon premium hook.
CRAPPIE/YELLOW AND WHITE BASS: Anglers are catching white and yellow bass, especially white bass on the northern part of the lake. We have even caught a decent number of whites down south as we fish for largemouth when using spoons and tailspinners but most are 3/4 to a pound. Yellow bass are close to spawning and those females we are catching are full of eggs. I had two good crappie reports from Toledo Crappie guides who both are fishing at the Chicken Coop. Ernie Cole and two other anglers with him all caught limits Tuesday morning. Limits are 25 crappie each. In Addition, guide Jack Adams also caught fish Tuesday morning. Over-all the crappie are not as large as they normally are at The Coop but most are decent sized fish. Personally, I prefer a hand-sized crappie fried whole.
AUTHOR INFO: Joe Joslin is a syndicated outdoor columnist, tournament angler and pro guide on Toledo and Sam Rayburn. 337-463-3848 or firstname.lastname@example.org and website at http://www.joejoslinoutdoors.com/