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Fishing Reports

Fishing Report For December 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This report is from the Bassing Bob monthly meeting with Bassing Bob’s experts James Dill of Crock-O-Gator Bait Company, Wayne Fitzpatrick of Fitz Fishing Tackle & Supplies, and Jack Uxa of Jack’s Guide Service. We were also joined by Denise Dill, Bassing Bob’s professional women’s advisor.

This report is from the Bassing Bob monthly meeting with Bassing Bob’s experts James Dill of Crock-O-Gator Bait Company, Wayne Fitzpatrick of Fitz Fishing Tackle & Supplies, and Jack Uxa of Jack’s Guide Service. We were also joined by Denise Dill, Bassing Bob’s professional women’s advisor.

This report can be viewed as an audio report on the Bassing Bob video page. There are 4 videos for this report. Look under the “Videos” tab for the videos titled “December Expert Bass Fishing Meeting at Lake of the Ozarks, Part 1 of 4, Part 2 of 4, Part 3 of 4, and Part 4 of 4.”

The input and advice offered by these experts and guests is based on many years of bass fishing experience at Lake of the Ozarks. In this report, they share their thoughts on what fishing has been like in the month of November and what to expect in the month of December.

November has been a mix of cold spells and nice days. Experts haven’t seen the concentrations of bigger shad like they have in past Novembers, and are mostly finding the shad in small schools. The buzzbait bite hasn’t been as good this year either; experts have had to cover a lot of water to be successful. It has been hard to find a pattern that would consistently produce big fish.

Anglers have really had to work to catch the bass this fall. Part of the reasons for this may be that the water level this year is higher than falls in the past, and this may explain why the fish aren’t as concentrated in schools as they usually are in November.

In December, anglers should expect to lose the buzzbait bite. The buzzbait bite never really shined this year like in the past, though it did play a role in every tournament, producing some big fish. The spinnerbait will probably still play a role for a couple of weeks. The jig will be a big player in December, and jerkbaits will have their day too. 

Bassing Bob experts agree that because of its versatility, the jig can produce bass all year long. About 2 weeks ago, Denise Dill was throwing a ½ oz Zapper jig on a bluff with shelves, dropping it slowly and caught a 6 lb 2 oz bass on the jig. 

On sunny days this time of year, anglers may need to back off the bank and throw something off the bottom. On sunny days with no wind, it’s tough to catch bass on any kind of a moving bait. Fitzpatrick suggests taking a little jig or a little beaver, putting it on the bottom, and working it in the 10-12’ foot range; when you find them schooled up you can have a lot of fun.

When they draw the water down, this will pull the fish out of the shallow areas at the backs of coves and put them on channel swings and deeper, steeper banks. In particular, the fish will often put themselves at both ends of the channel swings. Dill likes to fish the channel swings about 40 yards in length; he’ll start on one end and fish it to the other end. After fishing a couple of these, he can tell where they’re positioned in the channel swings and will use this information to fish others the same way.

In December, as long as the water temps stay close to 50 degrees, there is still potentially a buzzbait bite; this is a great bait for covering water. A spinnerbait is too – it can help you move fast. If the water in December stays at the high level it is, it won’t help the fishing; fish can be everywhere.

Uxa says the jig and jerkbait will probably play the biggest roles in December. The Alabama rig can play a role too, but it can be hard for people to throw and it’s easy to get it hung up.

Fitzpatrick was asked to discuss tournament strategies for December. On cloudy, windy days, he says he’ll throw the Alabama rig. Even with the water high right now, it’s getting to the point where the fish are going for the Alabama rig. Until they bring the water level down, the fish will continue to be scattered and not all bunched up. When they bring it down, the fish will all congregate together and anglers can basically sit in one spot and catch 25 lbs. Fitzpatrick says that with the water level being up, he’d go to the back of the coves and work his way out. Normally he’d do just the opposite, starting on the main channel and going the other direction. Fish haven’t left the backs of the coves yet because the water is still high. Get on the first deep bank at the back of the coves, and fish alongside the docks. Some of the fish are starting to move off and suspend because the water is cooling down, and that’s where the Alabama rig and the jig really come into play. Use bigger jerkbaits because water isn’t that cold yet; baits like the big 100 or 125 series Lucky Crafts or a Megabass Ito Shiner work well. The fish seem to bite bigger bait until water gets down to around 45 degrees, and the water temperature is hovering in the low 50s right now.

Jim Dill says that the transition areas are starting to work, places where the rock type changes. He suggests keying on these transition banks. As the weather changes, it seems like the bass stop at these transition points. When fishing with a jig at this time of year, Dill suggests finding a dark bank of some sort, like a chunk rock mix, transition area, or a channel swing. On the ends of the swings, throw a smaller jig, like a 3/8 oz Zapper, Ozark Craw, with a Ring Craw on the back; go with something subtle that doesn’t move a lot of water in a natural color and kind of hop it in place. A Swamp Bug in the wintertime can be a good bait to use. Use something you can just bounce and let the fish look at it, just barely moving it. Every once in a while give it a foot or two jump and then let it sit. In the winter, Dill will go down to a 10-12 lb test so he can feel things better; it telegraphs things through it so much better. He normally prefers 14-17 lb test but with lighter test can feel the bite better.

Uxa says soon it will be all about the jerkbait, jig, and the Alabama rig, though a stickbait can work upriver. Some banks you may not use a jig, but a stickbait instead. Winter storms can push the bass right up on the bank.

The experts all agree that a jig will catch fish all year long. It’s very versatile; anglers can barely drag it along the bottom or give it a good jerk and get a reaction bite. For the average fisherman, you just have to have confidence about the banks you’re fishing. Dill says to watch for crawfish once they pull the lake down 4-5 feet. He’s seen the crawfish coming out of the exposed holes and crawling down into the water, and that this is the time to fish with a jig in the water below the steep banks. He also suggested watching for the ducks going along the banks looking for the crawfish.

Anglers won’t see a really good jerkbait bite until they draw the water down. Right now there’s a pretty big water temperature difference between the lower end and midlake. The temperature in the lower end is still in the 60s, while midlake it’s down in the 50s. It’s usually warmer upriver but it’s just the opposite right now. Bassing Bob asked Fitzpatrick what brands and colors of jerkbait he sells the most in his store, and what he recommends to anglers when they ask. As far as colors, Fitzpatrick says just about any color can work, but he especially likes Megabass because it provides just a little different action. RC Stick jerkbait is also good. He suggests bigger bait like Lucky Craft until the water gets in the lower to mid-40s and then switching to smaller bait. In colored water, really bright colors can work. All the Bassing Bob experts agree that sometimes a really bright, “funky” color will work, and that colors that work change from year to year. Fitzpatrick does have a preference for chartreuse, Ito Natural, and French Pearl. Uxa likes bait with a blue back and some shine to the side, with an orange belly. Rogues still work, and they’re not as expensive as some of the others. On a sunny day, anglers will want something with some shine to it or something translucent. Days that are calm without wind are tough stickbait days; without wind, anglers need to find some shade to have any luck with a stickbait, though early in the morning and late in the evening, they may still catch some fish with it.

On this lake, fish will still relate to the shade on a dock even if it’s freezing. Fish the Alabama rig on the shady sides of docks.

Bassing Bob asked the experts about how important the way a jerkbait sinks in the water is. There are jerkbaits that will float, others that will suspend, and others that sink. Anglers can use suspend dots to change the way a jerkbait moves in the water column. Not a whole lot of baits will suspend perfectly out of the package. Fitzpatrick says he would rather fine tune a jerkbait himself. He likes the bait nose down when working it, and definitely doesn’t want it sitting head up. He says level’s okay but down is better. Fitzpatrick prefers to use wire on the front hook to fine tune the jerkbait, and prefers wire over dots because he can fine tune it so much easier, and it doesn’t interfere with the color scheme of his bait. He cuts off a 6-8” piece of lead wire and makes several wraps. He prefers 10 lb test fluorocarbon in general, though sometimes he’ll switch to 8 lb test. He likes fluorocarbon because it sinks down another foot or two.

Bassing Bob’s experts agree that sometimes they have to commit to using the Alabama rig during tournaments if other anglers are using it too, but it’s not really their favorite thing to throw. Uxa says the Alabama rig can be challenging for the average fisherman to use. In Missouri, even though there are five wires on an Alabama rig, legally only three lures can have hooks. The other two wires must be hookless. Most anglers will use spinnerblades or a dummy bait without hooks on those wires. Uxa says the Berkley Schooling Rig is a good place to start because it’s cheap compared to others; it comes without the jigheads though, so anglers will still have to buy those. He likes to use hollow-bellied 4-inch swimbaits, like threadfin or gizzard shad, though other people use grubs. The experts discussed using a Hitchhiker Coil Keeper to rig up a dummy bait. It screws into plastics and can keep the bait lighter too because there’s no weight on them.

Some swimbaits come already weighted; Uxa doesn’t really like the ones that are pre-weighted. To rig the Alabama rig, he will use a lightweight 1/8 oz or even a 1/16 oz jighead with a decent-sized quality hook on it.  It’s a problem getting the A-rig stuck in brushpiles. Using a light wire hook helps because it will unbend and you can easily yank it out. Dill suggested the Crock-o-Gator Swimbait jighead with a wire hook because it will actually let you bend the hook as it pulls out instead of getting so stuck that you lose the whole rig.

When using the Alabama rig in a tournament, the experts suggested spinnerblade attachments and going with soft baits that have a lot of action. Throw it the same place you’d throw a stickbait. Reel it in very slowly, and every once in awhile kill it and let it sink. Bone colors are good, or something with a little green or blue tint; use something pretty bright. One expert says he likes throwing a 4- or 4 ½-inch bait on the wire that sticks out farthest, and putting a 3- or 4-inch bait on the others. The bass will usually hit the big one. When asked about fishing line and rods to use when throwing an Alabama rig, experts suggested 65 lb PowerPro braid for the line, and between a 7 ½ – 8 foot heavy action rod.

For jig fishing in December, Dill likes a 10-12 lb line weight, though he may go up to 14 lb; he uses the biggest can get away with and still feel the bite. In particular, he likes the Berkley 100% fluorocarbon, 12 lb. As for a rod, he likes a medium/heavy Falcon Cara 7 foot rod.

For jerkbait fishing in December, Uxa says not to get too long with the rod. 6’ 6” is the longest rod he likes to use; 6’ 3” rods work well for jerkbait fishing. He likes 8 lb test monofilament Trilene XL. Uxa is a big fan of microguides, but cautions that in the wintertime, the microguides can freeze up and cause problems, so anglers should have some other rods ready to use.

Bassing Bob asked Denise Dill how she prepares herself and keeps warm when fishing in the winter. Dill says she uses Hot Hands, and suggests having them in your gloves. Even though she can’t fish with her gloves on, she’ll use the gloves with the Hot Hands to warm her hands up when running or her hands get too cold.

All the experts agree it’s important to cover your face when running. Helmets are good to have if you’re making a long run.

When fishing, the experts suggested using jersey gloves because they’re cheap. Take along a lot of pairs and switch them out when they get wet. Nice heavy ski gloves are best when running. Choose clothing in layers.

To keep feet warm, the experts vary in how they do this. Some prefer non-ventilated tennis shoes, others lightweight hiking boots.

Bob Bueltmann, who goes out fishing nearly every day in the winter, puts on one thin pair of socks, then Toasty Toes foot warmers, then a thick pair of socks and finally his boots. With this combination, he can be out there in the coldest, windiest, wettest conditions, and his feet are never cold. For gloves, he uses a cheap pair of leather driving gloves which are thin enough so he can cast, and don’t get hooks in them because they kind of just slide off. He puts the Hot Hands warmers in his pockets instead of in gloves, and when his hands get too cold, he’ll take the leather gloves off and stick his hands in pockets until they get warm, and then put his leather gloves back on and get back to fishing.

Bassing Bob asked the experts to recommend two baits to throw in December, and what to leave at home.

Denise Hill – Jerkbait or a ½ oz jig trailed with a Ring Craw, something with a little bit of sparkle, like green pumpkin candy or orange flake. She will leave the Headknocker at home.

Jack Uxa – Jerkbait and a jig, in that order. Only other bait he might use is the Alabama rig. He says there are a bunch of baits to leave at home, including the 10-inch worm. For a jig, he likes to go with something that’s not too big, like a 3/8 oz, Ozark Craw, and he likes to cut some of the strands of a new jig to make it look “ugly”.

Wayne Fitzpatrick – Stickbait and then the Alabama rig. He will still use the spook, more than a buzzbait. He will leave crankbait and 10-inch worms at home.

Jim Dill – He’ll have two rods on deck, one with a 3/8 oz jig, and will snip off some of the top strands, with a simple trailer like a Ring Craw. His other rod would have a Swamp Bug on it. Once the water hits the mid-40s, he’d leave anything fast home.

All the experts agree that when the weather is snowy or “nasty”, get out on the water because the fishing will be great. On a bright, clear, bluebird skies day, fishing can be tougher, and anglers may want to try hitting the brushpiles.

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