Tips, Tricks and Tactics From the Pros
Editor’s Note: Strike King Pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Kentucky, has proven that he knows how to win. This week, Menendez will tell us where to find bass and how to catch them in the winter.
Part 1: Mark Menendez Tells How to Catch Bass Now in the Winter
Question: Mark, how are you catching bass now in December?
Menendez: Catching bass now is fairly simple. I fish in main-lake cover in shallow flats and low points that have deep-water access. My go-to baits are the Strike King Series 3 crankbait and the 3/4-ounce Strike King Premier Pro-Model spinner bait. I prefer to fish a spinner bait with a white skirt in clean water and a spinner bait with a chartreuse-and-white skirt in dirty water. I’ll primarily be fishing for largemouths, but you never know what kind of bass will show-up.
I’ll mainly be fishing where the current’s running, and you’ll likely catch the bass when you pull-up on those breaklines, if the lake homes smallmouths or spotted bass. The Tennessee River is one of my favorite places to fish anytime, because you can catch largemouth, spotted or smallmouth bass there year-round. At this time of year, you’re as likely to catch a smallmouth bass with the Series 3 or the Premier Pro-Model as you are a largemouth bass. On a windy and cloudy day, your chances for catching smallmouths increase.
Question: What color Strike King Series 3 crankbait will you be fishing?
Menendez: I like chartreuse shad or sexy shad, depending on the water color. I prefer chartreuse shad when the water’s clear and Sexy Shad, if the water’s slightly stained. I’ll be fishing the Strike King Series 3 crankbait on 8- and 10-pound-test line. At this time of year, my favorite is 8-pound-test line. This crankbait doesn’t pull very hard, so I want to get a little more depth. With 8-pound-test line, I can get the Series 3 down to about 6- or 7-feet deep on a long cast.
Question: What pound-test line do you use with the spinner bait?
Menendez: I’ll be fishing it on at least 15-pound-test line, and the colder the water, the larger the line I’ll be using. When I’m using line sizes larger than 15-pound test, I’ll have to reel the spinner bait more slowly than normal. I may increase my line size to 25-pound test, and when I fish that heavy line, I really slow-down the spinner bait. I want to make the blades on the spinner bait barely turn, so they’ll tick a rock or a stump on the bottom. I want to keep that spinner bait right on the breakline.
Question: What size of largemouth and smallmouth bass will you catch on the Tennessee River in December and January?
Menendez: I’ve hooked a number of 3-1/2- to 5-pound smallmouths and largemouths. I may catch a largemouth that weighs 3-1/2- to 6 pounds, and catching a 5-1/2-pound smallmouth is never out of the realm of possibilities.
Question: Which one of the Tennessee River lakes do you like to fish at this time of year?
Menendez: I prefer to fish Kentucky Lake as long as the water doesn’t muddy-up. Kentucky Lake will have productive bass fishing all winter, and if I have water clarity of 12 to 15 inches, the bass will readily be accessible with crankbaits or spinner baits, if I fish from daylight until dark, for 8 or 9 hours. My average catch should be between eight and 15 solid keeper bass, and I’ve had days at this time of year when I’ve caught and released 100 bass in a day.
Question: How long will this good bass fishing last?
Menendez: It’s a relatively-short period, when the water’s around 45 to 51 degrees. We often have good fishing until Super Bowl Sunday, if we don’t get muddy water, and the water temperature stays between 45 and 51 degrees. You can catch bass on Kentucky Lake all winter on the Series 3 crankbait and the Premier Pro-Model spinner bait. Most people north of the Mason-Dixon Line don’t realize that we have outstanding fishing all winter on Kentucky Lake. I’ve even caught bass in 36-degree water temperatures. I only caught four bass that day, but I had two bass in the 6-pound range.
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