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Winter Strategies

Winter Strategies

Feb 12, 2012

Hot tips for cold weather bass fishing

By Mike Pehanich

It’s the second week in February, and winter has made a comeback in the upper Midwest. No, not the record snows that we experienced about a year ago, but enough snow, chill and north wind to set back thoughts of much open water fishing in February.

Here are three suggestions for iced-in anglers:

1) Go South, young man! – February and March are prime months for southern bass.  Florida, Alabama and Texas in particular offer abundant waters and big bass that can be far more obliging this time of year than later on.  All three states offer not only marquee big waters, but great small water opportunities, too. Try the lakes of Polk County and the Orlando area of Florida for a nice mix. (Make sure you pack a high-quality travel rod when  Alabama also has two of my favorite private fishing destinations: Great Southern Outdoors (see our Destination feature) and the two lakes of Dream Lake Lodge in Livingston, Alabama. (You’ll read about Dream Lake in SWF very soon.)

2) Bundle up for a cooling lake bass experience – If you can’t afford the time for a snowbird escape, research the cooling lakes in your state. Electric power plants have reservoirs or, in some cases, constructed lake basinscreated to cool their generators. The warm water discharge from these generators provides the lake with moderate to hot water temperatures that extend the growing season of their fish populations.

Power plant cooling lakes can provide outstanding winter bass even when neighboring waters are frozen solid. This one came from Newton Lake in central Illinois. (CLICK PHOTO FOR INFORMATION)

Try these: My home state of Illinois has good to excellent power plant lakes in the central and southern portion of the state, including Newton, (see Destination feature on Outdoor Sportsman’s Lodge), LaSalle, Powerton, Baldwin, Sangchris, Coffeen and Lake of Egypt, to name but a few. But check out the options in your own backyard.  Several years ago, I enjoyed great success with guide and pro angler Brad Wiegmann on SWEPCO Lake in northwest Arkansas.

These lakes may be acres or more in size, but often they are relatively narrow lakes with abundant coves and creek arms that offer protection from biting winds and rough waters. Best of all, they can produce big bass, stripers, hybrids, channel cats, crappie and other species. Tip: Locate the plant’s warm water discharge, and concentrate your fishing in waters that provide moderate temperatures down current.

3) Ice out pond hopping – Get your tackle ready, and keep an eye on local ponds. They are usually the first waters to thaw and often produce the biggest bass of the season before the bulk of the local angling population is rigged and ready for open water fishing.

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