January is not the most pleasant month to be out on East Texas lakes casting for bass, but hey, it could always be worse, like, uh … February.
But on the bright side of things, this is a month that a lot of anglers begin their hunt for lunker bass on East Texas lakes, specifically Fork and Sam Rayburn.
I’ve fished quite a bit on most of the big East Texas reservoirs. But the best, bar none, is Sam Rayburn. Rayburn covers plenty of bass habitat like fallen timber, brush, willows and all sorts of aquatic vegetation. During the summer months, hundreds of acres of water will be covered with hydrilla. Conversely, during cold winter months all that vegetation is knocked back to several feet under the water’s surface.
So where do you fish on Big Sam during January? The creek channels are like magnets to bass here. And the adjacent flats are where you’ll find a lot of the big bass on warm, sunny afternoons.
Regardless of what lake you’ll be fishing on right about now, you’ll usually do best on the side that’s being drenched in sunshine. That’s where the water on the creek channel flats will warm up in the afternoons. And that’s where you’ll find bass moving up on the flats and running shad along the drops.
I love to fish cranks in cold water, specifically on sunny afternoons. But there are days when you can’t beat pitching a jig for bass along the old Angelina River channel and in the many creeks. That’s where you’ll likely find lure maker and pro bass angler Lonnie Stanley.
“I like to pitch jigs to the willows along the river channel and in the creeks in January,” said Stanley. “That’s a natural year-round holding area for scattered big bass. What I like to do is pitch a jig so that it falls straight down beside the tree. The trick is to watch your line. If it suddenly stops set the hook. Or if it runs off to one side, set the hook. You have to be alert. But this technique is one that has put a lot of big bass in the boat for me.”
You can’t go wrong with a 1/2-ounce Stanley jig in black/blue or black/brown. Add some sort of trailer and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget that a lipless crank is always good to use on Rayburn. A crawfish colored 1/2 ounce Super Spot is death on big bass holding in grass that’s about 8 to 12 feet deep.
Fishing on Lake Fork is always good. I don’t care what time of day, week, month or year it is. If you can get to this lake, GO. It’s produced more 13-pound-plus bass than any other lake in Texas.
Located 5 miles west of Quitman and 15 miles south of Sulphur Springs, Fork covers 27,690 acres. That’s small when compared to Rayburn, but the bass fishing speaks for itself.
Regardless of where you fish on Fork, the potential for a state record bass is as good as it gets in Texas. January is not the ultimate big bass month to be fishing here, but it’s when some monsters have been caught, specifically the current state record bass weighing 18.18 pounds. That lunker was caught on Jan. 24, 1992. It’s a good reason to think about fishing live baits deep. This particular bass was caught on a live minnow by a crappie fisherman.
I’m not too big on fishing live baits for bass, or for anything else. But if you absolutely and positively have to catch a state record, you might want to rig up with a live minnow and fish deep structure along the many creek channels and pond dams at Fork.
Other good structure on the lake includes extended points, creek channel flats, ditches, roads, fence lines and along the edge of any type of submerged vegetation.
Fishing a 5/16-ounce Stanley jig along creek channel structure is a very good option. A black and blue jig with pork frog trailer is perfect. I’ve done well with Carolina-rigged worms in plum/red flake.
The water temperature will likely be in the 50s, so don’t expect bass to be super active on Fork. It’s going to be a slow, soft bite. But persistence usually pays off. And when you’re fishing Fork, you never know if that next tap is going to be a monster bass.
Regardless of where you might be fishing in January, don’t forget to keep a close eye on the weather. Cold fronts are a fact of life for Texas anglers right now. And many a fisherman has been caught in open water when a blue norther comes rolling through. Play it safe. Keep the lifejackets on or handy, watch the weather and always let somebody know when you’ll be off the water.