Late November through February on ClearLake can be feast or famine. With the lakes high elevation, air temperatures can get into the low 30s at nights and not much more than 45 during the day. Fog is common in November and December. The bass here can be very difficult to catch on artificial lures. Some of the most productive fishing is found in the deeper end of the lake, mostly where the schools of shad are present. Find the deep schools of shad, youíll find the warmest area of the lake holding bass as well. Look for deeper areas below 15 feet, with the many structural changes offered at this end of the lake. The bass love these depth changes and will hold on them for weeks at a time. Also, donít over look the shallows. Many times large schools of catchable bass with move into the flats and roam among the slight sloping bottoms. Donít overlook the obvious, in and around docks in wind protected bays can produce great fishing too.
In the winter, a jig-n-pig will produce some serious fish up here, key in on the big rocky banks and many rock piles of the south end of the lake. Fishin can be slow, so ya gotta stay alert, one of Clearís giants could gobble that jig at any time. Another good productive bait here is the deeper Norman and Poe crankbaits. Stick to shad patterns in white, chrome, and blues when the sun is out, and then revert to the chartreuse shad baits when itís overcast or the water is stained. If youíre looking for that fish of a lifetime, fishing deep with these two baits is your best bet. There are those, who do real well on this pattern at night in the winter, but be aware of the evening breezes, it can git ugly up here from time to time. Also, be sure to bring your spoons. Spoon jiggin at the ends of docks with depths of 18-30 foot and loaded with shad, is a proven winter technique up here.
When fishing this pond in the winter, no angler should be out there without a Lucky Craft Jerkbait. These fish will eat the whole line up of Lucky Craft jerkbaits. A personal favorite is the Aurora black/blue. The closer you get to spring, the ghost minnow starts to kick in as Clearlakeís Hitch population starts to move to the shallows. On nasty overcast days, the chartreuse shad is a gem. The best presentation has always been a couple of short jerks to git the bait down, then long pauses before the next twitch or jerk. Donít go rippin this bait lake ya do on the lakes with spots and smallies, the lethargic bass of Clearlake will not chase down a bait that is moving too fast. Look for areas with big flats between the scattered docks, also long sloping tapering points as well. A lipless crankbait can also be very effective in these areas.
One of my more recent discoveries on Clear Lake is that these bass, much like the spots on our foothill lakes, are very susceptible to striking a 6Ē Zoom Lizard fished on a Carolina rig. Dropping down to a 3/8oz egg sinker with a 2-foot leader, chuck and wind this rig in these flat areas like ya would a crank bait. Best depths seem to be in 5-15 feet.
Last but not least, due to the very difficult times spent on Clear Lake in the winter, a large number of anglers are now going after the bass up here with live minnows. Many times you may not get bit or are fishing for one bite all day up here. Other times you will catch 20-30, but none of them may be over 2 pounds. The fish are so keyed in on the shad, they tend to shy away from most other offerings, especially when we slow down and give them a chance to see our baits. Live minnow fishing on a Split shot, Dropshot or Carolina rig is deadly. Anglers doing this can count on 50-100 fish days up here in the winter. Youíll also notice the size of the fish that you catch will go up tremendously. It is also wise to bring a dip net with you. In the event ya run into a huge school of shad, scoop em up and toss em in the live well. They are deadly not only on the bass at this time of year, but the giant cat fish that love to come out and play in the winter as well. And donít fergit your crappie rigs. Toss small lead head jigs for some of the biggest slabs in the state.
Clear Lake is truly one of the best kept secretes for wintertime fishing. You can come here and catch fish of tremendous size, including the cats and crappie. Artificial lure fishing here can be very tough in the winter. I canít emphasize enough that you stop by Limit Out Tackle and see Bob fer at least two dozen minners. This bite will change the most avid anglerís thoughts on fishing with live bait for bass. Remember, if not fishing a tournament, then you really are just ďfunĒ fishin, I guarantee you will have a fun filled day here minner fishin in the Winter.
Good Luck & Keep a Tight Line!