As the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday celebrations approach, Old Man Winter is taking hold across the country.
But that doesn’t mean the year’s good bass fishing is over, particularly on power plant lakes scattered around bass country. There are places in Texas, Oklahoma, the Midwest, and the Deep South where warm water discharge keeps largemouth bass happy and active all winter long.
While such lakes are dwindling as environmental regulations change, there are still a few power plant possibilities in certain places.
If one of those lakes happens to be near you, don’t leave home without these five baits suggested by power plant lake fishing enthusiast Kelly Jordon, the Flint, Texas bass pro with wins on the Bassmaster Elite Series, the FLW Tour, and the Major League Fishing circuit.
According to bass fishing pro Kelly Jordon, there are at least five baits that a power plant angler will want to keep handy this winter including a squarebill crankbait. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Texas-rigged soft plastics
For Jordon, winner of the 2013 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup on North Texas’ Lake Ray Roberts, soft plastics in either green pumpkin or black-and-blue combinations will always be handy on the front deck of his Skeeter bass rig.
“You've got to have some type of Texas-rigged soft plastic bait," said KJ, also the winner of four B.A.S.S. tourneys and one FLW Tour event.
For fish moving up to spawn, Jordon says a Texas-rigged craw or lizard can be good: “And I’d have to put a jig-and-trailer in the same category, since it’s a compact bait that you can pitch and/or flip tight to cover.”
What about if power-plant lake bass are moving onto the beds?
"When you get into that situation, you've just got to have a dad gum Senko-kind of bait to fish with if you're around spawning fish," said Jordon. "There are other baits you can use – like a lizard – but a weightless Senko style soft-plastic is just deadly on fish around the spawn."
For KJ’s weightless Senko presentation – usually in green pumpkin and/or watermelon red if visibility is good – he likes a six-inch version. And he’ll often go even bigger for a seven-inch version since it’s a “… big bite kind of bait.”
If the bulkier Senko presentation won’t work and the bite is tough, Jordon often resorts to 15-pound test line and a Texas-rigged trick worm to elicit a strike.
As a big bass specialist who has caught plenty of double-digit lunkers in East Texas waters, KJ is a big fan of swimbaits.
"I'd (love fishing) five- to seven-inch swimbaits," said Jordon. "You swim a hollow-belly swimbait down the bank of one of these power plant lakes, and either the pre-spawners or the spawners will just put the smackdown on it."
Out of the myriad of swimbait options available, KJ has one he is partial to.
“I like the Basstrix style,” said Jordon. “The seven-inch version has been the hot size the last few years. Since such swimbaits are big bite generators, if you’re going to throw a swimbait, don’t be scared to go big. You’re going to waste your time if all you catch are a bunch of two-pounders. That can be an expensive day.”
To fish these baits, Jordon says that he will not heavily weight them since lighter weights keep the swimbait higher in the water column: “During the spawn, the fish are going to be looking up, so you want to keep these baits shallow.”
One of modern fishing’s popular “new school” lures, KJ loves to use the ChatterBait style of lure.
“ChatterBaits are awesome for fish moving into the breeding cycle and for post-spawn fish as well,” said Jordon. “I love to use those baits around vegetation, rock and rip-rap, which is a great staging area for pre-spawn fish, by the way.”
Jordon will opt for either a 3⁄8-ounce or ½-ounce size in a small selection of colors.
“There are only three colors for ChatterBaits in my mind,” said KJ. “I’ll use a white one to imitate shad, maybe one with a little chartreuse in the tail. Then I’ll use green pumpkin for crawfish or bream. And finally, I’ll have a black/blue version since the really dark baits are good for early and late in the day and for off-colored water too. And if you press me for another color, I might add a red one on occasion too.”
Jordon likes to use a Lake Fork Live Magic Shad for a trailer, often dipping the tails.
“It’s the greatest trailer ever, especially the Golden Bream, the one that looks like tilapia with a little gold flake in it,” he said. “I’ll use either the 3-½-inch or the five-inch size, whichever one floats your boat, changing it up to see how the bait runs and what the fish want.”
Like many successful pros, KJ isn’t afraid to go “old school” with a spinnerbait.
“My standard go-to spinnerbait is either a 3⁄8-ounce or ½-ounce willow leaf spinnerbait in a shad pattern,” said Jordon. “I’ll fish it shallow around grass, fish it over offshore grass, slow roll it, things like that.”
Why the spinnerbait?
“It’s a bit of a different look these days,” said Jordon. “The spinnerbait shines in stumps, around emergent vegetation, around docks, etc. They are good early and late, especially if the water has a little bit of color to it.”
Jordon also notes that the lure does well when the sun goes down.
“On these power plant lakes, the night fishing can be good, especially with a black spinnerbait, something like a ¾-ounce or 1-ounce bait with a #6 Colorado blade,” he said. “Throw that out in the right spot and they’ll knock the fire out of it.”
Jordon points to a 10.25-pound Fairfield Lake bass he caught at night as proof of this bait’s usefulness in the dark.
“We were catching a lot of giant pre-spawners, plenty of fives and sixes, then an eight,” said Jordon. “We kept on fishing into the dark because they were biting so good that day. About an hour or two after it got dark, that’s when I caught that 10-plus.”
A final bait you’ll always find tied onto a Duckett Fishing rod lying on KJ’s front deck is a squarebill crankbait.
“This is a cover the water kind of bait,” said Jordon. “It’s pretty weedless so you can throw it around grass, near wood, on the rocks, etc. You can bounce it off a stump, rip it out of the grass, things that will get that reaction bite.”
KJ says that the squarebill is a great lure to get a bite when the fishing is tough.
“I think it’s a little better than a lipless crankbait when you have fish going into the spawn or even the post-spawn,” he said. “The squarebill is good on active fish, especially in shallow water where it’s a proven fish catcher.”
With a variety of Lucky Craft squarebills available – versions designed by Jordon, Takahiro Omori and Skeet Reese – KJ will vary the size as the bite dictates from smaller 1.5 sizes to huge 5.5 versions.
“My new favorite is that 5.5,” said Jordon. “It’s a great big squarebill that will go about 10 feet down. If you get a bite on that, look out.”
What colors does he use?
“There are so many great (shad) colors, but those bluegill patterns, bass particularly hate bluegills around the spawn,” said Jordon.
And on a cold winter’s day spent fishing a power plant lake, having a bait tied on that a hefty bucketmouth bass loves to hate is never a bad thing.