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Power-Plant Lake Bass Fishing Heats Up in Winter

Power-Plant Lake Bass Fishing Heats Up in Winter
At some point in April, bass will be staging in relatively shallow water in response to the spawn. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Power-Plant Lake Bass
Interested in catching a wintertime bass on a topwater? This bass fell for that trick on an East Texas power plant lake. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

After cold and snow grip portions of Texas and the Deep South, expect the fishing action to begin heating up for power-plant lake bass.

How would you like to do some sight fishing for bass, even as snow flies through the air?

Or throw a frog or topwater plug to an explosive bass when icicles are hanging off the roof?

Or even catch a huge egg-laden bass when the wintertime weather is downright frightful?

Believe it or not, such scenarios are entirely possible for wintertime bass fishing in portions of Texas, Oklahoma, the Midwest, and the Deep South when warm water — even hot water — gets discharged into various power-plant lakes.

In general, power plants on these water bodies —  usually coal-fired plants —  take up lake water to use in cooling down their power production equipment. After the lake water is heated up in that process, it is discharged back into the lake, often through some sort of a canal.

The result can be a sizable plume of heated water that circulates through the lake and creates a big-time wintertime fishing bonanza. In fact, the water temperatures on such power-plant lakes can often be 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it is on nearby lakes.

If that sounds like some great wintertime fishing opportunity, Major League Fishing and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon couldn't agree more.

In fact, the Flint, Texas resident likens the prospect of fishing in such warm water spots as opening up a really big Christmas gift, albeit it one with fins and scales.

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"I actually caught the first 10-pounder of my whole life on a power-plant lake in East Texas," said Jordon, winner of the 2013 MLF Challenge Cup on Lake Ray Roberts. "It was in January on Fairfield Lake and I caught it in water that was right around the 58 to 60-degree mark on the bottom end of the lake."

What's more, that wasn't the only big bass that KJ caught that day.

"I actually caught an 8-pounder earlier in the day," said Jordon, winner of one FLW Tour event and four Bassmaster events. "I caught it on a Guido Bug, a soft plastic bait made famous by one of my heroes, Guido Hibdon."

While the number of power-plant lakes continues to dwindle as environmental regulations change, where such lakes remain active, the wintertime fishing can still be good.

"They just offer some great fishing in the wintertime thanks to the hot water being discharged into these lakes," said Jordon. "While the whole lake won't necessarily be super-hot, it will be much warmer than other nearby natural lakes.

"And that's going to have the fish thinking about spawning weeks before they'll do that on the other lakes. In essence, it's springtime fishing during the winter months."

Why is this so exciting during the frigid days of winter? Partly because the warmer water temperatures accelerate bass towards the spawn.

power-plant lake bass
Monticello Power Plant: The colder the weather is, the more likely it is that energy production will be operating at high capacity on power plant lakes. That should mean plenty of warm water circulating into such lakes, something that typically brings good fishing. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

"The spawn brings fish shallow and they are easier to catch, or at least we think so, when they're on the bank or heading to the bank," said Jordon. "That's what you're getting on these power-plant lakes in the winter."

Another reason such fishing is so exciting is that cold fronts can actually enhance the fishing, not sabotage it.

Why is that?

If the front is wickedly strong —  a proverbial Arctic blue norther that sends air temperatures plunging with bouts of snow and ice, like the recent snowstorm in the South —  that can actually make fishing easier to predict on power-plant lakes.

"When everybody has got their heaters turned on, that's when they turn these things up and get multiple stacks running," said Jordon. "So, with a super cold front, if you can stand to be out fishing, then there's a good chance that these power plants will be fully cranked up.

"When that happens, it causes two things to happen —  a lot more hot water is produced and distributed into the lake and more current is introduced into the lake as well.

"Why is that important? Because the fish —  and the baitfish —  are really going to tend to gravitate towards that warmer water."

Especially when that warmer water is being circulated through a lake by current.

"On such power-plant lakes, there is often enough water movement that you need to pay attention where the down-current side is around structural features and cover in the water," says Rob Woodruff, a longtime East Texas based Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide who targets wintertime bass on a number of power-plant lakes in the state's Pineywoods region.

"Like trout do in a stream, the bass will usually position themselves in the lee of that current and wait for it to bring food items their way."

James Caldemeyer, another longtime East Texas guide himself, agrees and points to bridges as potential great fishing hotspots on power-plant lakes during severe cold weather bouts.

Why? Current, that's why.

"The bridges will [hold] large numbers of fish as they relate to the current moving while the stacks are generating," said Caldemeyer. "In the winter, most of the fish activity revolves around the stacks. If they are running, the fish are biting!"

And that's the biggest pull of power-plant fishing, according to Jordon, especially since an angler might land dozens of fish while others are sitting at home in front of the fireplace looking at Christmas catalogs from their favorite fishing tackle retailer.

"They are just all-around great places to fish during the colder months of the year," said KJ. "If you've got cabin fever, you can go do some real fishing where you might have a chance to get 30 or 40 bites in a day instead of some place where the water is cold and you're looking at just two or three bites for the entire day."

What's the bottom line here? Well, while power plant lake numbers are slowly dwindling away, where they can still be found, there can still be some great wintertime fishing opportunity.

Because oftentimes during the winter months, as the popular Christmas song croons, baby it's cold outside. But since power-plant lakes boast good bass fishing  —  and an earlier than normal spawn —  who cares?

If you live anywhere near a power plant lake this winter season, that sounds like a great reason to bundle up and go bass fishing!

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