Fishing in the Ozarks — December/January 2013

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Vanessa Thomas fishing Lake Norfork
Vanessa Thomas fishing Lake Norfork

Story and photographs by Matt Peters

“I had never caught a bass. I caught 5 of them today, and they were bigger than the ones Matt caught!”

That’s what Vanessa Thomas, principal at Mountain Home Kindergarten, had to say when we fished Lake Norfork for Ozark bass.

As lakes in the Ozarks cool down, fish tend to move deep. They might be anywhere from 25 to 50 feet deep, and winter can be a great time to catch them. The drop shot rig, which consists of a weight on the end of your line and a small nose hook attached a foot above the weight, rigged with a small soft plastic worm or bait fish imitation, is a great technique for catching deep Ozark bass.

“The drop shot rig is easy to fish,” Vanessa says. “Matt had me just drop it over the side of the boat, let it sink to the bottom, jiggle it around, and reel it up a little. The fish loved it.”

vanessa-5Vanessa loves the outdoors, but she hasn’t fished much. I was impressed by how quickly she picked up the drop shot rig and with little instruction caught some nice quality bass. The fish tend to school in groups in the winter, so when you catch one, you can usually catch more.

Lakes like Norfork, Bull Shoals, Beaver, Table Rock, and Greers Ferry are all pretty deep and clear. You can catch fish in the winter with a drop shot rig in all of them. You want a 10-20-inch leader between your weight and nose hook. vanessa-2Choose soft plastic baits, keeping it simple. Use 6-inch straight tail worms, like the Robo Worm, or shad-shaped baits, like the Yamamoto Shad Shape. Greens, browns, purples, and baitfish colors always seem to work. The drop shot is best fished on a spinning rod and reel with 6-8 pound line, which is great for beginning anglers. It is a lot of fun to fight and land a good-sized fish from 25+ feet deep on light line and spinning gear.

Vanessa was impressed with the electronics on the bass boat. “It shows you fish, rocks, trees, and even your lure!” she says.

I like to idle around and, using my electronics, look for activity, and then fish there. That way you don’t waste time fishing areas where there are no fish or bait. Remember to slow down when you are fishing in the winter, and be thorough. The fish aren’t usually super active, so fish slowly and take your time.

More advanced anglers should try fishing a small swimbait, like the 3-inch Big Hammer on a 1/4-ounce head. Make a long cast, parallel to the steep walls and off the points, let it sink to the bottom, and slowly reel it back. Small swimbaits worked for Vanessa and me too, and are another tool for catching fish in winter. Dress warm and give it a (drop) shot.

M! DJ 2013


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