It’s been a crazy winter so far this year on Lake Wylie, but bass have continued to feed – albeit not in a traditional winter pattern. Now that things are starting to normalize fish may start to behave more typically for this time of year.
About a week ago rain last fell in the Lake Wylie area, and as a result water levels have been fairly constant for the last few days. Four days ago Wylie was at 98.0% of full pool, and the most recent readings show that the lake is at 97.9% of full pool. Water levels have only fluctuated by a few tenths of a percent in the intervening period, and the fish may finally be getting their bearings. That represents a real change, because tournament angler Bryan New reports that for much of the late fall and early winter water levels have literally jumped overnight by a couple of feet following big rains, and then fallen by the same amount just as quickly. Fish didn’t know what to do.
To go along with crazy water levels for much of the winter, air and in turn water temperatures have also been jumping around – but may be starting to stabilize. A few weeks ago water temperatures were about 55 degrees, then they jumped up to 60, and then they dropped down into the lower 50s again. Unless there is another heat wave temperatures should continue to drop in a more normal winter pattern.
At the same time that water levels and temperatures are starting to normalize, water clarity is starting to get more typical for this time of year. Bryan says the lake was colored red, but now it’s starting to get more towards just stained. Right now he characterizes it as dirty.
While a confluence of factors have messed with water conditions and kept fish from getting into a typical winter pattern, overall Bryan says the bite is pretty good and should get better. Up-and-down water levels, fluctuating temperatures and dirty water have scattered the bass out, but they can be caught several different ways. Fish are in both the creeks and the main lake, and they can be found anywhere from shallow to deep water. There is one distinct pattern in 5-8 feet of water, and another in 15-20 feet.
On the shallower side the best bite has been around geographical features such as natural rock and red clay banks, in both the creeks and on the main lake. Because of stained conditions Bryan is opting for high visibility baits such as white and chartreuse spinnerbaits, bulky Greenfish jigs and square-billed crankbaits. Bryan reasons that fish in the creeks are more likely to be feeding on bait and so he opts for a shad pattern in the creeks, while on the main lake at this time of year he thinks they are more likely to be eating crayfish and uses a crawfish pattern. He likes to keep his color choices simple and has one crawfish imitation and one shad imitation pattern for clear water, and another for stained water. He bases the bait he throws on the area and the clarity.
For deeper fish in the 15-20 foot range the Alabama rig bite is starting to pick up, and as water conditions clear it will get even better. There are already some less stained pockets where the Alabama rig is working well. Bryan fishes the Alabama rig off drop-offs and around points, but he could also decide to throw it in the middle of a creek channel if he marks a lot of bait. Bryan says that with an Alabama rig you are really fishing the bait and being around shad schools is more critical than the location. His personal favorite Alabama rigs are Shane’s Baits 9-arm Alabama rigs like the Blades of Glory Upper will seriously outfish other Alabama rigs that only have five arms.
Check back soon for a new catfish report from Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828).
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