Volume 1, Issue 4
February 2, 2007

Clear Lake 2007

Here comes another year of action on the best trophy fishery on the West Coast, Clear Lake. From tournament competitors to trophy fishermen, everyone wants a slice of time here in my backyard.

At this time there are a total of 54 tournaments scheduled for the lake, a new record number. Big events on the lake include the FLW’s tour & Stren series, the B.A.S.S. Elite series, the normal year ending fish-offs in September and October, and one of the largest purse team tournaments to take place in California, the Vanity Cup. What this means to you is...weekends will be busy. To see if any of your trip planning may run up against one of these events, check out the Record Bee’s web site in the sports section called the tournament planner.

We have not had very much rain to date so the lake is a little over three feet lower than last year at this time. Since last year we had an overabundance of rain over the New Year’s weekend, it means the lake is about normal for the year. The good news is no rain, no run-off, relatively clear water, even if it is colder than normal, the clear water is more conducive to fish activity.

Winter Fishing... Live Bait...

Many of the trips I do during the winter season are live bait trips. For the uninitiated, live golden shiners are used either under a slip float or “fly lined” in areas likely to hold big fish.

The slip float method utilizes an elongated foam or balsa float that has a hollow tube run on its center axis. Below the float is a split shot big enough to hold the minnow down and a size 1 octopus hook. Above the float a stop is tied that will slide up and down the line. The purpose of this rig is to precisely get the bait to a certain depth and hold it there. Typically, we set the knot to hold the bait about a foot off the bottom. The beauty of this rig is that it works in four feet of water or twenty-four feet of water. In my opinion, the excitement of using this system is watching the float slowly swim off, getting deeper and deeper, while you count off in anticipation of setting the hook into a fish size that you don’t know yet! Believe me, it is not easy to do a 7 count when you see your float headed back into the tules or trees!

The fly line rig is a simpler rig. All you need is a number 6 or 4 light circle hook and a bb size split shot. This rig has less rigging and therefore more feel of the actual bait in action. You can feel the minnow getting nervous, agitated, eaten...without the visual. The big difference here is the hook set. With the circle hook, it is best to let the rod load up rather than rear back to pound the iron home. It does its job by slowly sliding along through the mouth until it catches the corner and buries. The circle hook is surprisingly effective when set properly. I like this presentation when fishing a little deeper water and more vertically.

Live shiners are bought locally and the size we use of 4” to 6” are classed as jumbos. They run about $12 a dozen and on a normal day an angler will go through two to three dozen. During this time of year they hold up well during the day in the boat’s live well.

Winter Fishing...Artificials...

Winter fishing can be defined for our purposes on Clear Lake as the water temperatures of 40 to 55 degrees. Most winters here the water temp. will hang around the mid 40 degree range. This winter, I saw 39.8 for a morning low in Lakeport and it got to 42 that day. Of course, in some of the back waters during that week ice actually formed out to about ten feet from shore.

One of the most effective presentations for this time of year is ripping. It is also called jerkbaiting. The family of jerkbaits features hard baits that are mostly minnow shaped. These baits have bills to make them run shallow to deep and carry either two or three treble hooks. Most of these baits now are built to suspend, meaning that they will sit still without sinking or floating. If an angler wants to create his own suspending baits, lead strips are available to weight the baits until they do suspend.

Rip baits are effective because when retrieved properly, they look like a distressed baitfish, easy prey in cold water. Largemouth are not that active in winter water temperatures and not going to chase a fast moving bait. This is where the typical rip bait action comes into play. Erratic pulls, mixed lengths and cadences, combined with timed pauses to let the bait suspend, perfectly still, for up to 20 seconds finally trigger a fish because it just looks like too easy a meal to catch.

Plastic worms work well all year long and winter is no exception. Whether drop shotted or thrown on a light dart head, they do a good job of mimicking small, cold, sluggish baitfish. Keep the worms short and small, three to four and a half inches long. Work them very slowly. Normal dart head weights on the heavy side are the 1/8 ounce down to the specialty sized 1/32 ounce. These baits are most effective when allowed to fall on a slack line which allows the baits to spiral down...much like a dying shad.

Winter Tips...Use a Scent...

This is the one time of the year that I really believe in the extra edge that application of a scent to your bait will make. Late last winter, I had a pair of anglers from Las Vegas fishing for a day. The more experienced of the two was in the back of the boat doing his own thing while I really worked with his less experienced friend on my end of the boat. As the hours went by, both anglers were catching fish and having the kind of day they came here to experience.

When I had a chance to see what was going on in the back of the boat, I noticed that he was applying a scent to his jig pretty regularly. One thing I had already seen was that when he set the hook, he landed a fish. My student was missing more than he was hooking and if we could get him to hook more of the bites, he was going to have an awesome day. We started sharing the scent and the numbers started evening out for both ends of the boat.

The main thing it accomplished was the fish tasting something natural when they bit and each fish held on to the bait just a little longer. That gave these guys the edge to identify the light bites before the fish released the baits, meaning more hook ups. Now when confronted with tough conditions, I use a scent faithfully.

Winter Tips...Sharp Hooks...

Due to the nature of timid bites from cold bass, tip the odds in your favor by making sure that you are using quality, sharp hooks.

I have found that the hooks that come with many of the premium hard baits are high quality and sticky sharp. Years ago, you pretty much had to replace all hard bait hooks to get the right ones, not so much anymore. I still look at hooks on new baits that I try. I am looking for a good, open, round bend with hook points that will stick in a fingernail with out putting a hard push on them. If the hooks look like standard economy hooks I switch them out with Gamakatsu replacement trebles. These hooks have held up well for me and are reasonably priced.

The biggest reason you want the sharpest hook you can get is due to the often half hearted effort a fish will put into taking the bait. They can engulf and spit a bait out with even the most experienced angler not having a clue. The sharper the hook, the better the chance a point may stick inside the mouth just long enough for you to figure out something is different and set the hook. This is actually good insurance during the entire year but most important now.

Check your hook points often...all of them and don’t think that just one of the six is rough, oh well...go six for six and be ready!

Water Temperature...

It is almost as important to find the warmest water temperature available as it is to worry about what and how to fish. Winter and spring are the two seasons when the lake may have many differences in water temps. Our lake sits in a manner that a little look at the map gives huge suggestions at where you might locate warmer water.

Two simple facts give big hints about the air temps; cold storms come from the north and warm storms come from the south. As storms move in from the north the cold surface water is blown away towards the north facing shores. In most cases, trees, houses, and tules protect the water on the shore and the wind tends to hit the water quite a ways off shore. Once the storm passes and clear skies return, sun hits these protected areas and they will warm up a little quicker. Looking at Clear Lake, the stretch of Nice to Rodman slough tends to have the warmest water on the north end due to this effect. Consequently, looking directly across the lake the area of Corinthian Bay may be 3 to 5 degrees colder due to its exposure to the North.

Also, as a general rule here, due to the deeper water and more rock, the water in the mid section of the lake will typically be warmer by several degrees than the upper lake. This is one of the reasons why we focus on the stretch of bank below Buckingham Point. Much of this bank is protected from the north and catches a lot of sun on clear days.

Think about this when you are looking for keys on where to start your search for bass during a tough time of year.

Status of Crappie...

For those of you who have enjoyed the red hot action of the past two years, I have not forgotten. The simple truth is crappie have been wiped out by meat fishermen. You will still hear reports of people catching fish this year but when you look closely at the numbers, a great day is 20 to 30 fish for the best day.

There is still a chance that when the fish on the North end of the lake move into spawning areas, we will be able to put on some good days with high numbers. I am waiting to see on this one, but I will keep checking and let you know if I find anything positive.

Open Weekend Dates in February...

Saturday the 24th and Sundays on the 18th and 25th.

Our Web Page...

If you have not spent much time on clearlakeguideservice.com, check it out. There is a lot of useful information available. Local lodging, weather, and even lake level reporting is available through the links we have set up. Need something we don’t have displayed? Let me know and I will consider adding it.

We have also made changes to our rate page effective January 2007.

Good fishing and I look forward to seeing you soon!