Dealing with challenge of winter bait

January 12, 2013

Even though I do not generally use live bait in the winter, on occasion I have to catch some on request.

Most people state how difficult it can be to catch bait in the dead of winter, and it can be because the fish generally move deep. I used to say this as well, but if you use your electronics you can be more successful this time of the year.

Many folks will drive to shallower lakes like Lake Proctor to catch bait, which is a good option, except for the fuel costs. Yes they are easier to catch because the deepest part of this lake is around 25 feet deep and the lake is full of bait.

Lake Proctor is a nutrient-rich reservoir that breeds bait like no other local reservoir. I used to go there in the winter as well, but now I only frequent the lake during the spring and summer to chase hybrid stripers.

Our Lake Granbury has tremendous amounts of shad as well. Our body of water has deeper depths that can make the bait catching more difficult.

Right now most of the bait you will find will be in 32 to 38 feet of water in or near the original river channel. If we have a couple of warm days, some of the shad will move shallower, especially during the warmest part of the day.

You can and will locate huge clouds of bait in the deeper channels. The original river channel is typically void of trees (not always). Once you find these large schools, you can toss a marker to keep your reference to where you are going to throw your net.

Typically in the winter, these “clouds” of bait will be on or near the bottom and as can be 10 to 15 feet thick. I feel relatively safe throwing in the original river channel, as it is a sand bottom with generally little to no snags (nothing is guaranteed).

You will have to learn to find these “safe” spots to toss your net, and hopefully you won’t tear or lose many nets. This is part of the hazard anywhere you toss your net.

Use the biggest net allowed by Texas law (7-foot radius which has a 14-foot diameter) and make sure you have additional rope added to the net line so the net can reach the bottom. Some add additional weight to the net to make it sink faster (this is a real good idea).

It will take a little while for the net to sink that far down, but it will get there. The net will fall in a bell shape, which reduces the diameter of the net during the fall. Pull it back quick when it hits bottom so as to cinch the net closed quickly.

This time of year the bait is somewhat lethargic, which allows you to catch some of these bait fish at these deeper depths, but many will still swim out from under the net as it falls.

It may take a little extra work in deep water, but you will get bait if you are persistent. Throwing on those thick schools is your best chance to catch shad in deep water.

If you prefer to throw in shallower water, right now you can find bait in 22 to 24 feet of water around the Hunter Park area or up in the deeper holes in the river (if you can get there). There are many places with bait on our lake.

A couple of warm days in the middle of winter may bring back considerable amounts of bait back into the shallows and into the creeks as I alluded to earlier.

I suggest trying to catch bait in the dead of winter by picking the warmest part of the day.

On a power plant lake, the warm water discharge can be a great place to locate baitfish. Granbury’s power plant has been mothballed, but I hear there are potential future plans to put a new plant on Granbury at the same location.

Just upstream of the existing hot water outlet on Granbury are some power lines that run across the lake. I have caught bait there in 40-plus feet of water in the dead of winter by using my electronics to locate the thick schools and tossing numerous times until the net catches them.

I generally prefer artificial baits in the winter, and I am tremendously successful with them. In fact they will outfish live bait on most days.

Some days the live bait may be needed and you should know how to catch them anytime of the year. Understand their movements with water temperature changes and you will be successful.

If the water warms and they are not shallow, keep moving deeper until you find them.

If you find a muddy creek in the winter, the sun will warm this muddy water quicker and the bait will tend to move into the muddy water to warm up.

If it’s calm outside, look for signs on the surface for bait rising. Eventually, catching bait will be second nature on most days.

Granbury has tremendous amounts of bait fish as the amount of predators have been reduced to the last golden algae kill about two years back. The bait fish rebound quickly, but the larger fish take longer to rebound.

There have been times on Granbury where bait is almost impossible to catch, especially right after a golden algae kill. In this case, you may have to travel to another lake like Benbrook or Proctor to catch shad. When shad is the preferred bait, you do what you have to do.

I hope this helps many of you that have expressed frustration with bait catching in the winter. If you are persistent, Granbury has plenty of bait fish to catch. You just might have to go a little deeper.


As I write this article and report, the rain is falling. I hope it continues to fall.

Water temperatures are in the upper 40s. Black bass fishing continues to be fair to good near main lake points.

Sand bass fishing is fair to good on the lower ends and near town on slabs. Stripers continue to be slow.

Squaw Creek reservoir (power plant lake) is one of the most popular fishing spots in Texas in the winter. Black bass to 6 pounds are common on soft plastics.

Numerous tournaments are being held on Squaw Creek due to the warmer water on this lake. Catfish continue to be good on prepared baits as well on Squaw Creek.

Hybrid striper action continues to be good on soft plastics on Benbrook, Bridgeport and Lewisville.

Best striper fishing continues to be on Lake Texoma. Birds will point you to active fish.

Best crappie lake close to Granbury is lake Benbrook. Lots of big crappie up to 2.5 pounds are being caught these days.

Whitney stripers are slow however Crappie in the river above Whitney is fair to good on small jigs and minnows.

A new lake record hybrid yellow bass was caught on Benbrook last week (weighed in at 2.16 pounds). A hybrid yellow bass is a cross between a yellow bass and a white bass.

[email protected] |817-578-0023

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Category: Sports Archived