April 27, 2016
Bassmaster Elite pro Chris Zaldain is a native southern Californian. When I asked his favorite mid-winter lake for trophies or quality bass, he asked, "Can it be in Oklahoma?" I responded, somewhat skeptically, "Sure." And Zaldain said, "Let's make it Lake of the Arbuckles. It's the best winter bass fishing in the Midwest."
Located in the scenic Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma, this rocky and very clear (6- to 8-foot visibility) reservoir is not your typical Oklahoma fishery. And it's a great place to catch 6-plus largemouth in the middle of winter. Expect air temps in the 40s and 50s, water temp in the low 50s.
Zaldain searches main-lake points with sharp drop-offs to the river channel and off-shore rock piles for clouds of shad on his electronics. Fifteen to 25 feet is the magic depth.
Zaldain temps big bites with a swimbait fished either solo or on an umbrella rig. His swimbait of choice is a Megabass Spark Shad, 4 or 5 inch in albino. Zaldain fishes his umbrella rigs with all swimbaits the same size, ¼ ounce jigheads on the top two arms, ½ ounce jigheads on the bottom arms. Heavy, but he's fishing 15- to 25-feet deep. He prefers rigs with blades for the added flash, but the blades create more lift and, therefore, require a heavier rig. Adjust the presentation to the depth of the bass in the water column, but usually you will be hugging the bottom.
When confronted with sunny and windy conditions, especially a warm south wind, Zaldain looks for a reaction bite in shallower water with a glide-style swimbait, like a Megabass I-Slide in silver salmon color. He looks for 8- to 10-feet deep water near deep water along wave-washed shores. In many spots, he is just moving shoreward on the points he fished with the swimbait or umbrella rig.
Are there other ways to catch aggressive Arbuckle bass? "Sure," said Zaldain, "but save all that diversity stuff for later in the year when the bass are pre-spawn."
Zaldain describes himself as the "why man." "Always ask 'why'. Why did I get bit? Why here? Why not there?" That's how to turn data into information and patterns.
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