Chris Gibbons from Shell Knob Missouri on Table Rock Lake has found that cold water crankin’ is the best and most productive way to catch all three types of  bass, smallmouth, large mouth and spotted in cold water.  During these cold-water days, I generally don’t fish unless the outside air reaches at least 45 degrees.  You can catch bass when it’s 30-degrees  but it’s much more comfortable when it’s 45-degrees outside.

While others are throwing jerk baits, A Rigs, drop shot, top water and bottom baits, I maintain my efforts on crankin’.  Once you find those banks that hold fish during the spring and summer crankin times, you can bet that they are present in the winter months.  (Here’s a little hint:  My most productive banks in cold weather waters are not north facing banks, but true north banks that gets very little sunlight.)

By far, the best biting fish now are the spotted bass (known locally as Kentucky’s).  These bass get so fat during the winter months.  To me, they hold their body weight better then large mouth and small mouth.  My next best catch is the smallmouth bass followed up by the largemouth bass.

I feel strongly that the main forage during the winter is crawdad’s vs any other bait in the lake.  The crawdad has high protein and are much easier for bass to catch.  The next forage would be shad which can be hot.

By:  Chris Gibbons from Table Rock Lake Fishing Report

Let’s break it down.


I’ve found that my pattern of fishing cold water is identical to the pattern I use to night fishing for Bass on Table Rock Lake.  See my article in Bass Angler Magazine about night fishing here on Table Rock Lake.

Parallel the bankI set my boat as close to the bank as I can get it, sometimes I can reach out and touch the bank with my hand.  I make forward cast parallel as close to the bank and I can get.  Next, I cast away from the bank about 1 foot.  I will follow that up with another cast five feet from the bank.  This technique will target those feeding fish while allowing you to keep the bait in a hot strike zone longer.  Parallel fishing will keep you from tangling up in buck brush, rocks and trees as bad.

I almost always parallel fish while crankin’ in any season, but the winter water months it seems more productive.  I say that because of the vast amount and big fish I catch there.  A four or five pounder can be likely during this time.

Most often, I crank just as fast in the winter as I do in the spring and summer.  I like a fast-moving bait that covers a great deal of water for each cast, but additionally, I like the bait to really beat the bottom to death.  It appears that the harder I strike the bottom in the winter the more bass I catch.  This goes for water as shallow as 6 inches.  I find bass shallower in the winter then I do in the summer.


COLD WATER CRANKIN FOR BASSI generally throw a SPRO Rk Crawler 55 in the winter.  I use the 9-14-foot Rk Crawler 55, as it seems to work better here, again even in the 6 inches of water.  Why do I like such a deep diving bait in shallow water?  Because it strikes the bottom harder.

When Rk Crawler 55’s strikes the bottom, it has such an erratic action side to side then any other bait I’ve found.  Crazy types of side to side movement along with turning almost completely around sometimes, this make the Rk Crawler 55 more productive in my efforts.

I retrieve this bait two separate ways.

  1. I retrieve it Hard and Fast
  2. I also retrieve it Fast and Stop when the bait strikes the bottom to allow it to set

Retrieving it fast makes the bait go crazy, going in all types of directions.  It additionally allows you to cover more water quickly.  Just because the water is cold, it doesn’t always mean a slow presentation is your only choice.

Retrieving it fast and stop when the bait strikes the bottom can be deadly.  It allows those fish just sitting there to see the bait move erratic and pause.  It seems that pause is when I get the strikes.


I like a bait with bright colors here but feel the bait with red or red shades is my go-to.  It all depends on the mood of the fish at that time, the water clarity, the sky conditions, and what type of waves you are experiencing.  I most often cast a Rk Crawler 55 during this time, and here are the colors I carry.

  1. Electric Red Craw
  2. Missouri Craw
  3. Melon Craw
  4. Burnt Orange Craw
  5. Molting Craw
  6. PBJ
  7. Red Bug
  8. Red Crawfish
  9. Red River Craw

These are in no specific order.  However, if you notice, they are reflecting the crawdad.

Look at the pattern here on these crawdads.  Each picture mimics the prey you are trying to present and have the same colors of the crawdads.  My two personal favorites are Red Bug and Molting Craws.

Just because I like those two colors the best, I do throw all that I listed above depending on fishing conditions.  You also need to try and mimic the crawdad hatch.  How I discover the colors during each season is I throw a fish or two in the live well for a couple of hours and see if it throws up any crawdads.  Hopefully if it does, I know what colors I need to try and mimic.  You can also set live crawdads traps to discover the colors.

I also have two other baits that I will go to if the Rk Crawler doesn’t work.  Both are made by Strike King Lure Company.

COLD WATER CRANKIN FOR BASSThe Strike King 3 XD and 5XD, both in a crawdad color.  I work these baits in the same manner as I do the Rock Crawler getting that same erratic action.  You might ask yourself why I am using the 5 XD in shallower water.  It again has such of an erratic action because it’s made for deeper water.  Just because a bait is made for deeper water, doesn’t mean you always have to use it there.  The 5 XD gets down faster and will drop down in those deep holes you sometimes find along banks.

The Strike King colors I like the best are the Delta Red, orange belly craw, green tomato, and chili craw.  If you compare the strike king colors vs the Rock Crawler colors, the have similar colors all with that crawdad pattern.

I don’t want you to think these two baits are the only ones that work in cold water.  Several baits will work weather your fishing the bottom, suspended fish, or shallow fish.  It may come down to what you have confidence in and how you work your own baits.


FX Custom Extreme Angler Series Rod 7’3″ heavy action and fast tip, (EMB73HF)

Quantum Fishing Reel Smoke 7.1.1

Vicious Fishing Line,  Fluorocarbon, 12 lbs test.

SPRO Rk Crawler 55 crankbait

Strike King 3 XD and 5 XD crankbaits


Chris Gibbons from Shell Knob Missouri outside of Branson on Table Rock Lake is the author of the Fishing Report Table Rock Lake.  The fishing report is very successful with over 6000 followers and reaches 26 states and 7 countries.  The report has an average of 1500-3000 daily hits.


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