I got my first boat in 1974 and started going to Clark's Hill every Thanksgiving and Christmas, spending almost three weeks there in late November and December each year. I have missed hardly any years since 1974. I have also fished almost every weekend throughout the year since then, including January and February. I still fish two club tournaments a month, in November, December, January and February. And sometimes I actually catch fish!
I fish for bass, crappie and hybrids during cold weather. I really like being on the lake then - usually it is not crowded. In the mid-1970's I went back to the lake one Christmas Day afternoon and, for the next five days did not see another person. I had to go into town to get gas the sixth day or it would have been longer. It was great - when I was hungry, I ate. When sleepy, I slept. And the rest of the time I was in the boat fishing.
I caught one bass those five days. It was very cold - the upper creeks were frozen over completely - areas where I would catch bass in other years were under ice. The lake water was 39 to 42 degrees, the coldest I have ever seen it. I still had a great time.
About ten years later it was unusually warm the week before Christmas. I fished without a shirt and barefooted several afternoons. The lake water was 61 degrees. Fishing the same areas as the year when I caught only one fish in a week, I landed 6 bass over six pounds and five hybrids over 6 pounds in three days, all on a Shadrap. I had a total of 18 bass weighing 56 pounds those three days. Those are the trips I like to remember!
I caught my biggest bass ever the second week in February - in a club tournament. It hit a crankbait at Jackson and it was the only strike I had all day - it weighed 9 lb.. 7 oz.. My first 8 pound bass hit a crankbait at Jackson in a January tournament and it, too was my only strike that day. My second 8 pound bass hit in January at Jackson a couple of years later and I caught it on a spinnerbait - and there were two bigger bass weighed in that day. Jackson in January is a good place and time to catch a big bass. Running the banks with a crankbait will catch bass - often big bass - but don't expect lots of strikes.
Jackson is a small lake owned by Georgia Power and is near where I live. It is very fertile from the sewage from Atlanta and has lots of rocks and docks. The water tends to be a little stained in the winter, with visibility of a crankbait down to about two feet. The fertility and small size help make it good in the winter. It is also close to me so I fish it a lot in the winter - I can be home in 30 minutes if the weather turns sour!
I like a small crankbait like a #7 Shadrap, a Deep Little N, a Sandford Cedar Shad or others like them. Chartreuse is a good color since the water is usually stained. Look for rocks and wood structure and fish the crankbait around it as slowly as possible. Remember the bass are sluggish and usually don't like to chase a bait far or fast in cold water. Crank the bait down and slowly bump it along the cover. Try to offer a sluggish bass a meal it can't ignore.