Cold weather and bass
fishing are two things that, for the majority of bass anglers, donít fit
together. We are all used to picture in our mind hot sunny days and giant
bass, not miserable cold snowy days, frozen northern winds, ice on the
shorelines or similar stuff. These aspects often represent what keep the
bass fishermen away from the water during the coldest months of winter.
Well, not all of them. Those that like me enjoy fishing for the little green
fish 12 months a year, experience, during the dead of winter, some of the
best bass fishing action, and catch QUALITY bass too!
But itís not so
easy: the weather conditions usually suggest that itís better to stay at
home instead of freezing ourselves on the water. Anyway, I believe that
"freezing ourselves", with the modern winter clothes technology
and materials is a silly sentence. Nowadays we have Gore-tex, wind-stopper,
Thinsulate and many other materials which keep us warm and comfortable in
the dreadest weather conditions, without forgetting the old, reliable wool.
At this point, we could take "cold weather" just as any other
Iím not afraid to
say that the largemouth bass, specially the northern strain, can be caught
even through the ice if we are willing to fish for it. Iíve caught bass,
and lot of them in waters partially iced up! The key to be successful in
winter is SLOWING DOWN, sometimes leaving our lure motionless on the bottom
for seconds if not minutes. Itís tough fishing, which requires lot of
self-conditioning, an excellent mental preparation and full concentration on
the job at hand. As for these latter aspects, I compare winter fishing to
Winter fishing is, for
several aspects, a mental game. First of all, we have to convince ourselves
that the fish is there and has to eat to survive, even in the coldest months
of the year. Surely it will eat a less amount of food but it has to nourish
itself to not die by starvation. So, mr. Bass will probably bite one of our
With that in mind, weíll
have to consider that during spring, summer and fall we took particular care
of two aspects to consistently catch fish: location and presentation. In
winter itís exactly the same thing, maybe with some slight exceptions.
Another thing that plays to
our favor in our mental game, is that winter bites, as Iíve already
mentioned, are quality bites. There are also very good chances to catch
those huge fish we have seen spawning last spring and which seemed
disappeared for the rest of the year! Wonder why? For two reasons. First,
because theyíre subject to almost no fishing pressure; second, when the
opportunity of an easy big meal arise, the big female bass is the first one
to take advantage of this in winter.
In the past Iíve written
an article regarding fishing shallow water in winter. Iím still firmly
convinced on the year-round productivity of shallow waters. This because
THEREíRE ALWAYS BASS IN SHALLOW SPOTS. Consider that the less the
luminosity, the shallower the fish. I consider "shallow", waters
up to 12 ft. I usually find my shallow water bass in spots adiacent to deep
water, specially if there is an abrupt change of depth. Added cover like
some residual green weed or a submerged tree really help. Normally the fish
is located on the deepest part of the cover although, in very scarce light
conditions, we could find them in the upper portion. Sometimes, the change
of depth correspond to the edge of the emerging cover: if you find a spot
with such features, you have probably found a gold mine for what concern
bass fishing of course!
Despite the most of anglers
Iíve spoken with about winter fishing are convinced that sunny days are
usually better, Iím not of the same opinion. Iím aware on how a
prolonged period of sun affect bass behavior but in the dead of winter,
sunny days often correspond to lower air temperatures while cloud cover
means warmer weather that turns the fish a little more active and move them
shallower. These are good ingredients for a productive winter trip. Over my
years of extensive winter fishing, Iíve discovered that one of the best
time to be on the water is when itís snowing. Snow seems to put some
frenzy on the bass.
Since the days are shorter
during winter, Iíve experienced some extra-time fishing in the dark, just
because the bass were biting more aggressively than during the middle of the
day! Just a thought, but sometimes winter fishing has big similarities with
the hot summer fishing.
Fish normally moves slow and
so it will accordingly feed on slow-moving baits. Presentation is one of the
most mental aspect of winter bassiní. You need to retrieve your lures so
slow that sometimes this results painfully, in the true sense of the word.
Itís even more hard in the beginning, after a wonderful fall season spent
casting and retrieving spinnerbaits, topwaters and crankbaits.
When you think youíre
fishing slow, slow down again and again and again! Sounds strange but the
most of the times itís that way youíll catch fish in winter. You have to
condition yourself to believe that a big fish is always following your lure,
watching it and wondering if it is the case to bite it or not. Often, this
is true: thereís a fish watching and following your lure. Your task is to
keep its interest high and convince it to bite. Sometimes it will attack
with vengeance and youíll see the line jumping and starting to run
sideways like a rocket, but the most of the times youíll feel absolutely
With the experience, I
developed a "sixth" sense, and well, I often set the hook on what
this sixth sense tell me. When something is not right and you arenít able
to feel your lure or this one is where it hasnít to be, reel in the slack
line quickly and set the hook! Concentration plays a big role in winter
presentation: youíve to try to become one with your lure and be always
aware on where it is and what itís doing.
Coming back to the bass
watching and following our lure, Iíve found that shaking this one, brings
a lot of interest from the fish. A good portion of the bites I get in winter
comes while Iím shaking the lure. I feel or see the distinctive
"thump" of the bass that all of sudden interrupts my shake. I
usually add a shot of KickíN Bass fish attractant to my lures. I believe
this give me an advantage over the bass because this way I stimulate all its
senses and in this season, every minimal aspect of our fishing is critical.
Here is how I normally
execute a painfully slow retrieve. It takes lot of practice slowing your
mind down but the way I keep the rod while fishing slow usually help me a
lot on this task. You have to keep it very high so you wonít be able to
move it very much. Start your retrieve with the rod at the 11 oíclock
position and end it at 12 oíclock position. When the rod is vertical over
your shoulder, shake the lure using ONLY your wrist, rhytmically until you
got a lot of slack in the line. Shake it a couple of times more then,
keeping the rod high, just reel in very slowly as you shake and repeat the
procedure. Remember that you have to shake and let your lure motionless for
a certain amount of time between a shake and another: the slower the bite,
the longer the pause. During this retrieve you have to keep your eyes GLUED
to the line (thatís why I normally use a high-visibility line like the
Berkley Trilene) and be concentrated to understand what your lure is doing
on the bottom. When the bass bites, put the rod tip down, reel in the slack
on the line quickly and as soon as you feel the pressure of the fish to the
other end set the hook!
My winter tackle and lures
selection, as Iíve already written in my past articles or notes, is
somewhat simple. I normally donít have in my boat a huge tackle box during
the "hottest" months, go figure in winter!
Sometimes three rods in the
boat are enough in the coldest months of the year. Itís very important to
fish with rods able to transmit to our hand the slightest bite or tell us
more on what our lure is doing underwater. Specially in winter. As for the
rod brand, I love G.Loomis, just because of the extremely light weight and
sensitivity of these rods. Normally, in my winter outings I use a 6í
spinning with medium action for small splitshotted, T-rigged or leadheaded
plastics and I spool on the reel a Berkley Trilene XT 8 pound test mono.
Speaking on the jig & pig, spider jigs and hair jigs, I fish these lures
on a 6í Baitcasting rod and 12 pound Trilene XT mono. I carry another
baitcasting combo (6í w/15# test Berkley Big Game flipping line) to slow
Now a look to the lures
which have produced very well for me on the weird winter weather. Light jigs
like tube lures, grubs or 4" worms. Lately the 4" Mega Curl of
Snakebite Lures, a Zipper-style worm, has caught lot of letargic bass Texas
rigged with a brass and glass. Excellent, mostly for the quality bass are
the "Ultimate" Jig manufactured by S.O.B. Fishing Products with a
big #1 Uncle Josh Jumbo Frog. This winter Iím having lot of success with
the 4" spider jig rigged on a 3/8 oz. football head, dragged and shaked
on the bottom very slowly (see the above paragraph on presentation). My
average weight on this lure is slightly over three pounds that is an
exceptionally good weight for Italian bass!
Normally I fish natural
colors a lot in winter, due to the clear water, though Iíve found that
chartreuse pepper is a great choice for tube jigs and spider jigs. Since our
crawdads are normally dark with orange and purple hues, I fish black,
black/brown, brown/orange or black/blue/purple jigs.
As for the crankbaits I
prefere small, light, lures like the Rapala Shad Rap, on Shad and Silver
patterns. Four-inch hard-jerkbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk or the Bomber
14A catch fish when soft- plastics and jigs fail to produce.
Spinnerbaits represent the
heavy-artillery, since I normally slow-roll Ĺ oz. to ĺ oz. single Colorado
lures during winter. Sometimes, specially early and late in the season these
baits have caught giant fish for me. I really like the S.O.B. Thumper-B
because of its great emission of vibration which grant me an easier control
of the lure. As for the color, in clear water Iíve designed a skirt color
that S.O.B. called "Massimo Special" which strictly resembles a
small preyfish. If water has a little color, I switch to a white/chartreuse.
I normally add a 4" white grub to add bulkness to the lure and offer to
the fish a big meal.
Well, remember to keep the body warm in your winter outings and donít let all that cold discourage you on your mission as bass angler!
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