weather and bass fishing are two things that, for the majority of bass
anglers, don't 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 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 it's not so easy: the weather
conditions usually suggest that it's 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 the most extreme weather
conditions, without forgetting the old, reliable wool. At this point, we
could take "cold weather" just as any other fishing excuse.
I'm 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. I've 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. It's 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 tournament fishing.
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 lure… With that in mind, we'll 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 it's 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 I've 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 they're 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 I've written an article
regarding fishing shallow water in winter. I'm still firmly convinced on the
year-round productivity of shallow waters. This because THERE'RE 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 adjacent 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!
the most of anglers I've spoken with about winter fishing are convinced that
sunny days are usually better, I'm not of the same opinion. I'm 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, I've discovered that one of the best time
to be on the water is when it's snowing. Snow seems to put some frenzy on the
Since the days are shorter during winter,
I've 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
Fish normally moves slow and so it will
accordingly feed on slow-moving baits. Presentation is one of the most mental
aspect of winter bassin'. You need to retrieve your lures so slow that
sometimes this results painfully, in the true sense of the word. It's even
more hard in the beginning, after a wonderful fall season spent casting and
retrieving spinnerbaits, topwaters and crankbaits.
When you think you're fishing slow, slow
down again and again and again! Sounds strange but the most of the times it's
that way you'll 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: there's 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 you'll
see the line jumping and starting to run sideways like a rocket, but the most
of the times you'll feel absolutely nothing.
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 aren't able to feel your lure or this one is
where it hasn't to be, reel in the slack line quickly and set the hook!
Concentration plays a big role in winter presentation: you've to try to
become one with your lure and be always aware on where it is and what it's
Coming back to the bass watching and
following our lure, I've 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 I'm 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 Kick'N 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.
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 won't be
able to move it very much. Start your retrieve with the rod at the 11 o'clock
position and end it at 12 o'clock position. When the rod is vertical over
your shoulder, shake the lure using ONLY your wrist, rhythmically 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
(that's 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
TACKLE AND LURES
My winter tackle and lures selection, as
I've already written in my past articles or notes, is somewhat simple. I
normally don't 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. It's 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 6' 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 6' Baitcasting rod and 12
pound Trilene XT mono. I carry another baitcasting combo (6' w/15# test
Berkley Big Game flipping line) to slow roll spinnerbaits.
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 lethargic 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 I'm having lot of success with the 4" spider jig rigged on a 3/8
oz. football head, dragged and shaken 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 I've 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
As for the crankbaits I prefer 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 ½ oz. to ¾ 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 I've 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 bulkiness to the lure and offer to the
fish a big meal.
Well, remember to keep the body warm in
your winter outings and don't let all that cold discourage you on your
mission as bass angler!
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