Pro's Picks For Winter Bassin'
Gerald Swindle Follows The Food For Winter Bass
For Swindle, it's all about dialing in the spots where baitfish will feel most comfortable. In reservoirs, his prime winter targets are the bottoms of creek channels. Anywhere he finds a creek dumping into the main channel, Swindle expects to find bait gathered at the lowest point of that drop. On warm days, baitfish may move up to the shallow channel edges, but the rest of the time, they're hanging low. In lakes with no defined river channel, Swindle expects to find the baitfish in the bottoms of deep rocky pockets. Typically, the forage will establish a comfortable depth range that will remain consistent through most of the lake. During sunny periods, the bait will adjust their depth by moving toward or away from the shore, rather than higher or lower in the water column. "You can take your depthfinder and pattern those fish," Swindle says. "If you find them in 30 feet in one pocket, when you go to the next pocket, you can bet they'll be in 30 feet. If you get a warm, pretty day, just follow the shad farther into the pocket."
Presentation & Lure Selection:
One of Swindle's key baits is a 1/2-ounce jigging spoon (silver for sunny days, white for cloudy) fished on 12-pound Vicious fluorocarbon. More often, though, he'll stick a green pumpkin Zoom finesse worm on a 1/4-ounce shaky head and fish it on 8-pound fluoro. "I'll just drop it right down in them and just use my boat to move it," Swindle says. "I just barely shake the rod tip, and I'll turn my trolling motor on low and move around looking for fish and dragging that shaky head under the boat.
Gerald Swindle Follows The Food For Winter Bass Fishing Bassmaster.com January 27, 2012 (David A. Brown)
Ish Monroe's Late Winter Lure Selection
River2Sea Touch Down Head Jig:
My preference is a 3/4oz model in brown with a Missile Baits Twin Turbo Trailer in cinnamon purple. Fish this one painfully slow around deep creek channels and any other depth-changing structure that holds winter bass.
River2Sea Fetch Minnow:
The best color is a shad of some sort. I like the American shad or ghost minnow finish. Jerk and pull this bait slowly around rock in the 8 to 10 foot depth range near really deep water. Rock that gets a lot of sun produces best. It'll hold heat and warm the surrounding water.
Missile Baits Drop Craw:
I like a 1/4oz weight with a Missile Drop Craw in watermelon red on a drop shot rig. Texas rig it with a #2 straight shank hook. Drop it around sunken brushpiles, stumps, and any other type of isolated structure or cover you can find. Remember, a little action goes a long way. Nothing that's real moves much, or very fast in cold water.
What's On My Line January 2012 Bass Times (Ish Monroe)
Mike Iaconelli's Late Winter Lure Selection
Rapala Rippin Rap:
"Most people think this bait is only good in the spring or as a grass bait. This couldn't be further from the truth. It shines in the winter because there are few baits that can mimic a dying baitfish better. In the winter, you see all sorts of baitfish on the surface dying. As they die, they don't fall straight to the bottom. They kick and flutter to the bottom and the vibration bait, worked correctly, mimics this well. The retrieve technique I use is to make a long cast and let the bait fall to the bottom,” he continued. “Then I work the bait back to the boat with a lift-and-fall retrieve. This retrieve makes the bait look like a dying shad, but it can also mimic the fluttering action of a crawfish."
Rapala Husky Jerk:
“As many people know, the suspending jerkbait is deadly this time of year,” he said. “What keys me in to throw the jerkbait is clear water - anything with 5 feet or more visibility. The nice thing about this bait is you can keep it in the strike zone a lot longer than the vibration bait. The main deal with the jerkbait, though, is the retrieve cadence and pause - the pause being most important. I hate fishing slow, so I've developed a method which allows me to slow down with this bait. I cast it out, crank it down five to 10 cranks and then give it a couple of short rips. Then I pause and count to five and rip it again. I'll do this for five or so casts and then the next set, I'll count to 10. I'll use this method of counting until I figure out exactly how long the fish want the bait paused. In the winter, I want a jerkbait that has a subtle action and the Husky Jerk has that,” he said. “The way I pick size is to match it with the size of the forage. For example, in New Jersey, we don't have shad. But we have shore minnows and shiners. The size 6 Husky Jerk is perfect. At Pickwick, though, they have skipjack herring and I'll match the hatch there with a saltwater-sized bait."
Rapala Shad Rap:
“This is a key bait for me when the water is cold and I'm dealing with a lake that has 45-degree rocky shorelines. In warmer water, I'd choose a wide-wobble bait, but when the fish are lethargic, the tight-wobble works a lot better. I've also found that baits with a neutral sound (no rattles) work better this time of year. To me, the perfect tight-wobble crank has always been the Rapala Shad Rap in sizes 5 through 8. But I make some modifications to it for winter use. For example, out of the box, the bait will float up pretty fast. Because of this, I change the belly hook to one size larger and after that it'll barely rise. I also change the back hook to a VMC Sure Set treble. The Sure Set works really well when a lethargic fish swipes at the bait. One thing, though, make sure the long hook is positioned upwards when you put it on the bait. The retrieve I use is more of a stop-and-go retrieve,” he added. “I cast the bait out and bring it back at a medium speed, stopping the bait from time to time. I also change the direction of the bait by moving the rod side to side."
Ike's gear for winter reaction baits is pretty specific, especially when he's talking line. “There's no more important time of the year than winter to be throwing fluorocarbon line,” Ike said. “Because fluorocarbon sinks, it gives you much better depth control with the baits. For example, it won't float the suspending jerkbaits. With respect to rods, I prefer a 7-foot medium-action spinning rod (Abu Garcia Veritas), a 20- to 30-sized spinning reel and 6- to 8-pound line for fishing the smaller jerkbait and crankbait. With the larger jerkbaits, I'll move up to a 6'3” Vendetta casting rod because it has a shorter handle and the shorter rod doesn't work me so much. I also use a slower retrieve reel than I normally would. For the vibration baits, I like a 7-foot graphite/glass composite rod with a slow-ratio reel and 8- to 12-pound line.”
Try A One-Two Punch To Catch Wintertime Bass January 27, 2012 BassFan.com (Terry Battisti)
Stephen Browning On Winter Cranking
"My favorite pattern at these times takes me to the middle of creeks where I like to focus on channel swings. The structure here is almost vertical, and that's perfect for this time of year. When weather and water conditions change, bass won't often move very much horizontally, but they will move vertically, and channel swings are great areas to concentrate them."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Browning's lure of choice for this pattern is a Live Target Crawfish Crankbait. It's not a deep-running bait; it doesn't have to be. The affable Arkansan expects bass to be relatively shallow under these conditions, so a bait that can dredge the bottom in 15 feet isn't necessary. "You need to make multiple casts to key targets like wood and rock or any other irregular features you find," he says. "The fish are moving and feeding slower in the cooling water, but multiple presentations that bang into cover are going to help them find the bait and eat it. That's a real key to success with this pattern - multiple presentations and keeping that crankbait in contact with cover. "Bass will move up on unseasonably warm days with lots of sunlight," Browning reiterates. "They're like dogs sunning themselves when it's nice out. Best of all, these are some of the most comfortable and productive days for anglers, too."
"I throw the crankbait on a 7-foot, 2-inch St. Croix Legend Tournament Series rod that has a medium action - basically a crankbait action in a graphite model," he says. "I like a Lew's Speed Spool Speed Pro model casting reel with a 5.4:1 gear ratio because I don't want to overwork the bait. These fish are still a bit lethargic, and with a faster reel you might have a tendency to work the lure too fast. For line, I like 14-pound-test Gamma Fluorocarbon."
Stephen Browning On Winter Cranking Bassmaster.com December 30, 2011 (Ken Duke)
Wicked Winter Blades
Blades score big on clear, deep and often cold bodies of water like the Great lakes. In southern reservoirs, they are often worked vertically in treetops or cast along bluffs, flats and ledges. “Anytime the temperature is 50 degrees on down, I use a blade bait almost exclusively - and sometimes when the water is as warm as 55 or 57”, said Dobson. “On the Great Lakes - especially on Lake St Clair - you can't beat a blade in spring and fall.”
Presentation & Lure Selection:
The blade's reputation as a rippin' bait can be misleading, and it may explain why some blade bait devotees cut big swaths through the bass population while others haul water. Many anglers cast blade baits on big water and say big rips are the way to get a bass' attention. But Dobson believes that “less is best” when it come to t he retrieve. The main thing to remember is to not overwork the bait. Mark Zona, Television analyst for Bassmaster Elite Series events and longtime Great Lakes smallmouth aficionado has his own retrieve. “I will lift it only 18 inches max!” said Zona, who compares his blade retrieve to worm fishing. “And normally I want it just 6 to 12 inches off bottom. The colder it gets, the shorter the hops.” More often than not, Dobson's cutting the smallies down to size with a 5/8 or 1/2oz Silver Buddy, Vib “E” or Poor Boy's Blade Bait. These strange hunks of belly weighted metal may not be mainstays of every bass angler, but they enjoy cult status in regional pockets all over the Country.
Wicked Blades January 2012 Bass Times (Mike Pehanich pg. 18)
Cold Water Spoonin' With Tim Horton
Jigging spoons really shine when predators are deeper than 15 feet. I think, the most comfortable spoonin' depth is 20 to 35 feet. Heck, its possible to spoon jig in 40 to 50 feet, if that is where the baitfish and gamefish are located, but at those depths, chance are any fish you bring up will not survive release. The depthfinder is used to locate baitfish and suspected gamefish on deep structure. It assists in finding search points extending into the lake, creek channels lips with stumps or standing timer, deep rock piles and ledges.
In cold water, the most efficient way to jig a spoon is right over the top of the suspected group of fish. It's called vertical jigging. Vertical jigging is simply a matter of free-spooling the spoon straight down to the bottom or to a mid-depth, where the action is happening. Bass may hit the spoon during its initial descent, but if it makes it to the bottom or mid-depth location as observed on the sonar, you will have to try a few different lift and drop techniques. Normally, I start by lightly pumping the rod, raising the spoon about 12 to 18 inches, then letting it fall back on semi slack line. My next would be a harder rod snap to make the spoon jump 2 to 3 feet to see if that will draw a strike.
Cold-Water Spoonin' Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Darl Black pg. 46-48)
Creek Run-ins For New Year Bass
“I fish a fairly simple pattern in January,” he says. “I look for where running creeks empty into the backs of major embayments and for water that's a few degrees warmer than the water in the lake proper. So they're in predictable spots and they're biting better. That can make for some good fishing. The best part of the day is usually from noon to 3 PM,” he says. He eases up the creek, casting crankbaits into deeper holes, typically along outside bends of the channel. “The bass are usually holding near the bottom of the deepest areas,” DeFoe says. "In Winter, it's important to fish the sunny side of any cover instead of the shady side. It's all about warmth. The fish are more active in warmer water and you have to keep that in mind as the day progresses."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
DeFoe's number one go-to coldwater baits are a No.5 & No.7 Rapala Shad Rap, which he fishes on light spinning tackle. He uses the No. 5 for fishing water less then 5 feet and the No.7 for water 7 feet deep. If a channel stretch or hole has some water color and visibility is degraded, DeFoe switches to Rapala DT 4 or DT 6 crankbait, which has a wider, more noticeable wobble than the Shad Rap. If the barometer is high and the bass are inactive, DeFoe tries casting or pitching a Taby Tackle jig & pig or a creature bait to any rock or wood cover. “I'll work both these baits with a slow, steady drag. I do most of the pulling with my rod tip. I want my bait to look like a crawfish slow crawling along the bottom,” he says.
Creek Run-ins For New Year Bass January 2012 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 60-62.)
Paul Elias' January Lure Selection
Mann's Stone Jig:
Elias' go-to bait this month is a 1/2oz Stone Jig in black and blue. With the tried-and-true bass catcher, Elias targets steep-dropping bends. He dresses it with a complimentary Mann's HardNose Craw. This is what stays in his hands most of the month. “A jig is going to be your best bet this month,” he says. Elias slowly drags this black and blue package. Pumping and winding can seem unnatural to a chilly bass. Plus, experience tells Elias that bass aren't willing to chase a fast moving bait, unless it's presented right in front of them.
Elias uses this coldwater favorite to probe 5 to 7 foot riprap banks that droop off sharply. “I'll also use this on the shallow parts of the same points that I throw the jig to,” he says. He likes a purple model with pearl sides and a chartreuse belly. He'll often swap the hooks out for No. 4 Gamakatsu short shanks. Elias retrieves his jerkbait with varying cadences until he gets a strike, which tells him how the fish want the lure presented. Catching more is a matter of replicating the successful cadence.
Mann's 20+ Crankabit:
This deep diver helped Elias set the all-time, four-day weight record on Falcon Lake in 2008. It is what he uses to wreak havoc on bass that are wadded up on ledges adjacent to spawning flats as well as deep creek channel bends. He recommends that you look for fish in 18 to 20 feet of water. "They should be wadded up in a pack this time of year, so you can catch more than one from the same spot a lot of the time,” he says.
Drop Shot Rig:
This is what he and many other pros rely on when the going gets tough. Near-frozen bass aren't the most cooperative, so sometimes light line and medium action rods can save your day. “When the fish aren't really feeding but I can see them on my graph, shaking this in front of them long enough usually gets a bite,” he says. Elias relies on a 6” Mann's HardNose Finesse worm in green pumpkin or watermelon red with a 1/0 Gamakastsu short shank hook and 1/4oz weight.
What Paul Elias Throws In January January 2012 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 21)
Wintertime Bass With Chad Morgenthaler
I first begin the day by determining what type of cover the lake has to offer. If vegetation is plentiful, I scout the lake to determine type, location and depth. Once I have searched the lake, I begin in the area that offers the most available cover and the clearest water. I start my plan of attack at a weedline, keying in on any irregular features while paying attention to isolated mats, points bends and water depth. The back of coves where the bottom flattens and shallows out can be also be good. The other productive types of cover that I like to fish in the Winter are hardwood and rock. When a lake has hardwood cover, I always give it the respect it deserves. There have been hundred of thousands of fish caught on stumps and laydowns, the Winter months are no less productive.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
I have four go-to baits that I like to use. If the vegetation is scattered, I'll tie on a 3/8oz Hawg Caller Sexy Shad spinnerbait with a double or triple willow combination. I also like Excalibur XR50 and XR75 series lipless crankabits in shad patterns. For fishing thicker vegetation when the water is above 50 degrees, the Spro Bronzeye Frog is my first choice. Last but not least, I like soft plastic creature baits such as a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in hematoma or California 420. The Spro frog works great around all types of vegetation. I like to work it using a “walk the dog" retrieve. In heavier vegetation and around isolated mats, I use the Sweet Beaver coupled with a tungsten weight that's just heavy enough to penetrate the mat. For visible hardwood cover, I start with a buoyant square-bill crankbait like the Lucky Craft RC 1.5 or 2.5 in the American shad or splatter back series. Making precise casts, bumping the structure and varied retrieval speeds are the keys to working this type of structure. Always target cover that is closest to the boat and work to the farthest point. By approaching structure in this manner, you are less likely to spook other fish when you catch one.
Wintertime Bass 40 Degrees Plus Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Chad Morgenthaler pg. 88-89)
Bassmaster Elite Series Pro's Winter Techniques
Todd Faircloth: Grass & Riprap:
“In Winter, the vegetation is normally going to be submerged, and bass tend to be on top of it, rather than buried deep down in it,” says the Texas pro. “Steady retrieves, just ticking the top of the vegetation, usually produce pretty well, but sometimes faster retrieves do better. When bass miss, I throw back with a weightless Senko, letting it fall to the top of the vegetation, then popping it back up and letting it fall again. Jerkbaits and crankbaits are two of my favorite lures for riprap," he explains. "I look for stepper rock edges, and work the lures very slowly. Suspending jerkbaits can be really good because you can reel them down and stop them and they'll stay in the the strike zone."
Takahiro Omori: Protected Coves:
In the Winter, he looks for flat, protected coves less than 5 feet deep, and if possible, he fishes them under high, bright skies. “I want the bright sunshine to warm the water, if only a degree or two. I've seen many times when that's all it takes on a cold day to get the fish a little more active,” he explains. "Depending on what I find, I'll fish either a medium-running Lucky Craft crankbait, digging it along the bottom, or a soft plastic creature bait, which I'll flip into cover.”
Gerald Swindle: Points, Bluffs & Flats:
During the late Autumn/early Winter months, the G-Man really likes to fish long, tapering points, especially ones with gravel and small rock. His lure? A 1/2oz tandem willowleaf Lucky Craft spinnerbait he burns as fast as he can reel it. “I'll work out on the point to perhaps as deep as 15 feet, and when I'm that deep, I may change to a 1/2oz flutter spoon. Even with the spoon, I'm trying for reflex strikes I'll make a long cast, let it sink to the bottom, then pop it a couple of times so it jumps and falls again.” Swindle also likes to fish bluff walls in the early Winter months, searching for suspended bass that may be less than 6 fet down and holding close to the wall itself. His lure choices are the flutter spoon or a 3/8oz finesse jig. Swindle's third option is fishing main lake flats. The areas he prefers can actually be spawning flats, but he concentrates on the outer edge where he can fish a breakline.
James Niggemeyer: Points, Boat Docks & Shorelines:
Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer rates a jig as one of his favorite coldwater lures, and two of his favorite places to use it are around gravel points and boat docks. In both places, he wants nearby deeper water that provides easy up-and-down movements for bass. If neither of these works, he flips shoreline cover. “With the points, I use a technique I describe as 'counting the rocks' because I'm crawling the jig so slow,” he explains. “I like a 1/2oz to 3/4oz Strike King Football Jig with a Rage Craw trailer, and I don't even lift the jig off the bottom." The boat docks he likes are often those closest to the mouth of a cove where the outside end is near deeper water and bass may be suspended beside the corner pilings. When he's fishing shoreline cover, Niggemeyer looks first for the thickest vegetation he can find, regardless of whether or not it's still alive. The key here, he says, is having a little depth. He prefers 2 to perhaps 4 feet, which he thinks gives bass added security.
Chill Out December 2011 Bassmaster (Steve Price pg. 61-63)
Mike Iaconelli's Approach To Cold Water Bass
Bass are in an early-Winter to true-Winter pattern, searching for areas that produce the easiest meals. Those areas are the deepest, most vertical breaks on the lake. This is where I begin my search. Vertical drops vary around the Country, but in the North, you could be looking at a drop that goes from 10 to 50 feet, and in the South it could be as slight as a 2 to 5 foot drop. Most of these spots are going to start dropping at a 45-degree angle until it starts to level out.
Lure Selection & Presentation (Option A):
I look for a reaction bite. I want to trigger a response from these fish, but I don't throw the traditional fast moving hard plastics. I use a Havoc Devil Spear rigged on a 1/4 to 1/2oz exposed jighead. The Devil Spear is a great imitator of what bass are feeding on this time of year, which are dead or dying baitfish. Bass are looking for an easy meal, and there is nothing easier than a dying baitfish. I sit off from the vertical break and cast the rig to where it begins to break. I let the bait go to the bottom on a slack line. After it sits a few seconds, I lift the rod from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock, working the bait back to the boat. I like to sit off the ledge and cast toward the break, so I am not right on top of the spot where all the action is taking place. I let it fall slowly because this is the exact action that will get an aggressive strike. This is a very subtle, more realistic way to present a bait, which keys bass to strike.
Lure Selection & Presentation (Option B):
I have become known for drop shotting, and I cut my teeth fishing a drop shot in the Winter. For the bait I like to use a Gulp 3” Minnow. This bait simply has a subtle, natural quiver that fish can't stand. For the rest of the rig, I use a No. 1 drop shot hook and 1/4 to 1/2oz drop shot weight. Once I have the rig complete, I throw out where the break begins and let the sinker and minnow fall to the floor. I really don't use much action with this bait. I let the natural wind and boat drift drag the set up down the break. The less I move the Gulp Minnow the more effective I will be.
Havoc Devil Spear Gear:
The fish will hit fast, typically on the fall. I like to rig up with 15 or 17 pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon on a 7:1.1 Revo Premier reel and use 7 foot medium action Abu Garcia rod. It is a great overall line that gives me strength and sensitivity, and the Premier reel has enough power to get those bass in the boat quickly.
Berkely Gulp Minnow Gear:
I use a 6'9” medium-light action Abu Garcia Veritas spinning rod because it has the right action to make the bait drag down the vertical breaks. Also, this rod handles the 8 to 10 pound Berkley NanoFil line that I like to use with a 2-ft Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. The NanoFil line is the key to this set up. I like to get away from the break and make long casts. NanoFil handles well and allows you to feel the subtle, lethargic bite in the Wintertime. The reel I've become accustomed to - and love, because it simply handles harsh conditions well, is the size 20 Abu Garcia Revo Premier spinning reel.
Cold Water Bass: Learn It! December 2011 Bass Times (Mike Iaconelli pg. 4-5)
Tim Horton's Winter Lure Selection
Booyah Big Show Finesse Jig:
I like a brown 1/4oz model, and its your choice whether to throw a round head or a football head as long as you add a Yum 3” cinnamon colored Gonzo Grub as a trailer. Fish it around bluff walls or anywhere there's cover.
Root beer float and root beer chartreuse are great all-around colors for this bait. It'll run 3 to 6 feet deep and is really effective anytime there's stained water near a 45 degree bank or in the back of a cove or creek.
Cotton Cordell C.C. Jigging Spoon:
I fish this 3/4oz spoon over main lake structure in the 20 to 30 foot range. Pull it up and let it fall on a semi slack line. It's great for bass that are schooled up waiting for Spring.
What's On My Line December 2011 Bass Times (Tim Horton pg. 6)
The most productive grass mats lie along rocky shorelines, such as riprap or bluff banks. As with the mats, the rocks absorb heat and warm the water. Grass and rocks provide the bass with two heat sources and ample cover. The depth under the mats is typically 3 feet or less, but there must be deep water nearby, about 12 feet or more. This depth allows the bass to drop down when it's cold and quickly move up to the mat as the surface water warms. Winter mats are dead remnants of lush green grass that flourished during the Summer. The nasty brown and black clusters aren't pretty, but don't let that throw you. The bass still relate to them.
Presentation & Lure Selection:
Because the bass are sluggish in the cold water, Mason works his frog more slowly during the Winter. He pulls the bait ahead only 2 to 3 inches and gives it longer pauses. “I generally fish the frog about half as fast in the Winter as I do in the Summertime,” Mason says. Mason also saturates each mat with multiple casts that are close together. He often spends 20 minutes working over one small patch. Bobby's Perfect Frog from Snag Proof is usually tied to the end of Mason's 65lb Vicious braided line. The line threads through the guides of a 7'3” heavy action Dobyns rod. “I cut half an inch off the frog's legs so it walks a little better when I work it through openings in the grass,” Mason adds. He favors the black Perfect Frog.
Winter Frogging December 2011 Bass Times (Mark Hicks pg. 8)
Chill Out With Gerald Swindle
They're still on the breaks between flats and channels; they're still holding on weedlines; and, they still can be found hiding under stumps in shallow feeding areas. Fish movement is a process. It doesn't happen all at once or just because we humans think it's turned cold. The days are only a few minutes shorter and a lot of the bass still want to feed before true winter sets in. Don't fall into the trap of thinking the bass all ran out into the middle of the lake last week as fast as they could swim. They didn't. If you want to catch them over the next couple of weeks, you should stay put and slow down.
Lure Presentation & Lure Selection:
The first adjustment you should make is mechanical. Switch from a high- or medium-speed reel to a slow-speed reel. That'll help you slow your bait down. (If you don't have a slow-speed reel, force yourself to slowly turn the handle on the retrieve.) The next adjustment I'd recommend is to think about keeping your lure on the bottom. Slow roll, deadstick and yo-yo whatever you're throwing. The bass are shocked. They won't suspend much above the bottom, and they won't chase anything. Put it right on their nose, and do it slow. The best lures for this kind of fishing are tight-wiggling wooden crankbaits, small spinnerbaits and finesse or trick worms in natural colors. They all work well along the bottom and continue to have good action at slower speeds. That's the combination that'll work best. Early Winter fishing isn't all that tough. Stay put, think about the bottom and slow down. You'll catch 'em.
The G-Man Stays Out For Early Winter Bass Bassmaster.com November 30, 2011 (Gerald Swindle)
Gerald Swindle's Secret Winter Weapon
Swindle says bass will wander up and down ledges, but often hang around a specific piece of structure or cover that he locates on his electronics. There's usually one spot that serves as their central location. “But remember, it's the bait that they are relating to,” he offers.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Swindle's go-to bait when the water temperature drops into the mid to lower 50's is a 1/2oz War Eagle Spoon. Larger, more traditional jigging spoons might work, too, but he believes the smaller version matches the size of the baitfish perfectly. You can even go down to a 1/4-ounce if the fish aren't taking the 1/2-ounce version. “It really unlocked the mystery for me and has become a reliable technique I use in early Winter.” Silver is his favorite spoon color, especially on sunny days, when the tactic works best. If it's cloudy, he'll opt for gold or white spoons. “If there's spotted bass in the lake and it's overcast or low light, I will take a marker and add a little chartreuse to the white spoon,” Swindle says. “Spots seem to bite that better.”
Swindle insists a major benefit of the small spoon is it works well as a search bait, enabling him to cover a lot of water quickly until he finds the fish. And because of its smaller size, it sinks slower and is less likely to hang up. “I fish it like you would a big Texas rigged worm,” he explains. “I make a long cast, hold the line as the bait falls, reel down to maybe 8 o'clock position, then stroke it gently up to the 11 o'clock position.” Don't 'jerk' the spoon, he cautions. Simply lift the rod tip and let the spoon flutter back, keeping the line tight to maintain contact with the bait at all times. Let it touch the bottom before the next stroke. “Once you locate the school, you can get over the top of them and work it vertically, too,” he offers. “But really, casting it like a worm works like a charm.”
Jiggin' Spoon Gear:
He fishes the spoon on Quantum EXO baitcast tackle, using a 7-foot medium or medium-heavy rod and 12- or 14-pound Vicious Fluorocarbon line. “Don't use too heavy of line or you will overpower the bait,” he explains.
Swindle's Secret Winter Weapon Bassmaster.com December 6, 2011 (Louie Stout)
When the power plant is generating, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Alton Jones prefers fishing the lake's perpetual current. His favorite spots are the intake and discharge areas of the lake because the water flow is strongest at these two spots. Jones plays the wind to find the warmest water and the hottest action on the lake. “The wind currents really dictate where the warm water is going to go,” Said Jones. “It will change the water temperature 10 degrees in an hour when the wind shifts.”
Lure Selection & Presentation:
During a Winter warm spell, Jones looks for prespawn and spawning fish along the inside grasslines and cattails in coves that are protected from the wind. He casts a weightless Yum Dinger to the edge of the grass and works the lure in the 1 to 3 foot range. If a cold front sweeps through the area, Jones keys on the outside edges off dropoffs and creek channels in depths of 5 to 10 feet. His favorite lure for this situation is an XCalibur Xrk75 One Knocker lipless crankbait, which he casts to the deep side of submerged grass. He lets the lure sink into the vegetation, then rips it out of the cover. A couple of Winter patterns also work for Jones if the lipless crankabit fails to trigger strikes during a cold front. Jones moves his boat out to as deep as 50 feet and watches fish on his graph as he makes a vertical presentation with either a jigging spoon or a drop shot rig.
Hot Tubbin' December 2011 Bass Times (John Neporandy Jr. pg. 12)
Ike Likes Winter Bassin'
You should be looking for the steepest breaks in the lake. The best ones will be somehow related to the ingress and egress paths that you followed in the early Fall and then in the late Fall. You can find those spots with a combination of maps and electronics. I usually start with my maps. (Running helter-skelter around the lake in the cold is not my idea of a good time.) Once I have a few spots marked, I review the earlier places I've fished. If I can find a path that leads to, or has a relationship with, a great drop, I go to work checking everything out and making notes on my maps. All the fish in the lake don't move at the same time. They move in groups or sometimes individually. That means that when the water temperature is in the gray area, somewhere around 50 degrees, the bass will be scattered along their late Fall path. It's a great time to do a little cleanup fishing after you've had the best of them earlier in the Fall. I suggest you spend some serious time finding the best places. The bass are going to stay on them for weeks, maybe months, so you can afford to invest the time it takes to do it right. Besides, who wants to fish the wrong spot at any time of the year, much less in the dead of Winter?
Lure Selection & Presentation:
My favorite lure choices for this are soft plastics, shaky head combinations, tubes and grubs. Everyone knows about the first three, but for some reason you don't hear much about grubs anymore. I sometimes wonder if I'm the only guy out there still fishing with them. If so, that's unfortunate because they're serious fish catching lures. Late in the year, I rig them on small weighted heads and work them anywhere between the bottom and up near the top. You can swim them, hop them, drag them or yo-yo them, depending upon the mood of the fish. No matter which lure you throw, keep in mind that you're after scattered bass. You should fish every spot - concentrate on the hard bottom areas - from every possible angle. You'll be surprised at the size of some of the bass you catch doing this.
Ike Likes Winter Bassin' Bassmaster.com December 18, 2011 (Michael Iaconelli)
Kelly Jordan Spoon Feeds December Bass
Jordan targets flats close to creek or river channels or the bends of a channel, especially those at the mouths of bays and creeks. Points can help, but the channel is the key element. Cover isn't required, although bridge pilings or deep timber may hold the fish better. The 20- to 45-foot depths tend to be the most productive areas on most lakes. Watch for birds working the water to determine where the bait is located. The bass will be close by. Stay mobile, as the schools of bait and bass move around and the depth to find them can change daily.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Jigging spoons, 3/4 to 1 ounce, such as a Hopkins Shorty or the 5-inch Lake Fork Big Joe Spoon for a larger look work well. The best colors are anything shiny, such as chrome or white. Work the spoon in a vertical presentation, hopping the bait off the bottom with a fast tempo. Experiment with short hops of an inch or two to big sweeps that draw the bait 5 to 6 feet off the bottom until you determine how the fish want the lure.
Jiggin' Spoon Gear:
Jordan utilizes a 7-foot heavy action Fenwick Techna AV Casting rod paired with Abu-Garcia Revo with a 6.4:1 or 7:1 gear ratio. 15 to 20-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon will get the job done.
Kelly Jordan Spoon Feeds December Bass Bassmaster.com December 5, 2011 (Kelly Jordan)
Running Docks For December Bass With Brian Snowden
“I focus on docks in the back quarter of shallower creeks. This is where the shad are this time of year, and the bass follow them in there to feed. The average depth I'll be fishing is 10 feet under the outer ends of the docks.” Next, Snowden looks for docks in these areas that are associated with some structure variation. “This can be anything,” he explains. “It can be a dock with brush around it. It can be where there's a change in the rock formation along the bank, maybe from gravel to big chunk rocks. It can be a dock where the creek channel swings in close to the bank or one that's on a secondary point. The closer the dock is to some key underwater features, the better.”
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Snowden sticks with two baits to work these docks: a jig with a craw trailer, and a Texas rigged magnum finesse worm. Specifically a 3/8oz Snowden Pig Sticker mated with a Zoom Ultra Vibe Chunk or a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. trailer. Snowden's pick in finesse worms is a Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm rigged with a 3/0 hook and a sliding 1/4oz bullet weight. “When I've picked a target dock, I'll ease in quietly with my trolling motor. Then when I get close, I'll get off the trolling motor and let the boat glide slowly across the face of the dock while I'm flipping or pitching my bait to the key places. When I pitch a jig into a spot, I'll let it sink to the bottom and hop it four or five times about a foot off the bottom, then I'll reel it in and make my next presentation. Or. If I'm fishing the finesse worm, I'll let it hit the bottom and lie motionless for three to four seconds, then I'll give it two or three little hops to make it look like a crippled minnow.” When fishing docks, Snowden is always aware of 'following the shade.' “Dock fishing is always better when the sun is bright and the bass sink back into the shadows where they're more secure,” Snowden explains.
Running Docks For December Bass December 2011 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 64-65)
Shallow Winter Cranking With Kevin Short
Start with stained to dirty water and then look for rock. Anything from golf ball size on up to grapefruit size is what you want ... and they need to be covered in algae. This approach is about finding the forage, not the bass. Along with rocks, you need deep water nearby. A creek channel or sharp drop is perfect. Most of these areas will be located in the upper half of a lake or reservoir. The water in that half is usually darker and carries more nutrients. That allows the algae to grow, which in turn attracts the shad. Plus, there are usually several creeks in that part of the lake that'll provide deep water.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
My favorite bait for this type of fishing is a flat-sided, square bill crankbait. I typically throw a WEC E3 or a Strike King 2.5. Most of the shad will be bigger - at least 3 inches long. I want a big bait to match the hatch and attract the biggest predators. I sometimes use a snap with my bait, and occasionally an oblong split ring. I never use a round snap ring, however. It does something to the action of a flat-sided square bill - something that bass don't like. Cranking speed depends on water depth. Crank fast enough to keep the bait in contact with the bottom and to allow it to deflect off the rock. That'll get you the most bites.
My rod is a St. Croix 7'4" Mojo Bass Glass Crankster. It's a forgiving fiberglass rod that as far as I'm concerned is the best crankbait rod ever made. My reel is a Lew's Tournament Pro (6.4:1 gear ratio). Line choice is critical. This is not a finesse thing. The lightest I would ever go would be 12-pound-test, and usually I go heavier than that. I want to keep the bait down without hanging it on everything in the water. I sometimes throw fluorocarbon to help pull the bait down, but sometimes I go with monofilament to help keep it up. Line diameter affects things, too. Fatter line pulls your bait up. There's no formula for this. You have to play around until you find the combination that works. My preference is Vicious line. Quality and consistency matter. I don't want to take a chance on losing a big fish.
Think Shallow After Thanksgiving Bassmaster.com November 22, 2011 (Kevin Short as told to Ed Harp)
Spooning For Winter Bass With Mark Davis
The Elite Series pro finds bass this time of year in depths of 25 to 50 feet mostly along creek channels, but points, isolated trees on points or flats and deep brushpiles are also productive spots for Davis' jigging spoon. Finding baitfish and then targeting structure adjacent to the bait is a key to this pattern. The depth of the bass will vary depending on the water clarity and baitfish location. "A rule of thumb is the clearer the water, the deeper you'll tend to find those bass," says Davis. "Another key is to pay attention to what depth the shad are. For instance, if you're seeing a lot of shad at 25 feet, if you look for a good drop at the same depth or slightly deeper than where you're seeing the shad, you're going to be in the right depth." Bass will be suspended or on the bottom in deep water during this time. "You can catch them in situations where they're not on the bottom - for instance, in standing timber," says Davis. "You can catch them jigging a spoon in the timber, but more times than not those fish are harder to target and catch. If you can find them on or near the bottom and right under the shad, they're a lot easier to catch."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
A Strike King Sexy Spoon produces for Davis when the fish are less than 25 feet deep, but when he needs to reach deeper bass, he counts on a 3/4- or 1-ounce silver Hopkins-style spoon. The only modification he makes to the spoon is replacing the treble hook with a stronger 2X or 3X treble. The Arkansas pro will position his boat directly over the fish and present his spoon vertically when he finds bass deeper than 30 feet. "If they're less than 25 feet, I'll tend to sit off of them slightly and make a short cast to them," he says. After dropping his spoon to the bottom, Davis raises his rod from the 8 o'clock to 11 o'clock position to lift the spoon about a foot to 18 inches off the bottom. Davis notices many anglers make the mistake of jerking their spoons too hard and overworking the lure. "All you really want to do is just pop it or lift it up and let it fall on a slack line," says Davis, who also suggests paying close attention to how high you raise your spoon. "A lot of times you won't feel a strike, your lure just won't go back down to the bottom."
He works the spoon with a 7-foot medium-heavy All Star rod and a Pflueger Patriarch high-speed baitcast reel spooled with 20-pound Stren Fluorocarbon.
Mark Davis' Favorite Early Winter Pattern Bassmaster.com December 1, 2011 (John Neporadny Jr.)
Winter Jerkbaiting With Terry Scroggins
Scroggins targets rocky areas - bluff banks or rip-rap areas around bridges or close to dropoffs. The fish will slide up and down the deeper edges to feed on baitfish. If there's wind blowing into it, it's even better, he adds. During mid-Winter, the fish will hang around main lake areas where the current is less of a factor. As the Winter draws closer to the spawn, Scroggins works his way back into the spawning creeks, looking for the same type of rocky structure. "The rocky banks tend to hold a little more heat,” he says. “Even a 1 or 2 degree rise in water temperature can be a difference maker."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
"Not every jerkbait is suitable for Winter fishing," he adds. "A good suspending jerkbait needs to sit properly in the water, with the nose angled about an inch lower than the tail. A jerkbait that sits perfectly horizontal or with the nose higher than the tail won't perform adequately in the cold water." His favorite jerkbait is XCalibur's EEratic Shad, a 4.5” suspending jerkbait. "Other jerkbaits that perform similarly are Lucky Craft's Pointer 100 and the Megabass Ito Vision 110 model," he adds.
Scroggins makes long casts parallel to the rocks. Jerkbaits come in floating, suspending and sinking models, but he prefers suspending versions because they hover a few feet beneath the surface - in the strike zone - where winter bass prefer to hang. Winter bass aren't chasers, so you can't use the rip-rip-rip jerking method that works well during the Spring. “When the water temp gets down into the 40's and 50's, you jerk the bait down to its maximum depth and let it sit there on a slack line," Scroggins says. “You may have to let it sit 20 or 30 seconds, then suddenly your line jumps and it takes off. The key is to employ a different action and never use the same jerk rhythm, unless you find one that triggers a strike,” he explains.
Winter Jerkbait Gear:
For jerkbait equipment, Scroggins chooses a 6'6” Ducket Micro Magic medium action rod and Lew's Tournmaent Model 6.4:1 baitcasting reel. Scroggins chooses 10lb Hi Seas Fluorocarbon line, which allows him to get the jerkbait down to about 6 feet on a long cast.
Winter Jerkbating December 2011 Bassmaster (Louie Stout pg. 52-55)