Pro's Picks For Winter Bassin'

Cold Cranking With Pete Ponds

Over the years, I've learned that one of the most effective techniques for quality-sized winter bass (and one of the least used) is a common lipless crankbait fished faster than you might think. It'll find them and make them bite if you throw it in the right places - even when the water temperature is in the lower 40-degree range.

Location:

When the water gets cold, the bass do not go totally lethargic and they do not stay in one place for the entire winter. They move with the weather, especially when everything warms up under a bright sun. To find these fish, you need to start looking along creek channels and in the larger sloughs. You're looking for flat areas alongside the channel or on the north side of the slough. The better places will be about 5 feet deep with plenty of sunshine pouring right on top of them. Deeper water will sometimes produce if the water is clear enough for the sunlight to penetrate deep. Don't worry about structure or cover. Barren flats often out-produce those with grass, rock or wood.

Lure Selection:

My tackle choices are pretty straightforward. I like a 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap - traditional or the Pro Trap model - (color optional) thrown with a 7-3 medium-heavy action Duckett Fishing rod and a high-speed Ardent Edge reel. My line is 30-pound-test Vicious braid. I use braid because it gives me the feel I need to detect when a bass is swatting at my bait but not making contact with it.

Lure Presentation:

Make a fairly long cast and bring your lure back with a steady, medium-speed retrieve. Think suspended bass when you're doing this because that’s really what they're doing. Every so often snap your rod tip up over your head as hard as you can. You want your lure to move up, and to do so fast. That's what will usually trigger a strike, if you can call it that. My best guess as to what's happening is that the bass are moving up in the water column to sun themselves and take advantage of whatever warmer water they can find. They aren't really aggressively eating; they're just hanging out. But when the bait comes along, especially when it rapidly increases its speed, they want to swat at it. It's their nature. I say swat because a lot of the fish I catch doing this are hooked on the outside of the mouth. If they wanted to eat it they could. I suspect they're reacting much like we react when a bee or a fly is buzzing around our heads. We slap at it to make it go away. This is a technique that's very location-specific. You might fish for an hour or more, in several places, before you catch one. But when you do, you'll likely catch several from the same spot. Just make sure you make repeated casts to the same place and retrieve your lure at the same angle and speed. One final tip: You don't have to set the hook when you feel a fish. In fact, that'll often cause you to lose it. Just loosen your drag a little and pull back hard. The hooks will penetrate past the barb and you'll be good to go. Don't think your only weapon in cold water is a jig or some other slow-moving bait. Lipless crankbaits can be deadly. Give them a try.

Crank 'Em Up From The Cold January 11, 2012 Bassmaster.com (Pete Ponds)

Cold Water Cranking With Scott Rook

Fast-moving baits in just a couple of feet of water is how you catch bass in the spring, right? Well, according to Elite Series pros, this tactic can load the boat in supercold water, as well. It was one of those brutally cold days in November on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas when the bite was slow and the fish seemingly in a lethargic mood. Elite Series pro Scott Rook put down the jig he was fishing, dug into his tackle and threw a couple of dainty Rapala Shad Raps on the deck. "When all else fails under these conditions, shallow crankbaits will catch them," he says with a shrug. Whoa … cranking shallow in cold, winter-like conditions? Is he serious? "Oh, yeah, it's one of the most overlooked, yet productive patterns you can fish during the winter months," Rook explains. "When everyone else is out dragging jigs or working spoons around deep brush and creek channels, I'm on the bank chunking a crankbait. They [jig fishermen] are lucky to catch two or three, but I've had several 20-plus fish days." Contrary to popular opinion, he adds, bass will use 2 to 5 feet of water and will react to a crankbait. In fact, January is his favorite month to crank shallow water, even when air temps are in the 30s and the water surface temperature dips into the low 40s. An avid hunter, Rook says winter cranking is a great cure for cabin fever after deer season ends. "It's cold, but one of the benefits of cranking is you're moving your arms a lot and your body stays warmer than those guys who are crawlin' a jig," he says with a grin. It wasn't long before he proved his point. One little stretch of bank baked by an afternoon sun yielded a couple of largemouth and scrappy spotted bass. Rook went on to explain that it's not a pattern you can employ just anywhere. He looks for specific types of banks, with sunshine being a key. "I've caught them doing this on gray days, but sunny days are best, regardless of the air temperature," he says. "And after a few consecutive sunny days, it gets even better."

Location:

The best banks have a 45-degree slope into deep water, providing bass easy access to deeper water when conditions send them off the banks. "You don't want to be fishing big flats; key on those that have a nice lip close to deep water," he says. "Nor do you want bluff banks because the bass will suspend out off the edges of those, and the bluff provides too much shade. You want the sun heating up the bank and water." Channel swing banks are a good place to look. In fact, he prefers lakes that have good, major tributaries that offer numerous places where the channels make swings close to the shoreline. Isn't that the same place where you're supposed to fish jigs during the winter? "Sure, but most of the jig fishermen are fishing too deep and not casting against the bank where these fish will cling on a sunny afternoon," Rook contends. Afternoons are best, he adds, therefore it's not necessary to be on the water before 10 a.m. That gives the sun time to heat up those banks. Rocks, especially chunk rock or riprap banks, make an area even more attractive to the bass. Dark chunk rock is preferred, he says, because the darker rocks absorb and retain more heat from the sun. It was this pattern that nearly earned him a Bassmaster Classic win at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina in February 2008. During practice, Rook caught quality bass on every creek channel swing he fished and had more than 20 pounds the first day of the tournament, despite air temperatures in the teens. "We got a lot of rain that night and those creeks muddied up badly, and that killed those areas," he explains. "Had it not rained so hard, I'm convinced I could have weighed big bags each day."

Lure Presntation:

Lure and tackle choices are as critical as the location for catching winter bass. Rook's favorite winter cranking lures are the Rapala Shad Rap in sizes 7 or 8, the Rapala DT6 or a Bomber Flat A. He favors crawfish colors unless the area has an abundance of shad. "You need a tight, wiggling crankbait that you can move slowly through the water and still have a subtle action," describes Rook, who has no crankbait sponsor affiliation. "I've tried other types of baits, but those produce best." He says the bass are lethargic and have a very small strike zone during the winter. Flat-sided crankbaits can be pulled through the water at a slower pace while retaining their lifelike appearance. He casts his lure parallel and as close to the bank as possible, landing his casts where the bottom is visible. "I experiment with my casting angles until I figure out the depth the fish are holding," he says. "Sometimes they're up there in inches of water, or maybe 2 to 3 feet depths, or out in 6 to 8. And it can change throughout the day." The key is to fish slowly, Rook adds, so leave your fast retrieve reels at home.

Cold Cranking Gear:

He fishes the baits on an Abu Garcia Revo Winch baitcaster, which has a 5.4:1 gearing. He pairs the reel with a St. Croix Tournament Series rod, medium action, that has a slower tip. "I do that because these baits are lightweight, and you can throw them farther with a softer rod," he explains. "I use 10-pound Berkley 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line, which makes casting easier than heavier line and gives the bait the freedom to move on a slow retrieve." The No. 7 Shad Rap can be too light to throw on baitcasting gear in the wind, he notes, so he rigs it on spinning tackle and a soft-tipped St. Croix rod. "The Shad Rap is universally known for its success in cold water, but I prefer the larger No. 8 on baitcast when the fish want a little bigger bait," he notes. After he catches a few on a crankbait along a section of bank, he will go back through it with a 5/16-ounce Jewel jig tipped with a small Zoom Critter Craw that "has very little movement." "You don't want a jig trailer that has a lot of action in the legs," he insists. "You want something that looks like it's moving slow. Everything is moving slower in that cold water."

Cranking The Cold Shallows February, 2013 Bassmaster (Louie Stout pg. 32-35)

Doin' The Darter Head With Charlie Weyer

"My biggest bass on a darter head was 12-lbs," remarked B.A.S.S. and FLW champion Charlie Weyer. "I pulled it out of Clear Lake in Calif., just north of the Konocti launch ramp. She came out of 8-ft of water in late Feb. It was so big, I thought it was a catfish. Unfortunately, I got her during practice, not during a tournament." Although a darter head was a bait already found in Weyer's arsenal at that time of his big bass catch, the 12-pounder definitely made it a favorite technique for the Phoenix Boat pro. Willing to share his experience with the bait, Weyer broke down the basics and gave tips on the darter head.

Location & Presentation:

The darter head can be fished year-round and in a variety of locations. Weyer sees it as mainly a lake bait, rather than something he would put to use on tidal waters. When looking at prime locations to use a darter head, he explained that seasonal conditions are a factor. "In the fall, backs of creeks, secondary points and the creek bends or gut of the creek channels are the good spots," he stated. "For wintertime, I'm heading toward the middle of the lake to half way back through the creeks and main lake points. In spring, good areas are again the backs of creeks, secondary points and creek guts - similar to the fall pattern. During summer, it is all about main lake points, steeper bluff walls, rock piles, offshore humps, mouths of creeks and anywhere I can see bait. Overall, any edges, the last few posts on boat docks, boat launches and their edges and the rubble at the end of launches are good places."

Because locating bait can be such a key to success in darter head fishing, Weyer stressed the importance that electronics can play. "My Lowrance HDS 10 with SideScan is crucial in finding fish on rocks and points and getting that placement for a vertical drop on them," he stated. "You can fish a darter with super-long casts, but a vertical presentation on baitfish with the downward spiral that a darter has on the fall can be deadly. On that presentation, I am going to give it a slow shake to make the bait quiver. It is almost like spoon fishing, except it is not as erratic. If I'm going for long casts and working it back, I want to mimic a craw, darting in and out and over rock. I'm going to start with my rod at about 10 o'clock and hop it to 12 o'clock for the darting action. In open water, I'm going to make a quick "pop and drop" motion and I will probably be throwing a shad color bait - especially in deeper water." As he explained hooking the fish, he said he sets his drag with "a little pull" when he's in shallow water, but tightens it up in deep water, due to line stretch and rod bend. "When you are deep, don't bring up the fish too fast and the closer they get, you want to loosen the drag a little incase they make a run," said Weyer. " When I set the hook I always set hard, there are never any reel sets for me - a hard side sweep or upward set is what I always do for any kind of fishing."

Lure Selection:

Plastic preference for Weyer is the 4-inch or 6-inch Roboworm, either Straight Tail or Fat Worms. He also noted a Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm in four or 5 1/2-inches was a good back up choice if his starting bait - the 6-inch Robo - wasn't getting bit. "When I'm picking colors for this time of year, I'm thinking about a crawdad color - especially if I see that red look to their mouths like they've been feeding on them," he continued. "When I see bass in the livewell spitting up shad, of course, I'm going with a shad pattern. I will also throw green pumpkin or something else in a natural shade, if they're shallow and aggressive and I mix in the Kut Tail in the same colors when they're not eating and I want a different action to show them." Weyer also explained that he will tie on a Yamamoto Hula Grub in the early spring for pre spawn and the spawn for a different look and a bigger profile.

Darter Head Gear:

Weyer's gear includes a medium-light to medium action, 6-ft, 6-inch or 7-ft spinning rod. "I use a Powell 701 with a 1500 or 2500 Daiwa spinning reel," stated the West Coast pro. "As for the size of the darter heads I use, it depends on the depth that I'm fishing - it can be an 1/8-oz, 3/16-oz or a 1/4-oz. In shallower water of 20-ft or less, I'm going to use an 1/8-oz. In water over 20-ft, I am going with a 3/16 or 1/4-oz. Typically, I am using them with a standard 2/0 hook sometimes a 3/0, but if the fish are being finicky, I will drop down to a 1/0 or even a size 1." He ties his darter head on with a Palomar knot.

Doin' The Darter Head Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 43-44)

Float N Fly Tactics

While Dale Hollow Lake on the Kentucky/Tennessee border is legendary for its smallmouth bass angling, the crappie fishing there actually played an important role and teaching bronzeback anglers to catch these fish in the winter. It started on a cold winter day in the 1990's when two crappie anglers were plying the waters. The pair were throwing hair jigs fished under a slip bobber, but instead of slab-sized panfish, they were tying into some of the fabled smallmouth bass the reservoir is known for. They reported this to Tennessee resident and tackle manufacturer Charlie Nuckols, who decided to try and perfect the technique for catching trophy suspended smallmouth in the winter. What resulted from this is possibly the most productive tactic for winter time smallmouth, the float 'n' fly.

"The float 'n' fly really changed wintertime smallmouth fishing on Dale Hollow and as more anglers adapted to it we have found that it works all over the country," Headrick explains. "We used to fish hair jigs, blade baits and a little bit of crankbait and jerkbait fishing. The problem is, you can't keep these lures at the same depth at all times and they are moving baits. It is hard to slow these baits down and keep them at the right depth consistently and the fish are not going to chase a bait down when the water gets cold." Once water temperatures dip below 55 degrees, it is float 'n' fly time for Headrick. "The colder it gets the better it is for the float 'n' fly because the fish will start suspending and feeding on the small alewife shad which becomes a staple of their diet in the winter," he notes.The set up on the float 'n' fly rig is critical to success. It started with a pear shaped bobber and monofilament line wrapped around the bobber three-to-five times to hold the bobber properly and a crappie jig. It has evolved over the years as more anglers have begun experimenting with it.

Location:

Smallmouth during the winter will not be found in their usual haunts and will roam more during the cold weather months. This is because the bait is moving around and they prey will dictate where the predators are located. For Headrick, finding the bait is the key to locating bronzebacks. "When I get on the water I am looking for schools of shad," Headrick says. "These fish are going to suspend around the depth the bait and looking for the stragglers. The smallmouth are actually feeding up for the spawn. People don't realize this but they will feed all winter long as they prepare for the spawn. They may not eat as often, but they are still going to eat and the shad are the key because they are higher in protein and they are the prevalent food in the winter." During years of a mild winter, Headrick says that smallmouth will remain in the creeks more often. He believes this is due to the inordinate amount of warm rain which has kept the water temperature warmer than usual and staining the water more than normal. He advises that even under normal conditions, anglers should not ignore the creeks. "Usually after a warm front moves through in the winter, the temperature plunges," Headrick observes. "When this happens, the backs of the creeks will stay warmer for a time, than the main lake because of the warmer water still running in. This water will be the warmest on the lake for two or three days. This is where the baitfish are going to be for a day or two until the water starts cooling quickly. Then they will start working their way back out toward the main lake. If we get another warm rain, the bait will move back in the creeks again. This can repeat itself several times and many anglers don't know this. They immediately think, cold weather, deep water."

Lure Selection:

The business end of Headrick's float 'n' fly rig is a small craft hair or duck feather jig, usually1/16-or 1/32-ounce. The modacrylic and acrylic fibers in the craft hair offer the angler any number of color choices to "match the hatch" Headrick ties most of his jigs to mimic the baitfish, but not everything is done with natural colors. "I usually try to match whatever baitfish are available, but there are two colors that I tie into almost all of my jigs - pink and chartreuse," he says. "I will use a jig with some chartreuse when the water's a little dingy or the weather's cloudy and pink when I have clear water on sunny days."Baitfish are lethargic in cold water and your jig should reflect this. Headrick matts the hair down by coating it liberally with Fish Dope that his company manufactures. This enables him to mold the hair to a baitfish profile and keep the movements subtle to better reflect the bait during this time period. Punisher Lures Fish Dope is garlic scented and has glitter in it for visual effect. As the scent product begins to wear off and drops glitter in the water, it resembles fish scales falling off a dying shad.

Presentation:

The cast on the float 'n' fly can be tricky at first because of the long leader. Bring the rod back behind you far enough that your fly touches the water in back of you. Come forward and release the line to send the rig forward. Once the fly settles and the bobber stands up, begin your retrieve by imparting action using the rod tip and retrieving the rig very slowly.

Float N Fly Gear:

To fish the rig properly you need a rod of 9- or 10- feet in length. The rod needs a fast action tip, but enough backbone to handle a large smallmouth. Several companies make a quality float 'n' fly rod. An All-Pro Floating Fly Rod or a Pinnacle Vertex are two popular versions. A quality spinning reel with a good adjustable drag system is a must. Headrick spools his reel with 8- or 10-pound-test Berkley Fireline in Crystal Flash color. The white color of the line helps the angler to see the amount slack in the line and to detect subtle movement of the fly. Attach a three-way swivel to the Fireline. For a leader, Headrick uses Berkley Vanish 100% Fluorocarbon line in 6-or 8-pound-test. He likes to start with a 12-foot leader, but will adjust that up or down depending on what depth the fish are using.

The bobber is another critical component of the float 'n' fly rig. To fish the rig effectively, you need a bobber that will stand up under the lightweight jigs and lay over on its side when the fly is on bottom, or a fish has come up and taken the fly upwards. Dale Hollow guide Bob Coan designed a bobber for the float 'n' fly rig that is now standard among winter smallmouth anglers. Bob's Bobbers, manufactured by Punisher Lures, has an internal weight placed slightly above center. This allows the bobber to lie on its side until the jig sinks and enables you to easily detect strikes. A slip bobber presents problems because the light weight of the fly will not allow it to slip down in the water and the wind bows the line adding too much resistance to allow the line to pull through. It is important to remember when clipping the bobber to the swivel, make sure to clip it from the bottom side of the float.

Float 'N' Fly tactics With The Smallmouth Guru Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 73-74)

In Depth Winter Lure Selection With Mike Iaconelli

As a Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli's fishing prowess is put to the test under a variety of changing conditions, locations and seasonal patterns. With winter underway, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion lets us in on the lures and techniques that work wonders for him in the cold weather. "Wintertime is a funny thing," explained Iaconelli. "It means different things to different anglers, depending on where they're at. Out in Calif., winter may mean 60-degree days; back here in New Jersey it can mean air temperatures at below zero and shoveling snow just to get out of your door, in Fla. on Kissimmee the coldest the water may be in the mid-50s and in some places it may mean iced over lakes."Because the season is so proportional to location, the first thing Iaconelli stressed was that an angler needs to know the conditions they are facing according to the area that they are fishing. He described it as "relative" and said, "There are two 'relative generalizations' when you think of winter - first, the coldest air temperature and second, the body of water."

Location:

Iaconelli noted in winter, more than any other time of the year, the fish group up. "Because they stay together in the colder temps, when you find a fish, you're more likely to find several fish," he explained. "The easiest way to find where they will group is to look at the contours of the body of water and find the deepest, most vertical breaks. " He explained the way to do this is to look at maps seeking out the tightest contours. The tighter contours on a map represent a steeper drop, while the slow contours represent gradual sloping. He also reminded, steep is relative - just think about the steepest place in the lake you are at.

Lure Selection & Presentation:

Vibration Bait is an amazing wintertime bait. A lot of people think this has to be fished in the spring or the fall when there is grass; but that's not true. It is a # 1 reaction/power bait in the winter. It covers a lot of water and it gives me the control over depth, because of the sinking and its tight vibration. It doesn't matter what forage you are trying to mimic, this is the perfect imitation of coldwater bait fish like threadfin shad, golden shiners, shore minnows etc. When the colder water causes a die off of shad, they don't just die and slow sink to the bottom. They sink and bounce back and have a scurry motion to try and swim. It is a perfect replication of a lift and fall technique with this bait. It is also an imitator of a crawfish. You get a cold day, a mild day and the craws burrow up and then a bit of a warmer day and they come out. If you've ever seen one come out, it rears up and scoots a long. A vibration bait with a yo-yo retrieve is a perfect imitation. Again, keep this yo-yoing action in the deepest, most vertical break of the water and sink to the bottom. It is similar to jiggin' a spoon. Remember to follow the bait back down on a semi-slack line. I like the Rapala Rippin' Rap. It casts well, has a great sound, comes in several sizes and the best part is its tight shimmy on the fall - just perfect for colder water. I am a big believer in fluorocarbon for vibration baits. I want a slow retrieve, so I use a 6.4:1 reel and an Abu Garcia Veritas Winch Rod. I want a glass or composite rod that is real whippy and real tippy, for a more subtle action.

Suspended Jerkbait is more recognized as a cold weather bait. It has a great baitfish profile with its long, skinny appearance - just like shad, herring, shiners, silversides, hitch etc. This bait sits in the middle of the water column and imitates that pause, snap and shimmy swim of a dying baitfish. Its move/stop/sit action is a super-natural look. I vary my lip and my line, so that I can get the lure to stop where I want it in the water column for the most natural presentation. This time of year, all over the country, in water that is stained to ultra-clear, there are suspending bass. To be able to get a bait to stop and suspend with them is amazing and a perfect wintertime pattern. Again think deepest, most vertical places - in creek arms look for the bends and main lake points, a bluff wall, rip rap, a marina dam, every time a road or bridge crosses the lake where they dump rock are all phenomenal areas. I use an old school Rapala Husky Jerk. It has the most muted action. It's subtle and small, which is important in the imitation of a bait fish in colder water. In 0 to 10-feet, I like a small-billed Shallow Husky Jerk . In 12- to 16-feet, I like a Down Deep Husky Jerk . I use anywhere from 6- to 17-lb fluorocarbon. It changes depending on the depth that I want to fish.

Crankbait, like the vibration bait, a lot of anglers don't' feel like is a cold water lure option, but it is. When choosing your crankbait, the colder the water, the tighter the vibration and the warmer the water, the wider the wobble. I like the Rapala Shad Rap for that reason. It has the tightest vibration on the market - super-tight and subtle. You can barely feel the vibration in the water. It has no rattles, so it's quiet and it's made of balsa wood, so it is super-subtle by nature. Again, fish it in deeper, more vertical areas and especially areas with hard bottom, rock, pea gravel, banks and boulders. I pick my size depending on the depth that I want to fish. I use a #5 for shallower water, a #7 up to 12-feet and a #9 for deeper than that. Use the bill to deflect and encourage the bite. A pause is important. Cast and hit off the bottom. As soon as I feel it hit (deflect), I stop - not super-long - just like a suspended baitfish for a couple of seconds. The deflection followed by the pause and slow rise is a magic time. I throw this with an Abu Garcia 40 Spinning Reel on a 7'4" Veritas Spinning Rod. This lets me control it more and using 6- to 8-lb fluoro lets me throw it a mile, while getting the bait to maximum depth.

Shakey Head by default, this is my # 1 finesse bait, because of its dual action. You can get bites on the fall and during the shake on the bottom. I use a VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jighead. It is a cross between a traditional shakey head and a football head. I fish this with a straight tail worm. I don't want anything with crazy legs. I want a thin, bulbous tail, so it doesn't have a lot of action. I want 3/4 of it to be round, then a flat bottom. A perfect example of this is the Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper. I pick the size and color depending on the forage. I Texas-rig it on the Rugby with the flat side of the worm on the bottom. To fish it, you want it to fall on a semi-slack or controlled-slack line. When you let it fall, you don't want it to crash into the bottom. The shape and the weight will let it glide down with a minimal amount of side-to-side action. Watch the line, you will either get bit or it will hit the bottom. If you see the line mellow out that is an indication that it's a hit. Once you're on the bottom, you want the shake to be minimal in the winter. In spring, summer or fall more shake is okay, but in cold weather you want the winter crawl. So, slow down and shake subtly, barely twitch to mimic the activity level of the baitfish in that cold water. A rod tip movement from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock is enough. Length of rod is important to fish it like this. I use an Abu Garcia 6'6", medium-heavy spinning rod. The shorter rod makes you slow down. I use an Abu Garcia 30 Size Revo and 80 percent of the time, I use 6- to 10-lb fluorocarbon. The density allows it to sink causing the right action.

Dropshot is an important bait, because it allows a presentation in the middle of the water column, mimicking suspending baitfish. The is a great bait in really vertical areas like manmade seawalls, bridge pilings, bluff walls and most inclines. For the plastic, in the cold weather period, you want to fish a bait with the most neutral action. My favorite is a three or four-inch Berkley Gulp! Dropshot Minnow, because of its neutral action and lots of scent. As soon as it hits the bottom, let it sit. Do not move it. Hold your rod at 2 o'clock, giving it just enough tension to keep the bait on the bottom through the wind, current and boat drift. The hook is worth mentioning here. For years, I used a #1 or #2 standard dropshot hook. Now, I use a VMC Spin Shot hook. The hook has a micro-swivel in the design to allow a 360-degree rotation, eliminating line twist and giving you get a better hook up percentage, because the hook is always up. Your line attaches to the top of the hook and then you tie a leader of desired length to the other end. Leader length depends on the fish. Look at the graph, if they are suspended at 1 1/2-ft, tie the leader there. Use one size smaller line on the leader than on the main line and if you get snagged you can break off and you won't have to re-tie. VMC makes three tungsten dropshot weight shapes - cannonball, tear drop and pencil weight. All three have their time and place. The cannonball (ball weight) doesn't snag as much and has better bottom contact, the pencil weight (cylinder) is better in rocks and weeds and the best all-around choice, a compliment of both, is the tear drop. I pick a 1/16- to 3/4-oz weight. A rule of thumb that I use is to pick a size that is heavy enough to maintain bottom contact. My gear for this is a 30 size Revo with 6- to 10-lb fluoro on a 6'9" Veritas medium-action rod. because I don't need to jam the hook in 'em. A sweep-step hookset is all you need.

Grubs are a real sleeper bait - lots of guys have forgotten about it. It is one of the oldest categories of plastics. I parallel this to a vibration bait, because of the amazing control you can have over it. You can fish it anywhere in the water column, depending on your retrieve. I like a grub with a shad body and a boot tail. Right now, I use a product that hasn't been released yet by Havoc. It will be out in Feb. at the Classic. It is called the Beat Shad. The movement of the tiny boot tail mimics a baitfish. It has ribs to catch some water and throw vibration. I fish this on a VMC jighead. My number one way to fish a grub on in the winter is on a dart head. The shape is streamline and helps the bait track best. The 90-degree line tie keeps the bait horizontal. I choose a 1/16- to 3/8-oz weight and pick the size to maintain bottom contact. I use a slow, steady retrieve with the same movement a baitfish would have. I use a longer spinning rod for longer casts, which is important with a grub. I have a 7'4" Veritas medium-action spinning rod with a 40 size Abu Garcia spinning reel. I want this size so that I have more line for longer casts.

Workin' Wonders In The Winter Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 65-67)

Jared Lintner's Late Winter Lure Selection

Jared Lintner might be February's biggest fan. For starters, he catches most of his double-digit fish this month in his home state of California. Why is this? Many of the Golden State's bass are prespawn and, therefore, at their heaviest (females are laden with roe). However, he likely won't get to sample the scary good SoCal bassin' this February; Lintner's heading to Tulsa, Okla., to fish in his fourth Bassmaster Classic, this time on Oklahoma's Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. Though they're more than 1,500 miles apart, Lintner will approach Grand Lake the same as he does his home waters, such as Clear Lake. As in most of the country, Grand's bass won't quite be in the prespawn stage, but many will be thinking about it. Here's what Jared Lintner throws in February.

Eco Pro Tungsten Heavyweight Flipping Jig:

Lintner likes a black-and-blue flipping jig to tempt the biggest bass in any given lake. "I like an Uncle Josh Pork Meat TW Bubba, a 4-inch pork trailer that really slows down the fall of that thing," he says. "When you get a bite with this combo, it's a good one every time." Pork-style trailers are ideal in cold water because they retain their action, whereas cold deadens the movement of plastics. Lintner focuses on rocky areas adjacent to feeder creeks that lead to spawning areas, namely shallow flats. He flips and pitches this combo with a Shimano Core reel spooled with 25-pound-test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon mated to a G.Loomis GLX 895.

Jackall Squad Minnow:

"You can't go anywhere in February without a jerkbait," he says. "Depending on the water temperature, I'm targeting either main-lake stuff or secondary points. If it's warm, I'll venture back into creeks looking for points or chunk rock just outside the spawning grounds. If it's still cold, I'll work it along main-lake primary points." According to Lintner, the key to wintertime jerkbaiting is the retrieve cadence. "The colder the water, the longer you need to pause the bait. If it's below 50, I'll let it sit anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. When it's warmer, go a little quicker and use sharper twitches." He keeps colors simple: shad patterns in clear water and more vibrant hues in dirty water. He throw this on a G.Loomis GLX 893 casting rod paired with a Shimano Chronarch spooled with 10- or 12-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon.

Spinnerbait:

"I like a bigger profile spinnerbait, though it's not especially heavy," he says. "When a lot of people are catching fish on a spinnerbait, I often up my blade sizes to target bigger fish. I like a No. 7 willowleaf on back and a No. 4 or 5 Indiana blade up front on a 3/8-ounce head, which lets me work this bait really slow." Again, he keeps color selection simple: chartreuse-and-white in clear to stained water, and all chartreuse in mud. He targets visible cover such as stumps, laydowns and also throws it along the same rocky stretches in creeks. He tosses his big-bladed spinner with a G.Loomis GLX 893 light flipping stick with a Shimano Chronarch spooled with 25-pound-test Sunline monofilament.

Jackall MC/60:

This is one part of a one-two crankbait punch Lintner throws in the cold months. If the water is really cold, he'll go with the MC/60 in a super crawfish color, and if it's unseasonably warm, he'll opt for a Jackall TN lipless crankbait. "The MC/60 isn't a wide-wobbler, and it doesn't have a tight wiggle. It's a nice in-between that lets you cover lots of water," he says. "Last February on a little lake near home, I caught an 11- and a 13-pounder in the same day on this. It just gets eaten up." He throws it around any kind of cover inside creek channel swings that are en route to shallow spawning grounds, but stresses that having deeper water nearby is a must. He tosses both the TN and the MC/60 with a G.Loomis GLX 855 cranking rod with a Chronarch spooled with 14- or 16-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon.

What Jared Lintner Throws In February February, 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 22)

Kevin Short's Tips On Wintertime River Fishing

When winter arrives, most bass anglers can be found in their tackle rooms or garages gearing up for the arrival of spring. However, there exists a certain diehard contingent that won't allow a little cold weather to keep them off the water. Arkansas Elite Series pro Kevin Short admits that there are easier ways to fish for bass in the wintertime than heading to the river. "I've had some phenomenal days on the Arkansas River in late December and early January, but that's typically the exception to the rule," he says. Cold, muddy, moving water can be the toughest situation a bass angler can face, Short explains. "The biggest problem with fishing southern rivers in the wintertime is that there's usually been a lot of rain runoff, which makes the water incredibly muddy." On the other hand, if the conditions are such that there is some visibility in the water, even if it's below 40 degrees, bass can be caught.

Location:

Structure fishing a river during the winter, as Short points out, revolves around access to deep water. "Deep is going to be relative to the river system that you're fishing," he says. "For instance, on the Arkansas River, 'deep' means somewhere around 35 feet. On the Mississippi River though, it might only mean 25 feet deep. It just depends, but you have to understand that the bass will be near deep water. That doesn't mean that they will be deep, just close to deep water." Short recommends channel swings as a great starting point on a river in winter. "These can be especially good if there's something that will concentrate bass within that bend," he says. "It could be anything from rock along the outside bank to a rock jetty or wing dam — just something that the fish can get around." Another important consideration about river fishing in cold weather relates to current, Short notes. "At all costs, I'm going to try to avoid current," he says. "Bass get finicky when it's cold, so when you throw current into the mix, bass become almost impossible to find." If faced with cold, muddy conditions where current is present, Short recommends finding a calm backwater area. "If you have to fish in those conditions, the best alternative - aside from just staying home in bed - is to find some backwater," he says. "I'm going to find some area off the river that has the same types of transitional breaks - from shallow to deep - that the main river does." Short points out that the depth transition in backwater areas doesn't have to be significant in order to hold bass. "It can be a drop of only 2 or 3 feet," he says. "If that's the biggest breakline you have, that's where you need to focus your efforts."

Lure Selection:

From there, depending on water temperature and clarity, Short will determine the appropriate lure to employ. "I'm either going with a crankbait or a jerkbait this time of year," he says. It's all going to be relative to how cold the water is, and how clear it is. "If the water drops below about 45 degrees, my No. 1 bait is a jerkbait," Short explains. "From the mid-40s to the mid-50s, it's going to be some kind of crankbait."

Kevin Short's Tips On Wintertime River Fishing January 12, 2012 Bassmaster.com (Brent Conway)

Late Winter Cranking Tips With John Crews

Most anglers know that crankbaits are effective during the prespawn. But what about during the cold, late winter period? You betcha, says Elite pro John Crews. "A lot of people think the crankbait bite doesn't start until prespawn, when the water temperature hits 50 degrees or so," said the Virginia pro. "But I've caught ‘em really well with a crankbait when the water has been in the mid-40s and other anglers are out fishing jigging spoons." Crews says the crankbait shouldn't be overlooked in shallow water, either. He says on sunny days the fish will move up in the afternoons onto sun-soaked shorelines where the water is warming.

Location:

He targets the middle or back sections of major creeks, looking for places where the channel cuts close to the bank. That gives the fish a deep water sanctuary when the water is cooling down and a place to slide up shallow and feed when the sun warms up the shoreline. "That sun pulls the crawfish and little bream up to the bank, and that's why the bass are there," he explained. For that reason, he's casting to vertical rocky banks or slowly winding his lure through brush piles and tree tops on banks near dropoffs where a lot of the baitfish suspend.

Downsize Your Line:

Crews says smaller diameter line allows the bait to work freer, especially on a slow to medium retrieve. He also prefers monofilament, saying that lines like 10-pound Vicious Ultimate handles better in cold weather than fluorocarbon. Limp monofilament also enhances the movement. "I'll even go down to 8 pound line at times to allow the bait get deeper and maximize its action," he described.

Be Selective With Colors:

Crews believes crankbaits with yellow and/or red colors on them get more bites in cold water. "I try to fish water with a little bit of stain, but those colors seem to work well for me in clear, cold water, too," he explained. "Regardless of what color the lure body is, make sure the bait has an orange belly. That's key to me in that situation."

Choose Buoyant Baits:

A bait that suspends when you pause the retrieve seems to get more bites, Crews insisted. If your favorite crankbait doesn't suspend, you can alter it so that it does. For example, Crews will remove the stock hooks on his Spro Little John and replace them with two, short shank No. 2 hooks that add just enough weight that the bait will suspend when he stops the retrieve. "When I'm winding the bait and feel it hit cover, I will stop for a second or two and maybe twitch it once or twice, then resume cranking," he described. "I've caught a lot of good fish in cold water by doing that." Crews doesn't believe bass will come out of nowhere to blast a bait in cold water, so making it pause without bobbing to the top arouses their interest. "They just mosey up close and look at it, and then when you twitch it they suck it in," he added.

Unlocking Bass: 3 Keys To Cold Water Cranking January 4, 2013 Bassmaster.com (Louie Stout)

Skeet Reese On Late Winter Big Lipless Crankbaits

Fish earlier, deeper and go big. Magnum big. "Everyone knows that prespawn bass head to the shallow flats and the lipless crankbait is a great way to catch them," says Skeet Reese, 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. " But why not intercept them before they move shallow?" You can do that by searching deeper grass and upsizing your lipless crankbait. Reese turns to a Lucky Craft LVR D-15, a 1-ounce big daddy, twice the size of lipless lures that most anglers fish around grass. "That does two things for me," he explains. "First, it gives me a larger profile bait, something that the larger bass are keying on that time of year. Second, the weight of the lure allows me to fish deeper water.

Location:

He targets the 10- to 20-foot zone adjacent to shallower flats, an area that attracts big fish at the first hint of warming water. It's a place where early prespawn bass will stage on any cover they encounter when moving up from winter haunts.On grass lakes, that can be clumps of hydrilla or milfoil growing in ditches and channels that wander through shallower grass flats that attract bass later in the spring."It's a good place to intercept the big boys when the water temp rises into the upper 40s and low 50s," says Reese. "That's when the magnum lipless lure shines because it's a more efficient tool in the deep grass. The technique has paid off at places such as Lake Guntersville, Ala.; Florida lakes including Toho, Kissimmee and Okeechobee; and Texas waters such as Toledo Bend, Rayburn and Amistad."If your lake has deep grass, it will work there, too," he insists.Some anglers choose to slow roll a spinnerbait, hop a jig or Carolina rig a soft bait in the same areas. Those techniques catch fish, too, Reese notes, but the big lipless lure covers water faster and will trigger reaction strikes that other techniques can't deliver. Of course, you can fish smaller sized lipless lures in the deep situation, but not as efficiently. You have to fish them slower and reduce your line size to reach the proper depth. "The bigger bait matches the size of shad and other forage that time of year, and you can fish it faster over the top of the deep grass," Reese explains. "By fishing faster, you cover more water and make more casts."

Lure Presentation:

Keep your colors simple, he adds, and let the water color dictate what you choose. Don't be afraid to mix it up. "My favorites are the spring craw (dark red with orange belly), mad craw (fluorescent orange and red), chartreuse shad and a ghost minnow," he offers.He employs a couple of different retrieves: He'll burn it over the top of the grass or pump it so that the lure is jumping in and out of the tops of the weeds. "The jigging action is pretty radical because you're letting the bait free-fall and ripping it up again," he describes. "There are days when that's the best way to trigger strikes."The bite will vary; some days the bass will try to rip the rod from your hands as the bait is falling. Other days the strike is less noticeable; the rod and bait simply feel mushy and heavy. Larger lipless lures require stout tackle. Reese makes long casts with his Lamiglas 765R, a 7 1/2-footer made of fiberglass."I can really bomb it out there with the longer rod, and it has the backbone to handle the heavier lure," Reese offers. "Long casts are important because they allow you to cover a larger area in one cast."

Big Lipless Crankbait Gear:

He spools his high-speed Abu Garcia Revo baitcast reel with 30-pound Spiderwire Ultracast. The small diameter braided line allows the bait to sink faster, provides the strength for hooking big fish on long casts, and more importantly, lacks stretch."Monofilament and even fluorocarbon line have too much stretch, so the lure doesn't snap free from the grass as easily as it does with no-stretch braid," Reese explains. "That characteristic also makes it easier to get the hooks in fish that strike at the end of a long cast." When fishing deep grass, California pro Skeet Reese changes hooks on his Lucky Craft 1-ounce lipless lure. He replaces round bend hooks with Gamakatsu's EWG hooks, placing a No. 2 on the front and No. 4 on the back. About the only time I ever use an EWG style hook on a lipless crankbait is when fishing grass," he explains. "The hooks are turned in a little bit more on the EWG, so they don't snag the grass as easily. Otherwise, I prefer round bend trebles. "Why?" Because when prespawn bass eat the lure around grass, they really choke it, and hooking them isn't a big issue," he offers. "It's not like you're reeling it along and the fish are slapping at it, like they do other times of the year. "When fish are "slapping" at the bait, they're more difficult to hook with the EWG, he notes, because of the angle of the barbs. "You miss or lose a lot of fish that way," Reese adds. "With the round bend in that situation, they get the point stuck in them better."

Big Lipless Crankbaits For Late Winter Bass January 13, 2012 Bassmaster.com (Skeet Reese)

Terry Bolton's Winter Secrets

Winter can be tough on a bass angler, especially in certain parts of the country. Depending on where you live, bass could be out of season or your local waters even frozen over; however, for much of the country, bass angling is available and fish can be caught if you put in the time. FLW Tour pro Terry Bolton enjoys fishing in nearly any conditions. Growing up near the productive bass waters of Kentucky and Barkley lakes, Bolton learned early on about productive winter tactics for putting bass in the boat. After traveling across the country for more than a decade, plying his techniques on a variety of waterways, Bolton has simplified his search for wintertime bass.

Location:

Bolton will begin his early winter hunts on gravel bars that run across the mouths of bays. Most waterways have been lowered to winter levels, which exposes these bars. The tops of these gravel bars will be relatively shallow and they drop into a creek channel. He starts his search along the deep edge of the bar. During winter drawdown there will be current generated and this positions bass on the side where the current breaks. "When current is being generated it pulls water from the backs of these bays," Bolton explained. "It creates a flow across the tops of these bars and it pulls the food to the fish. It is like a dinner table for bass. If a severe front comes in the fish can kick their tail a couple of times and they can be back in the safety of the channel and deeper water."

Another area that he will fish are channel swing banks with a 45-degree angle with riprap or rock. He parallels the banks anywhere a creek channel comes in and touches the bank on one of these rocky shorelines. He says because the rock absorbs heat, often the water temperature will be a degree or two warmer and both bait and fish will migrate to these areas. "These are really good areas when you get three or four sunny days in a row," Bolton explained. "This gives them a warm place to feed and they are still near the channel, so they can escape to deeper water if a cold front moves in." A second area that the Ky. native looks to in the cold months are main lake area gravel bars, creek intersections or sweeping bends in the main lake channel. The winter drawdown can expose shallow water cover out on the main lake, look for cover that is right next to the main and secondary channels. "On the Tennessee River at places like Pickwick or Kentucky lakes, smallmouth will spend their winter out near these shallow bars with the wood on them," Bolton observed. "Some of the biggest smallmouths I have caught are living out on these bars and flats on the main lake. You will also find some good largemouth at times. It is just a population of fish that never leave the main lake."

Lure Selection & Gear:

When he finds an area that looks promising, he has an old standby that will usually be the first lure thrown. "My number one winter time lure is a crankbait," Bolton said. "Usually when we start entering winter, water temperatures begin reaching down into low 50's or upper 40's it is hard to beat a crankbait." His crankbait of choice is a size 7 or 8 Rapala Shad Rap. For Bolton, the action of the Shad Rap imitates the baitfish movements this time of year. "The Shad Rap has a really tight wiggle and that is important in the colder months," Bolton explained. "When water temperatures drop, the baitfish slow down and this bait mimics that very well." Bolton fishes the size 8 Shad Rap on a 7-foot medium-heavy Denali Cranking Rod topped with a Lew's 5.4:1 baitcasting reel spooled with 8- or 10-pound-test Suffix Cranking Line. If he decides on the smaller size 7 crankbait, he fishes it on a 7-foot spinning rod and 8-pound-test monofilament line.

When he finds these main lake honey holes, his go-to lure is a suspending jerkbait. Bolton prefers one of two Rapala jerkbaits, either an X-Rap or a Husky Jerk. He throws this on a 6-foot, 8-inch Denali rod with a baitcasting 7:1 reel spooled with 8-pound-test fluorocarbon. He wants to get the jerkbait as deep as he can, so he wants to position his boat in order to make long casts past the break.

When fish school up and suspend, as is common in winter, Bolton will throw an umbrella rig. Umbrella rigs, a take-off of the Alabama rig took the bass fishing world by storm in the fall of 2011. Bolton says that in the right situation, they can be deadly. "The umbrella rig is the first time we have had a lure that looks like a whole school of fish," Bolton said. "The thing it does is it allows you to fish up in the water column. At this time of year we are covering the right water column, as opposed to fishing a crankbait or jig that runs deeper." He has several options in choosing his rig, but he prefers the Terminator Titanium Rig. Terminator offers these in three sizes - five, eight or 10-inch version. He will use the 8-inch predominantly, but will throw the 5-inch under certain circumstances. He will throw his umbrella rig on a 7-foot, 11-inch Denali rod designed for umbrella rigs. His reel is a 6.4:1 Lew's reel spooled with 65-pound-test Suffix 832 braided line.

Lure Presentation:

Boat position is important for Bolton when using this tactic. He will park his boat on the main lake side of the bar and fan cast to across the bar. He wants to cover the entire bar, but once he hooks and lands a bass he will immediately cast back to the same spot. The bass bunch up at this time and often there will be something unseen that is holding fish, such as brush, a stump or a rock pile. Bolton says wind, particularly strong north winds, can have a detrimental impact on your ability to fish the jerkbait effectively. In cold-water temperatures, it is important to let the lure sit a while between pauses, which is difficult under windy conditions. He also wants to get the bait in the right zone without running it against the bottom. "You really want to find a happy medium between getting the bait in the strike zone, and not hitting the bottom on the flat," Bolton stated. "Most of these ledges are going to be pretty shear. I want to come off the break in the deeper water, but at the right depth. The flat area may only be in 5-feet of water and the fish are going to be off the break. The water on the deep side maybe 12- to 20-feet deep, but the fish are going to be suspended in 5- to 8-feet of water."

Terry Bolton's Wintertime Success Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 90-91)

Wintertime Cranking With Mark Menendez

Bass anglers are notorious for their hardy dedication to the sport. They are often found on the water pursuing their quarry in the most adverse conditions. Bass can be caught under the most under any conditions and wintertime is no exception. For Bassmaster Elite Series professional Mark Menendez, winter often means crankbait fishing on a variety of reservoirs across the country. Menendez, a Paducah, KY native, bases winter fishing strictly around water temperature. "Winter fishing to me begins when water temperature starts getting down to the coldest it will be all year," he explains. "This varies by location; it could be 50 degrees in some areas of the country and 70 degrees in other regions. Fish are still active in that time period, particularly the larger fish. Larger fish don't seem to be as negatively affected by the colder temperatures as smaller fish. In winter, I am looking for the big fish; from three-to five pounds and larger bass and a crankbait is often the best bet for big fish."

Location:

For Menendez, the advantage of fishing this time of year is that you start seeing fish group up. They have been chasing bait all fall in shallow water areas, the water temperature is starting to drop and the water levels on a lot of reservoirs are falling. Those two things combine to do one thing and that is to point the fish 'out'. This is when the five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier begins to targets points across the reservoir. "I am talking about any type of point you can think of," Menendez notes. "It can be secondary points, primary points, main lake points, points on grass, and points on creek channel bends. When both water level and water temperature falls it causes a bass to move out to areas where they can have a flat zone to hunt in at the top of the point, yet they can have deep water access at the side of the point next to them. That is a classic pattern that works all over the country." The best points are always those that have big rock on it. Look for points with big, isolated natural rock. Points that provide an isolated stump or some rip-rap are also good targets. These are the kind of places you will find fish in the winter, particularly during the early part of the season.

As water temperatures get colder Menendez recommends looking more towards the main lake. You can cross out the back ends of the bays because the primary forage is temperature sensitive and they don't like cold water. This moves the bait out and the bass follow the buffet line out toward the main lake. For Menendez, winner of the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series Diamond Drive on Arkansas's Lake Dardenelle, three factors affect fish this time of year; falling water levels, falling temperatures and bass following baitfish as they move out of the shallower water. Menendez says there is a population of fish that are going to stay shallow year round, even in extreme cold weather. He encourages anglers to utilize these shallow water feeding stations with deep water access and says the main lake is the big player in the game.

Once you find all of this in an area, you have found the place these fish are going to spend the next few months. They will be there through the winter and into the early spring. This is a very predictable area for bass because it provides all their needs. Menendez says that bass movement in these areas will be vertical rather than horizontal in the winter. "In cold water, bass are not going to make a long journey to feed," he observes. "They move up and down in the water column a lot more than they will move horizontally. Instead of moving out 100 yards from the back of a cove to feed, they will move up out of 30 feet of water onto the edge of a shallow point to eat. They spend their time there because they know baitfish are going to be coming by from the current and wind." Each day will be a little different in a wintertime cranking scenario the main thing you need to do is find a speed to crank and a depth zone to target. Menendez targets fish in the 3- to 8- feet range most of the time and target angles on the point. He is looking to find the best angle to keep that bait moving in that depth zone.

Lure Selection:

Once he locates a likely area, he chooses between one of three crankbaits that have helped him perfect his winter-time cranking presentation. "My absolute favorite crankbait for this situation is an out-of-production Strike King crankbait called a Strike Shad," he says. "This is a thin-bodied bait with a tight wiggle but puts off a lot of vibration. A Mimic Lures Thumper Shad is very comparable to the Strike Shad." "This is the time of year where we have had very little rain during the fall," Menendez explained. "The water is cooling down and this is a sight feeding situation. I feel like you get more bites in clear water on crankbait with a thin profile and tight wobble that doesn't rattle." If the water has a lot of color to it, he will use a Strike King Series 3 it has more of a wider wobble and moves more water than the other two.

Cranking Gear:

Menendez fishes the Strike Shad crankbait on a light action 6-foot, 10-inch Team Lew's spinning rod topped with a Lew's Speed Spool reel with 8-pound-test Seaguar line. He uses monofilament because of the graphite rod. He wants the monofilament line because it gives him a duller sensation to allow the fish to eat the bait better and provide a shock absorber to increase his hook up ratio. He fishes the Strike King Series 3 crankbait on a 6-foot, 6-inch Team Lew's cranking rod with a Lew's Tournament Pro Cranking reel 5.4:1 gear ratio. He spools the reel with 8- to 12-pound-test Seaguar line depending on if the area has zebra mussels that can fray and cut the line.

Wintertime Cranking With Mark Menendez Winter 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 40-42)

Chilly Swimbaits

They're both transplants, and they both hold a secret for winter fishing. National Guard pro Justin Lucas and EverStart Series pro Matt Peters of southernswimbait.com both reside in the southeastern U.S. (Alabama and Arkansas, respectively). They didn't always, though. At one point in time each called California home. You might know where this is going, because if you know anything about the anglers out West, then you can probably figure out their fishing secret. Swimbaits. While most anglers rely on jigging spoons and suspending jerkbaits to coax lethargic bass in the dead of winter, these two anglers hearken back to their Western roots and go the swimbait route. "In the winter, bass are keying on shad," Lucas says. "Plus, the bass are usually suspended. Both are perfect scenarios for swimbaits. The usual ways of winter fishing have their place, especially in water colder than 45 degrees. But if it's warmer than that, swimbaits definitely have their role." It's just a matter of what you're looking for on a particular day; whether you want to keep warm by stroking a limit or grind it out for the fish of a lifetime.

Justin Lucas On Swimbaits:

Lucas has little problem chasing giants, but considering he's a Walmart FLW Tour pro whose livelihood relies on him catching five fish a day instead of one, he typically has to opt for techniques that attract multiple bites. Lucas opts for swimbaits any time he looks at his electronics and sees bass suspended up off the bottom on typical winter spots such as bluff walls, deep humps or deep points with steep drops. "There are only so many ways to catch suspended fish, and throwing swimbaits is one of them," Lucas says. "You get the right day - those cloudy, warm-front days when it's five to 10 degrees warmer than the day before seem to be best - and bass are more than willing to jump on a swimbait."

Swimbait Lure Selection:

When Lucas says "swimbait," he's referring to the soft-plastic, paddle-tail variety, such as the Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly Swimbait. The 4-inch model is his top choice, but he'll upsize to the 5-incher if he's catching a lot of fish or if he feels he can target bigger fish. He'll rig either size of swimbait on a standard, triangle-shaped, lead-head jig weighing anywhere from 3/8 to 3/4 ounce, depending on the situation. The key is matching the correct jighead size to the depth the fish are suspended, while keeping the lure above the fish. So if they're suspended around 15 feet deep, the swimbait should be traveling a couple of feet above them. Sometimes bass might be suspended at 15 feet in 20 feet of water. Sometimes they might be suspended at 15 feet over 50 feet of water. Regardless, the depth of the fish is what is important. Use a 3/8-ounce head for fishing from the surface to 10 feet deep, a 1/2-ounce head in 10 to 15 feet and a 3/4-ounce head for anything deeper than 15 feet. Lucas doesn't fish a swimbait much beyond about 30 feet deep. The other factor to consider is hook size. "This is probably one of the few times when I'll go with a 3/0 hook over a 4/0 or 5/0," Lucas says. "The water in the winter is clearer than any time of the year, and the last thing I want is a huge, gaudy hook sticking out the back of my swimbait. I want it to look as natural as possible."

Swimbait Presentation:

To catch suspended bass, cast past the intended target and count the swimbait down to the proper depth. It takes some practice and knowledge of how fast the lure sinks. For instance, Lucas says the 1/2-ounce head he uses sinks at roughly 1 foot per second. Lucas uses a slow, swimming retrieve that is just fast enough to get the tail to wobble. The only other action is an occasional twitch. Knowing a jighead's rate of fall is critical, says Justin Lucas. "I learned growing up out West that bass follow swimbaits a lot more than people think," Lucas says. "They look so natural that bass get curious. So I learned to give the lure a little pop with the rod or a quick turn with the reel handle two or three times a cast, as if a fish is following it. I significantly increase my bites by doing that."

Matt Peters On Swimbaits:

Peters has nothing against going for a limit, but if he's going to freeze himself numb in the winter, he's doing it for a double-digit fish. "I'm a trophy fisherman," Peters says. "And that late-winter period when spring is knocking on the door is one of the best times of the year to catch the biggest fish of your life."

Swimbait Lure Selection:

When Peters says "swimbait," he's referring to the large, California-style variety, such as the 8-inch Huddleston Deluxe Trout. Peters prefers colors that match the forage and ties on two swimbaits with different sink rates: ROF 5 and ROF 12 or 16. ROF stands for "rate of fall," with the number equating to how deep the lure will have sunk after 10 seconds. The reason for having two choices is to fish a spot quickly and effectively at different depths or speeds. Obviously, most anglers probably don't own a lure as big as one of the larger Huddleston versions - or perhaps half as big, for that matter - so this is a specialized technique that requires specific tackle for bodies of water that meet certain requirements. We'll start with the bodies of water. After moving from California, Peters settled down in Georgia for awhile before relocating to Arkansas. In those three states, he lived in areas with deep, clear reservoirs with blueback herring, rainbow trout or large shad as forage. "The reservoirs in California, Georgia, the Carolinas, Arkansas and the Ozarks are some of the best for this technique," Peters says.

Swimbait Location:

Peters keeps it simple when it comes to choosing the right offshore structure. To do it, simply follow the main river channel on the map until it intersects with a steep, offshore structure, such as a hump, point or ledge. The depth of the structure isn't necessarily as important as the structure itself, since a steep structure will offer enough deep and shallow water for a big bass to find its comfort zone.

Swimbait Presentation:

Once Peters finds a spot, he'll wait until the afternoon before heading out to fish it - this style of fishing is better in the afternoon, once the day has warmed up a bit. Stealth is important. Approach within casting distance of the target with the trolling motor - not the big motor - to avoid spooking fish. Position the boat on the shallow side of the structure, which still might be 15 feet deep on some spots, and direct casts out off the break into deep water so the retrieve is coming "uphill." Peters usually starts by making four or five casts with the faster-sinking swimbait, counting it down to within 5 to 10 feet of the bottom. He'll then employ the slowest retrieve possible as he reels it up the break with his rod pointed toward 8 o'clock. Depending on the spot, his lure might run into the bottom at some point, and that's fine, though he prefers to keep it up off the bottom as much as possible. If he doesn't get a bite with the deep-runner, he switches to the shallower model, casting it out, counting it down a couple of seconds and then reeling it back as slowly as possible. "Some days they're more active than others, and it's nothing for them to come up and get a swimbait that's only 10 feet down over even 50 feet of water," Peters says. "With that shallow model, when I get a bite, it's nearly always a really big fish."

Huddleston Swimbait Tackle & Gear:

To heave the heavy swimmers, Peters prefers a Shimano Calcutta TE 400 strapped to an 8-foot G.Loomis swimbait rod. The reel holds 80-pound-test braid with at least 3 feet of 30-pound-test monofilament leader - he opts for mono over fluorocarbon because he wants a little stretch, which helps keep a big lure from breaking off on the cast if the reel backlashes. (Best to practice casting this sort of setup in a football field or park until you master it before trying it on the water.)

Chilly Swimbaits November / December, 2012 FLW (Sean Ostuszka pg. 89 - 94)

Marty Robinson's Winter Lure Selection

While you might have hunting or holiday shopping on your mind in December, Marty Robinson is thinking about fishing. Why? He says that short of the spawn, December is the best month to tag a true trophy bass. "The fish are really big right now, and though you might not get as many bites as during other times of the year, you've got a good shot at those bigger fish," the Elite Series pro says. "Plus, you'll often have the lake to yourself as a lot of guys are in the woods. Generally, the fish are relating to shad or whatever the predominant bait in your lake is. That's the best advice I can give; find the forage first. A lot of times the bait will still be in the creeks from fall, but bluff walls and steep banks are good places to look if it's later in the month because the bass will winter there." Here's what Marty Robinson throws in December.

Zoom Super Fluke:

Robinson fishes the soft jerkbaits along main-lake and secondary points, or around grass if it's still available. "White pearl is my No. 1 color because it's the most natural-looking there is; it works anywhere in the country," he says. "This is my favorite clear-water technique, making long casts over points and working it back slowly. Once again, find the bait and figure out the best way to present it to them." He throws the Fluke on a 7-foot Castaway Skeleton microguide rod with an Abu Garcia Revo STX spooled with 12-pound-test Trilene fluorocarbon.

Buckeye Football Mop Jig:

This jig is a standard football jig, but has the famous living rubber skirt of the flipping Mop Jig. When in the water, the skirt flares outward, instantly making the jig appear larger than it is. Robinson hangs a Zoom Creepy Crawler on the back. "This is good around rockpiles or, if your lake has them, bluff walls. I like a 3/4-ounce model because I can cover water down to 40 feet in a single cast. I'll drag it through and across rocks or down bluff walls, just a little slower than normal," he says. Robinson throws this on a fairly heavy stick, an extra-heavy action 7-3 Castaway Skeleton Grass Master rod that helps with hooksets at long distances, along with a Revo STX and 20-pound Trilene fluorocarbon.

Buckeye Short Circuit:

"If I'm on a lake where I find some stained water, I'll go to the Short Circuit. It's a flat-sided balsa bait that's got a tight wiggle and great action for cold water," Robinson says. "Stained water is usually about halfway back up creeks, and will sometimes hold shad. Target channel swings or where the channel comes close to the bank. Also, reel it s-l-o-w-l-y." Robinson will work a chartreuse shad Short Circuit on a light action 7-0 Castaway Skeleton with a 5.4:1 Revo Winch reel spooled with 10-pound Trilene fluorocarbon.

Carolina Rig:

The ball-and-chain is ideal in December if you're dragging a finesse worm like a Zoom Double Ringer, a chubby French fry-style worm. "If I find a deeper school of fish on some offshore structure like a creek channel, I'll toss the rig out to 'em," Robinson says. "I'm just dragging it like normal, looking to bump it into things. If there's a ledge, I'll drag it uphill, looking to get a reaction bite as it crawls upward. That short, fat bait seems to get more bites with the water cooled down." Robinson likes a 3/4-ounce egg sinker and a 30-inch leader this time of year. His rigging rod is a 7-0 mag heavy action Castaway Skeleton mated to a Revo MGX spooled with 15-pound Trilene fluorocarbon.

What Marty Robinson Throws In December December, 2012 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 26)

Super Finesse Baits

Is there such a thing as a soft plastic finesse bait that’s too small to tempt a bass? I couldn't help thinking that when Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews, of Virginia, showed me the skinny, 3-inch Drop Craw he designed for his lure company, Missile Baits. I had to hold the bait close, don my reading glasses and squint my eyes to bring the miniscule bait into focus. "You serious?" I asked. "Absolutely!" Crews said. "I've seen many instances where I needed something super finesse to coax a bite." One of those instances happened at Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake. Crews could see a school of bass suspended off the side of a point 15 feet deep over 40 feet of water. They repeatedly ignored the 6-inch finesse worm that he put in front of them with a drop shot rig. When Crews switched to the bitty Drop Craw, he immediately caught a 2 1/2-pound bass. Then he proceeded to hammer more bass of that size with the super finesse bait.

3-Inch Missile Baits Drop Craw:

The Drop Craw also came through for Crews during a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at the St. Johns River in March 2012. On the first day of the event, he desperately needed to catch a bedding 3-pound largemouth to cull a 12-incher in his livewell. Whenever he pitched a "normal" finesse bait into the bed, the skittish bass darted off and would not return until Crews reeled in. "Then I cast the Drop Craw into the bed on a drop shot rig," Crews says. "The bass moved off 2 feet, came right back and ate the bait." The Drop Craw produced two or three skittish spawners every day for Crews and carried him to a 27th-place finish. He rigged the bait on 6-pound Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon with a 3/16-ounce weight and a No. 4 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. The pincers on the Drop Craw are so tiny, they look deformed compared to other plastic craws. Crews made them that way because small crawfish typically have small pincers. Also, the little appendages waver when the bait is barely moving. "Less action is more, especially when you're drop shotting a super finesse bait," Crews says.

3-Inch Roboworm Alive Shad:

Alabama transplant Aaron Martens began fishing super finesse baits while growing up in California and continues to use them while competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series. He downsizes to Roboworm's 3-inch Alive Shad when bass key on an abundance of small baitfish and ignore everything else. "That can happen even in dirty water," Martens says. "The bass follow the bait and suspend close to the bank and near vertical structure like bridge pilings." The Alive Shad's bitty minnow shape resembles the baitfish the bass are feeding on. It is also available in exceptional baitfish colors that allow you to closely "match the hatch," Martens points out. To get the most natural action from the Alive Shad, Martens rigs it with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce drop shot weight, 5-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon and a No. 2 Gamakatsu Drop/Split Shot Hook. He claims he can fish the light rig to depths of 20 feet if there is little wind or current. Bass don't respond as well to the Alive Shad when it is rigged with a heavier weight, Martens stresses. "I want the bait to sink slowly with a natural fall," Martens says. "I get a lot of strikes before the weight hits the bottom." The Alive Shad also dupes bass after Martens threads it onto the shank of a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce darter-head jig. He claims that you can cast this light combination effectively on 4- or 5-pound fluorocarbon, but that 6-pound test is too stiff to get sufficient distance.

3-Inch Zoom Tiny Fluke:

Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle drop shots Zoom's Tiny Fluke in much the same way that Martens does the Alive Shad, with a light weight and light line. "When bass feed on small bait in clear water, they're hard to catch," Swindle says. "That's when I have my best luck floating a Tiny Fluke down to them on a drop shot rig." This ploy has come through for Swindle many times at Alabama's Smith Lake and even at places like Lake Guntersville. He also hoodwinks finicky bass by rigging the Tiny Fluke on a wobbling 1/8-ounce Luck "E" Strike Scrounger jig. He casts this combination with spinning tackle matched with 10-pound Vicious braided line and a short 10-pound fluorocarbon leader. "I cast as far as I can over a school of fish and retrieve it like I'm slow rolling a spinnerbait," Swindle says. "It gets down 7 or 8 feet and pulls up bass suspended over 30 to 40 feet of water."

3-Inch Berkely Powerbait Twitchtail Minnow:

Berkley's 2 1/2- and 3-inch Gulp Minnows and 3-inch Gulp Fry have been go-to super finesse baits for New Jersey's Michael Iaconelli since their debut. The Elite Series pro is also big on the new 3-inch Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow, which has a thin, supple needle tail. "I drop shot these baits to match small forage fish," Iaconelli says. "At some fisheries, like the Ohio River, the baitfish always tend to be small because they live in such a harsh environment." When he's fishing the Ohio and other industrial rivers, Iaconelli will drop shot these lures next to vertical structures, such as sea walls and bridge pilings. He also pitches them under the noses of parked barges to pick off bass suspended beneath these huge vessels. When bass guard fry in shallow water, Iaconelli Texas rigs the little baits with a No. 1 or No. 2 worm hook and fishes it weightless. He pulls the bait into the fry, kills the retrieve and lets the lure flutter down. Few bass can resist the easy target. Six- or 8-pound fluorocarbon line lets these baits work with the most appealing action, Iaconelli says.

3-Inch Jackall Super Crosstail Shad:

Alabama's Kotaro Kiriyama aptly demonstrated his finesse fishing ability when he used a drop shot on his way to an Elite Series victory at Lake Erie in July 2008 with 93.6 pounds of smallmouth bass. Kiriyama is also a lure designer. His latest creation is Jackall's 3-inch Super Crosstail Shad. It combines the cross tail design of the original 4-inch Crosstail Shad with a more realistic body shape that features multidimensional colors, molded scale patterns and 3D eyes. "I like the Super Crosstail Shad when I share a small area with a lot of people," Kiriyama says. Heavy fishing pressure scatters the bass and makes them lure shy, Kiriyama adds. This is when the Super Crosstail Shad works its magic. Kiriyama fishes the tiny bait with a drop shot rig in most instances. He will also Texas rig it with a 1/0 Owner offset worm hook. A Lunker City Nail Insert Weight shoved into the body of the lure provides enough weight that Kiriyama can cast it with light spinning tackle. The nail weight also allows him to fish the bait as deep as 10 feet. "Everybody fishes baits like the Senko now, so you have to use something else," Kiriyama says. "I fish the Super Crosstail Shad the same way and catch more bass."

Super Finesse Baits December, 2012 Bassmaster (Mark Hicks pg. 34 - 36)

Vertical Jigging Spoons For Winter Bass

Vertical jigging is a proven presentation for catching winter bass. As lake temperatures drop, bass may refuse to chase down a fast-moving lure, but will hit a metal spoon "jigged" (moved up and down with a quick jerky motion) repeatedly. Here's how to spoon up bass on your home lakes this winter.

Location:

"When lake water chills to the low 40s and upper 30s, threadfin shad begin to die off and drift slowly to the bottom," says Duckworth (www.fishingtennessee.com). "A metal spoon's erratic fluttering action mimics the look of a dying shad and is an easy target for lethargic bass." Duckworth recommends jigging spoons in the following areas: Deep, clear highland reservoir tributaries - "Deep V-shaped tributaries or 'hollows' are my favorite winter jigging spots. Bass will suspend around baitfish schools here, often 40 to 60 feet deep, and will smack a spoon." Offshore humps and rockpiles - "Any offshore high spot in a reservoir is a baitfish magnet during winter and will draw bass from a wide area." Submerged channels - "Flatland reservoir bass will suspend off deep channel breaklines when inactive and move onto the adjacent shallower ledge to feed. Jig a spoon around clouds of baitfish near the breakline and near scattered wood cover on top of the ledge." Deep standing timber - "Flooded trees are awesome hangouts for spotted bass! The trees may be standing in 100 feet of water and top out 20 to 30 feet below the surface. Jigging a spoon around the ends of outstretched branches will whack suspending spots." Deep points - "Points that drop off quickly into deep water hold lunker bass in winter. Jig a spoon around baitfish schools and isolated stumps or rocks."

Lure Selection:

For deep winter jigging, expert spoon fisherman and Tennessee guide Jim Duckworth recommends a compact 1/2- to 3/4-ounce spoon, versus the larger but often lighter casting spoons used by pro anglers for probing flats and shallow points. "Because bass may be 50 feet deep now, you need a spoon that sinks quickly and stays in the strike zone," Duckworth explains. "My favorite winter spoons are the 1/2- and 3/4-ounce Bass'n Bait Rattle Snakie; other good choices include the Acme Sidewinder, Strata Spoon and Hopkins Shorty. Reflective silver and gold finishes work best in clear water, but in stained water and on overcast days, white or chartreuse spoons often outfish spoons with metallic finishes. In clear lakes, I replace the stock hook on my spoon with a red treble." The guide recommends a 6-foot, medium action baitcasting rod and spools his reel with 20-pound braid with a 2-foot leader of 14-pound fluorocarbon. "A barrel swivel between your main line and leader helps eliminate much of the line twist common with spoons," he adds.

Lure Presentation:

A boat equipped with both console- and bow-mounted graphs greatly facilitates vertical jigging. Here's Duckworth's winter spoon method. Idle around a hollow, point or other likely area with your outboard, watching your graph for "clouds" of baitfish. "In winter, baitfish are the single most important factor determining bass location - if I don't see bait, I don't fish there. Often, but not always, you'll see hooks on your graph indicating bass hanging around the baitfish. If there's plenty of bait, fish the spot even if you don't see bass hooks." Lower your trolling motor and use your front graph to position your boat directly above the baitfish school/cover/structural edge. If baitfish/bass are suspended in the water column, pull line off the reel spool in 3-foot increments until the spoon drops to the level of the baitfish school. If baitfish/bass are on or near the bottom, let the spoon sink to the bottom. Snap the spoon upward with a sharp stroke of the rod. As the spoon flutters back down, lower the rod just fast enough so there's a slight bag in the line. "This is the critical part - lowering the rod too fast will cause the spoon to tangle in the line; lowering it too slowly will diminish the lure's flutter as it sinks back down." Repeat steps four and five, varying the intensity of the hops. If you feel a tap or see your line jump, set the hook hard and reel quickly. "You may have 50 feet of line between you and the bass, so you need to maintain constant pressure, otherwise the fish may throw the spoon." When jigging suspended bass, keep a waterproof marker in your jacket pocket. When you get a strike, after setting the hook, immediately mark the line at the rod tip. Then you can return the spoon to this exact depth on subsequent presentations.

Vertical-Jigging Spoons For Winter Bass December, 2012 Bassmaster (Don Wirth pg. 68 - 69)

Winter Shallow Water Power Fishing With Kelly Jordan

Everbody knows in December, when the water temperature is edging down, bass go deep, and anglers have to ooze jigs and other crawling baits across the bottom to scrounge a few bites, right? "Hah," laughs Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon. "That's a big misconception. It can be just the opposite. In December one of the best approaches is to power fish in shallow water. "Go, go, go. If you keep your bait in the right places and set the pattern, you'll get your bites. And in the process, you may just have one of the best fishing days of your life!" Power fishing? Shallow water? In December? Sounds wacky to many tradition-minded anglers. But Jordon, an Elite Series pro from Palestine, Texas, knows what he knows. "It's a fact! As the weather gets colder, more bass move up shallow," he attests. "Actually, this is the month when some bass start their annual migration from deep water to shallow water (in midlatitude states and lakes). So while many people are out fishing the holes, a lot of bass have moved up and are hanging in the surface to 10-foot range." Jordon explains that there's a simple reason for this. He says when the weather turns cold, the warmest water is actually found in the upper stratum of the lake (until the surface starts freezing). And since bass are coldblooded creatures, many are drawn to this warmer water, and they relocate around cover objects and structure breaks in the depth zone mentioned earlier. Jordon says that anglers who recognize this and target these shallow bass can make some monster catches in December.

Location:

Where to fish To repeat, in December, a lake's warmest water may be near the surface, and this is why bass move shallow. However, Jordon says the fish don't scatter randomly. Instead, they collect in predictable locations that are easy to find by anglers who know what to look for. "Most fish will hang close to some type of cover object - rocks, logs, stumps, laydowns, brushpiles, docks, pole timber, grass - anything. They'll usually hold tight to these objects, either on the sunny side or in a shadow next to where the sun is shining and the water may be a degree or two warmer," Jordon coaches. Further, Jordon looks for these cover objects in main-lake areas or in major creeks. If he's fishing back in a creek, he stays close to the channel. This time of year, when shallow, bass like to have quick access to deep water. Jordon offers specific examples of good December spots. "A channel swing bank with a dock on it would be a prime spot. Another one would be a rockpile or a stump on a long submerged point bordered by a sharp dropoff. Also, I'll always fish bluff banks and flats that are close to deep water. A flat with grass on it is always a good bet. "So, just remember: shallow cover close to deep water. This is the right combination," Jordon says.

Lure Selection:

Jordon's favorite bait "This time of year my favorite bait is a Lucky Craft KJ Flat [flat-sided crankbait]. This bait is great for drawing reaction strikes in cold water. It has a tight wiggle with more kick and flash than roundbody crankbaits. There's just something about this action that triggers the snot out of bites when the water is cold. If you pull this bait through a fish's strike zone, and especially if it ricochets off a rock or a piece of wood, you're likely to get bit!" In December, Jordon relies mostly on three color groups: crawfish patterns (reds), shad patterns and chartreuses. "I go with the shad colors when the water is clear to slightly dingy. My overall favorite color is gun metal white with silver scales. That pattern gives off an unbelievable amount of flash. "Now, if the water is dingy to muddy or I'm fishing in low-light conditions, I'll go with a crawfish or chartreuse pattern. Chartreuse with a black back is the standard, but there are several chartreusebased options available."

Proper Timming:

When to fish In December, Jordon says the best time to fish this shallow cranking pattern is "on the third day of a warming trend." The more stable the weather, the more active the fish will be. Also, the best time of day to fish is in the afternoon. Jordon says on a sunny day in winter, water temperature in the shallows can rise several degrees with peak warmth coming around 2 to 3 p.m. The bass respond to this increasing warmth by putting on the feed bag.

Shallow Water Power Fishing December, 2012 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 64 - 65)

Wintertime Bass Fishing With Mark Davis

There's a reason Elite Series pro Mark Davis hopes for rain during the winter months, and it doesn't have anything to do with postponing a fishing trip so he won't have to spend a cold, miserable day on the water looking for uncooperative bass. Rather, the former Bassmaster Classic champion and three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year wants to be fishing after a winter rain because he knows what it does to the fish. In a word, bass move shallow and become much more accessible to anglers, particularly to those who like to throw small crankbaits on spinning rods and light line, which Davis does. This is how the Arkansas pro catches some of his heaviest bass of the entire year, but it's one of the most overlooked patterns in all of bass fishing. "Winter crankbaiting works after a strong rain because the influx of 'new' water usually changes the water color from clear to dingy," explains Davis, "and even if the water temperature is in the 40s, this change in color will bring a lot of deep, inactive bass up where you can reach them with a crankbait." There is a fine line here between dingy and muddy water, emphasizes Davis, and that line changes with water temperature. When the water temperature is 50 degrees or higher, Davis needs only 1 foot of visibility to experience good fishing. When the water temperature is below 50 degrees, however, Davis wants 2 to 3 feet of visibility before he starts crankbaiting. "Bass fishermen everywhere recognize that cold, muddy water is one of the worst conditions to fish," he points out, "which is why you have to understand this correlation between water temperature and water clarity to have any success crankbaiting in the winter. You can definitely catch bass with a small crankbait in cold water, but you absolutely have to have some visibility.

Location:

"Bass move to creek channel banks, points and ledges when the water turns dingy, which is why this technique works. Baitfish also move shallow during these conditions, but this pattern isn't about bass following the bait. It's more about structure, because a lot of these bass are actually feeding on crawfish. In the winter, the water temperature in a lake is usually the same from top to bottom, so we're not talking about a winter rain that might warm the water a few degrees. "I think it's just because bass in dingy water will be shallower, regardless of the time of year. We saw this in June during the Bassmaster Elite tournament on Toledo Bend in Louisiana. Brent Chapman won fishing relatively clear water 25 feet deep, but Marty Robinson finished third by fishing far up the lake where the water was much more off-color, and he caught his fish 12 to 14 feet deep."

"This type of winter fishing is structure-related, not really forage-related," he repeats, "so my first choice for locating stained water is moving to a major tributary and letting the water color tell me where to start. The main lake may also have stained water where the bass will also move shallow, but you'll find them faster in a tributary, especially if you go as far back as you can and fish your way out. "In a lake, the upper end will turn muddy first, and the back of a tributary will also be the first to turn color. In either instance, what you'll encounter will be a section of off-colored water, which will not be uniform from its upstream edge to its downstream edge. It may be several miles in length, especially if the rain is a long one. A lot of fishermen call this section of dirty water a mudline, but I describe it as a section of off-colored water because it isn't uniform from end to end, and at times there may be clear water both above and below it. "As you motor up the tributary through this section of water, look for potential places to fish as you do come back out. I like to follow the creek channel itself with my electronics and key on bends and swings, and especially points and small fingers that extend out into the channel itself. Remember, too, the water temperature and water clarity relationship. "You can look for this same type of structure on the main lake, too, but because it's so much larger, as well as generally deeper, the bass will have more places to go. In a tributary, everything is condensed into a smaller area. With this technique, you're not necessarily trying to cover a lot of water. Instead, you're looking for a concentration of fish; that magic spot where a school of bass has schooled together."

Lure Selection:

That 12- to 14-foot-depth range is where Davis concentrates in winter, and it's just right for his Strike King Series 3 and Series 3XD crankbaits. He fishes them on 8-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line with a 7-foot Lew's medium action rod and a 5.4:1 Lew's spinning reel. There are lots of reasons for using this combination. "To me, winter fishing is all about smaller lures and light lines," Davis says. "Light line really turns that little crankbait loose. I can cast it a long distance so it dives deeper, and with the spinning tackle, I have better control over it. "When conditions are really cold, I would much rather be reeling a crankbait than crawling a jig slowly on the bottom because I'll be more active. Jigs work great in a lot of winter situations, but when fishing is tough and bites are hard to come by, jig fishing is difficult and to me, it's boring. You lose interest. With a crankbait, you're always doing something."

Lure Presentation:

Much of what Davis does with his crankbait is through his rod, not his reel. One of the most critical aspects of winter cranking, he believes, is making long casts and making contact with the bottom quickly, then crawling it, stopping it, bumping it and slowly sweeping it. Davis moves the lure with his rod far more than with his reel. There are a lot of stops and starts but everything is nearly always in slow motion. He's trying to make the crankbait look and behave like a crawfish, not a minnow, and because bass are more lethargic and inactive in the colder water, the slow-moving lure appears more like an easy meal to them. Of course, there are times when reeling fast triggers more strikes than sweeping slowly, and sometimes the bass will be suspended so bumping the bottom isn't going to work well, either. On cold but bright, sunny days, the fishing is nearly always better later in the afternoons after the water may have warmed a few degrees, and this is when a slightly faster retrieve may be more effective, for example. The old adage of letting the bass tell you what they want and how they want it definitely holds true in this pattern, and Davis recommends trying different speeds until fish start biting.

Why Mark Davis is a Better Wintertime Fisherman Than You December, 2012 Bassmaster (Steve Price pg. 38 - 42)

Wintertime Jig Tips & Tricks

Winter Creates a drastic change in a bass' lifestyle. When the water turns colder, bass become lethargic and change their eating habits. Their slower lifestyle induces anglers to choose a lure that will match a bass' sluggish pace and diet during the dead of winter. "The fish's metabolism is slowed down and they are not going to do much chasing, so you have to stay in the strike zone a little bit longer," says former Bassmaster Classic champ Denny Brauer. "Their primary forage then is a high protein food like a crawfish, and that is what you are imitating the majority of the time with a jig." The versatility of a jig allows pros and recreational anglers alike to fish the lure at various depths, which is crucial during the winter since bass tend to hug the bottom in deep water or suspend throughout the water column. Four Bassmaster Elite Series pros suggest the following jig tactics for catching wintertime bass from top to bottom.

Swimming In The Weeds:

On Southern reservoirs filled with aquatic vegetation, bass hang near the surface throughout the winter. "When that grass dies over in the wintertime, even though it may be 35 degrees at night and the water temperature might be 47 degrees once that sun pops up, that brown, dead grass up shallow warms pretty fast, and those fish always want to get up there during the day," Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle says. "They suspend in that grass, and as soon as the sun goes down, they leave." The Alabama pro has discovered the best way to catch these suspended fish is to swim a jig along the weed edges. He opts for a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce black or black/blue Arkie Jig and matches it with a green pumpkin Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer. "I don't get anything too huge or wiggly," Swindle says. "I kind of streamline everything." Positioning his boat parallel to the outside weed edge, Swindle makes a long cast next to the vegetation and tries to swim his jig about 2 to 6 inches under the surface. "I hold my rod tip up at about 10 o'clock and am cranking and stuttering the reel," Swindle describes. "I turn the handle a quarter or a half turn at a time, and I am barely shaking the tip of the rod so the bait is kind of quivering. If I get to a big hole in the grass or a clear place, I will kill it and let it fall out of sight, and then I will start to bring it back up again."

Count Down For The Timber & Rock:

Elite Series pro Brian Snowden, of Missouri, relies on a finesse jig to catch wintertime bass suspended in standing timber or under boat docks. He favors a 3/8-ounce Pig Sticker Bait Company Snowden Jig combined with a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw or Zoom Super Speed Craw in contrasting colors. "I will use a green pumpkin skirt and if I am trying to imitate a bluegill, I will use watermelon candy [for the trailer], which has a little bit of purple and green in it," he says. "If I am using a light colored jig, a lot of times I will use a green pumpkin/purple trailer or Okeechobee craw or even white." When keying on docks, Snowden places his boat about 15 to 25 feet away from the target. The distance he keeps from timber varies. "Sometimes I will be sitting a little closer to the pole timber, especially if I am trying to work a drop that is fairly gradual, fishing from 5 feet to 20 feet," he says. "I might be making a longer cast and swimming it through there then." After casting to his target, Snowden lets his jig fall on a semitaut line. "The initial part of the retrieve is the most important part," Snowden says. "You have to count it down so that you are not fishing it on the bottom. Once you get a few bites, you have to remember what you counted that bait down to." The five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier usually starts with a three to five count before retrieving his jig and then tries a 10 to 15 count if he perceives the fish are suspended deeper. "Once I find out the count, I just basically pump the rod and do a nice steady reel retrieve so that makes the jig swim in an up-and down motion through the water."

Stair Steppimg Ledges:

Jig maestro Denny Brauer probes ledges ranging from 15 to 30 feet deep with a 3/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig and a Strike King Rage Craw. The recently retired Elite Series pro prefers green pumpkin or blue craw jigs with matching hues for his trailers. The 17-time B.A.S.S. winner casts his jig to the ledge and keeps a close vigil on his line as the lure descends. "The clearer the water, the more strikes you are actually going to get on the fall," warns Brauer. "The fish are going to see the jig coming down, and they are going to meet that bait if they are aggressive at all." Once the jig thumps the bottom, Brauer lets it sit for a while. "The colder the water, the longer I am going to let it sit there" he says. Then he slightly lifts the jig to feel its weight and sets the hook if it feels different. His jig stays in constant contact with the bottom since he drags the lure rather than hops it. Brauer moves his jig by lifting his rod from the 9 o'clock to the 12 o'clock position. When he notices his jig falls off the ledge, Brauer peels more line off his reel to allow the lure to fall down to the next ledge.

Dragging Points:

"One place that you can never go wrong fishing a football jig in the winter months is a point," Elite Series pro Mike McClelland says. "I like steeper points in the cold months, and I really like to fish points that have channel swings or bends close to them." When fishing gin-clear waters of highland reservoirs, McClelland selects a 1/2-ounce Bass-X Football Jig and a Zoom plastic trailer (a Fat Albert Twin Tail, Super Chunk or Super Chunk Junior). He likes to contrast his jig and trailer colors, such as a peanut butter and jelly jig with a green pumpkin trailer. Scouting the point with his Lowrance side-imaging unit helps McClelland find where baitfish are holding, and then he positions his boat parallel to the depth of the forage. After making a long cast, McClelland pulls the jig about 6 to 12 inches at a time with a sweeping motion of his rod similar to a Carolina rig retrieve. "I pull and shake and let my bait sit for periods of time," says McClelland, who makes sure the jig remains on the bottom throughout his presentation. Trying these jig tricks for coldwater bass will produce throughout the doldrums of winter until the fish return to a faster lifestyle in the spring.

4 Jig Tricks For Coldwater Bass December, 2012 Bassmaster (John Neporadny Jr. pg. 30 - 33)

Cold Water Jerkbait Bassin' With Scott Patton

It is in the months of December, January and February that an angler can take advantage of warming trends that we will have. During these spells, we can find winter and late winter bass a little easier to catch. The warm weather will move the fish up out of the deeper depths to absorb the heat that is penetrating into the upper levels of the water.

Location:

Fishing the main lake bluffs and bluffs in major creek channels are key locations at this time of year. I will try to concentrate on the lower and mid sections of the lake (the area closest to the dam). I focus on bluffs that have the main river and creek channels swinging next to them. I also like main lake points that have a creek or river channel swinging close to them. These will be your key locations.

Lure Selection:

There are a few lures that you should use here in order to really capitalize on these fishing opportunities. My first choice is a jerkbait. I prefer one that suspends right out of the package. I will fish it on 10lb Seaguar AbrazX Fluorocarbon Line. Fluorocarbon line gives you many advantages when fishing certain lures. It is very low in stretch compared to monofilament, and it's virtually invisible in the water, plus it will sink. This is a critical when fishing jerkbaits this time of year. As far as my color choice, I usually keep it simnple. I fish black or blue and chrome, shad patterns and clown color the most. On cloudy days, I will opt for black gold or darker colors.

Lure Presentation:

When fishing a jerkbait in winter, you will need to let the bait pause between jerks, this is why you need a line that the bass cannot see. This suspending bait is what helps you catch these suspending inactive fish. And, the low stretch in fluorocarbon will help give your lure more action. I honestly like a 6'6" rod when fishing jerkbaits. The reason for that is I have more control with a shorter rod, as I will normally be giving short erratic quick jerks with the rod tip with a pause, then reeling the slack up with the reel. You will want to experiment with the retrieve. My most common is to give the bait two quick jerks and then pause. I count the seconds I let the bait pause, so that when I do get a bite, I will know how long I need to let the bait sit.

Secrets To Cold Water Bassin' Winter, 2012 Bassin' (Scott Patton pg. 16 - 19)

Winter Bass Slow Down With Ott DeFoe

It's cold outside. I get it. There are far better things to do in winter than running around on an ice-cold lake. I can go on and on about why it is easier to be off the water than it is to be on the water, but that is precisely why I can't wait to hit the water in December. It takes a true angler to have the formidable spirit to brave the elements and chase little green fish. Plus, if it were easy everyone would be doing it. I prefer to hone my skills in the offseason to better my fishing techniques during the Elite Series season. Fish have to be coaxed into bitting, which can be frustrating at times. But if you can get them to bite in the dead of winter, there is no reason to beleive when the bite shuts off in the heat of summer you won't be ready.

Lure Selection & Presentation:

I've been around the country fishing and if there is one technique to use in winter that holds true for anywhere, it is throwing a shakey head. I can't think of an easier way to connect with a bunch of fish than throwing a shakey head down the edge of bluffs. Bass force me to adapt my shallow water tendencies in the winter. Bass are ending their long days of chasing bait to the shallows and hone in on bait that has migrated out to deeper water. Finesse baits like the Berkley Havoc 4.75" Bottom Hopper Jr., are the perfect bait that I want to present. These baits have all the action needed, and I don't have to constantly work the bait to get the action.

Throwing a Bottom Hopper Jr. doesn't take a whole lot of effort, but to fish it with efficiency is a tough technique. Patience will play an important roll because it is a slower paced technique than most other angling options. I like to pause the bait in the strike zone at least 10 seconds. Any bit of current will cause the bait to twitch and flutter. It seems like a long time to let a bait hang up, but the Hopper Jr. causes strikes even when it is just sitting there.

Location:

The bluffs I focus my attention toward may only drop 15-30 feet in water, but that is precisely where I can count on most fish feeding. I cast to the edge of first edge bluffs, I use a single/double cadence when retreiving my bait. When I mention patience, it particularily relates to the pause when the bait is in the hot zone. If you are having a difficult time catching them off bluff walls, one suprising spot that most anglers overlook is the shallows. I've caught bass in 45-degree water in as shallow as three feet. Keep your options open.

Shaky Head Gear:

Any time I pick up a rod for this presentation it is a 7' medium action Abu Garcia Veritas rod that has a good backbone, so I can set the 1/8oz shaky head through the top lip of some big bass. The standard line that goes with most applications is a 10lb Spiderwire Stealth braid with a 8lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. This line is super sensitive and has the durablity that will last all day long. The rest of my equipment includes my favorite reel, an Abu Garcia Revo Premier size 30 spinning reel. This reel is far superior to any other reel that I've used.

Winter Bass - Slow It Down December, 2012 Bass Times (Ott DeFoe pg. 4)