It won’t be long before the bass transition to their winter hangouts. Winter time can be one of the most rewarding times of the year to go fishing if you have the right mindset and know what to look for on the water. One hasn’t had the true fishing experience until they’ve spent a couple of days fishing for cold water bass.Water temperatures vary across the country during the cold months but typically I find water temps around me to be somewhere in the high 30’s to low 40’s. The sunny winter days are great for just being out on the water but if I’m looking to have a great day of catching I usually pray for the nastiest weather possible.
One of my favorite baits to work in the winter time is a jerk bait, especially if you’ve got clear water with good visibility. Whenever you can see about 4 feet down a jerk bait is often your best bet this time of the year. While you can jerk bait fish on the main lake often times all these huge 20lb sacks of fish are caught back in the shallows. Too many anglers make a mistake in overlooking all the fish in the backs of the creeks in the shallows around the deeper secondary points and the deeper banks that shallow up. As long as the creek has deep water all the way back and some bait it will often be a good one. A lot of times the best banks will have chunk rock or basketball sized rock. If you can find black rock all the better. Down on the Ozarks you can run into black chunk rock and it will warm up a lot faster and hold more fish. Bluffs are another good area to try this time of the year with your jerk baits. While paralleling the bluffs with a jerk bait can get you some fish, there will often be times when you want to move your boat about two cast lengths off the bank and throw up on the bank. The fish will sit out off the bluffs and suspend on the shad. Triggering bites on a jerk bait is all about the cadence you give your bait. I will start off with twitching the bait once and then twice and letting it rest for 10 to 15 seconds and fish it slower and slower until I get a bite. One of the most critical components of your setup for jerk bait fishing is your line. I use light line when throwing a jerk bait, only 8 to 10lb test GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon, because I want to get my bait down as deep as possible to keep it in the strike zone. Also I want to have enough line on my reels to make really long casts. When it comes to the ideal jerk bait rod you want one that has a fast action to it with a soft tip. I like the an AiRRUS Copperhead Stick in 7 foot medium action. For jerk bait colors I like the throw Table Rock Shade, pearl, clown, and black and chrome. One of the secrets of Ozarks for jerk bait fishing is to make your bait two colors so that it is half and half. You can make it pearl on one side and then clown or table rock shad on the other side if you want to get creative. All you need are some markers. One of these modified jerk baits will sometimes work way better than anything else and chances are you will have that bait all to yourself.
If you don’t have the water clarity another bait to try is a jig. I look for the last channel swing bank, chunk rock secondary points, and bluff ends where they shallow up to try and coax up some bass. You don’t have to fish that deep with your jig this time of the year as long as you are around deep water. The bass can be SHALLOW like in just inches of water around the bluff ends and stuff. You might only work your bait a foot or two before you get bit. I got to fish with Troy Eakins, one of the greatest jig fishermen of the Ozarks, in a tournament this past winter and I was amazed at how shallow the fish were in just 40 degree water. One of the best ways to fish a jig is to throw it up on the bank and work it out a couple of feet and just inch your way around making sure to hit every angle. You can crawl your jig but a slow lift and pause has been really good for me when the water is cold. I’ve had a lot more success in the winter on smaller jigs with the smallest crawl trailer I can find. I will trim my jig skirt down and have only about 40 strands in it and a smaller trailer like a baby paca chunk for the trailer. I get a lot more bites without seeing that much of a difference in the quality of the fish I catch. When it comes to colors I keep it simple this time of the year. I stick to green pumpkin, black and blue, and green pumpkin and orange. I got on an incredible jig bite last winter on a black and blue jig with a green pumpkin and orange paca chunk. For some reason they liked that color combination over anything else I could throw. When you chose a smaller jig to throw you want to make sure it has a quality hook in it like the Omega Custom Tackle’s Baby J. The Omega Baby J has a extra sharp and strong Gamakatsu hook in it that makes it a cut above other finesse jigs. You can get away with 10lb to 12lb test fluorocarbon if you use a medium action rod with a fast action. That lighter line doesn’t overpower the small jig and it makes your smaller jig look more natural which will get you some more bites.
When the water gets cold there are still plenty of bass to catch. Usually the fish you catch in the cold will be good fish too which what makes winter time fishing so much fun. It is one of the best times of the year to try and catch your biggest bass ever. The lakes don’t get as much pressure during the winter and the big bass come out to play. If you get the chance to get out for some icy bass keep these tips in mind. You will be sure to put more bass in the boat!