By Marc Rogers
Fishing Crankbaits in Winter
Many anglers rely almost exclusively on a jig to catch bass during the winter season. This is mainly because the metabolism of the bass is extremely slow during this time of year. When surface temperatures of lakes and rivers reach the low 40-degree mark, or lower, the jig has proven to be quite effective as the jig can be worked extremely slow to match the conditions.
During the cold-water season many of the baitfish have been depleted and the crawdads become the main source of food for the bass. The cold water temperatures also affect the crawdads so they become easier for the bass to catch. This is why a lure like the jig has developed a reputation for being such a good producer during the colder seasons. The jig and trailer is by far the best lure for imitating a crawdad.
The most overlooked lure for cold water is the crankbait. Crankbaits can be presented to depths of 20 feet quite slowly and is the best shad-imitating lure on the market. There are hundreds of different crankbait styles and many colors available. Anglers not using a crankbait during the cold-water seasons are missing out on a great opportunity because bass will feed on baitfish year-round. While there may be fewer baitfish available only enhances the opportunity to use a crankbait.
There are many schools of thought on what type of crankbait is best during the winter. Some anglers prefer the plastic lures for various reasons. Many like the suspending models available in plastic and there are more suspending crankbaits available on the market that are manufactured from plastic. However, there are a few available made from wood as well. Balsa wood is more buoyant than cedar which sometimes makes cedar the choice for wood crankbaits in winter.
Regardless of the material all can be modified to suspend by attaching lead wire to the hook shanks or adding stick-on weight such as Suspend Dots/Strips from Storm Lures. Some anglers even drill holes in wood lures and pour lead into the opening for added weight. Doing this makes the modifications much more permanent than adding the stick-on weights and trial and error testing is more difficult.
For a deep diving crankbait in the winter my choice is the Poe’s 400 series made from cedar. I add Suspend Dots between the lip and the first hook hanger to make them suspend. Adjustments are easily made on the water by moving or adding/subtracting weight to fine-tune the presentation.
Line of ten-pound test has proven the best choice for presenting these lures. Ten-pound test is heavy enough to land big bass while not impeding the maximum depth range of the lure. During the first few cranks of the reel I start the bait fast, to get it to the maximum depth, and then slow down the retrieve. After reaching the desired depth, it is best to move the lure only fast enough to keep it down in the water column. Remember, the bass will generally not chase a lure during this time of year. Most strikes come from a reaction of a bass thinking a possible easy meal is escaping. The lure should be hitting the bottom and digging into the rocks and cover causing it to deflect off cover and structure. Many times this erratic action is what triggers the strike.
Experiment with different lures until you find the one that works best under the current conditions. However, a slow moving suspending crankbait should be the first choice for wintertime bass fishing.