By Marc Rogers
The key to a successful winter bass fishing outing is to use a slow presentation. Bass are cold-blooded creatures and their metabolism slows to a snail’s pace during cold-water conditions. A bass needs far less food during the winter months compared to the summer months when water surface temperatures can reach into the 90-degree range.
One of the most effective winter bass offerings is a jig. The jig can be slowly crawled along the bottom to mimic a crayfish. Again, slow is the key because not only is the bass operating in slow motion so are the crayfish. To look natural it too must also be slow-moving.
Through many years of trial and error I have found the football head jig is the best for crawling along the bottom of most bodies of water. When the lakes and rivers are full of rocks on the bottom the football head jig excels. The wide head design reduces the chances of it getting hung in the many crevices on the bottom.
Anglers should target areas where shallow water is close to deep water; depth is relative to the overall body of water. Shallow water points leading into main-lake bodies are a great starting point for using this approach. Jigs should be cast into areas approximately 10 feet deep and slowly crawled into deeper water. If this depth range is not productive small movements to position the boat in deeper water are easily done with the electric motor. Continue to repeat this process until you find success or eliminate the area.
A second approach is to locate areas where submerged ledges are available, dropping from 10 to 30 or more feet deep. Cast the jig into the shallow water and slowly drag it until you find the ledge. When the lure begins to fall through the water allow it to free fall keeping a close watch on your line. If a bass takes the offering it will be a very subtle bite and the only indication may be the lure stopping before it reaches the bottom. Many times bass interested in feeding during the winter will stage near the ledge keying on the shallow water for food.
Many anglers never reach for soft-plastic lures during the winter season. Soft-plastics are still effective during the colder months, especially the crayfish imitators. They are best presented slowly on the bottom like a jig and can be rigged on a jig-head or Texas style. Soft-plastic lures also feel more realistic when taken by a weary bass.
Another effective lure for cold water bassin’ is a jerkbait. Suspending models are generally more effective because they allow for a slower presentation. Anglers should make long casts, work the lure down to the approximately four feet deep and then stop it momentarily. It will suspend in place and mimic a slow moving baitfish. Water density changes with temperature so adding weights may be required to get the action desired. Using jerkbaits is a very popular technique to take winter bass throughout the Ozark region.
Crankbaits should never be discounted when chasing cold-water bass. Deep diving models are capable of attaining depths necessary to entice bass. Again, the key is to work them slowly while keeping them digging into the bottom and using lighter line will aide in reaching desired depths. Fluorocarbon line will sink while monofilament line floats. Fluorocarbon, therefore, adds to the ability of getting lures deeper.
Bass caught in the winter tend not to fight as aggressively as those hooked during the warmer months so the lighter line causes few problems in landing them. A long rod specifically designed for crankbaits – they have a slower action and are more flexible – are often appreciated by anglers when fighting bass on crankbaits with light line.
While lures popular with warm water anglers will catch bass in the winter, a slower presentation is the key to make them effective winter lures. In my experience the lures mentioned earlier have been the most productive. However, anglers should still not discount the fish catching ability of any lure that is presented more slowly in the winter.