Cold-Weather Fishing? Bring It On

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo: Rugged Shark
Bradley Roy says winter bass aren't terribly difficult to catch once they've been located.

Okay, so it's a little cold out. What do you expect? It's January!

But that doesn't mean you can't catch a bass. They don't go into full-on hibernation; they still have to eat. Sure, they slow down and become lethargic, but they still eató and what that means to us as fishermen is that we can catch them.

I was out one day last winter and the water temperatures were in the 30s. I caught fish all day long. Just think of it as putting together a winter pattern. After all, things that you learn or piece together now will work in any winter conditions you encounter, no matter the month.

Forget the cold. This is a great time of year to catch bass. Let me explain this the simplest way I know how.

The fish are in bunches and they eat. Find the bunches and you can catch the bass. Itís just that simple.

Where do you look? What type of bait is best? How deep are they? Good questions with easy answers; allow me to explain.

Look for the deepest part of the lake with vertical breaks. Generally thatís downlake, but not always. One of the best ways to prepare for a day on the lake is to study a map. The best areas for me are outside bends in creeks or main-lake rivers. Where these bends touch the bank are often killer areas Ė sweet spots that may pay off in a big way. I look at them first.

To be perfect for me, they need to have super-hard bottoms Ė chunk rock, pea gravel, that sort of thing. And they need to have about a 45-degree drop. Thatís important. Bass will move up and down, depending mostly on the weather. Fishing pressure will move them deeper but thatís rarely a problem this time of year.

When the sun comes out and warms things up a little, the fish will move up. If it turns colder, theyíll move down. The fish will tell you what to do if youíll just pay attention.

If itís warmer than normal, look for the majority of the bass to be on top of the drop Ė right on the lip of the old channel. Sometimes, when itís really cold, they may be in the bottom of the channel. Iíll use a drop shot to catch these fish nine times out of 10. I believe itís the way I rig it that makes it work so well.

I use a very short dropshot leader, just 1 or 2 inches. Most fishermen are still using 12- to 14-inch leaders and they just donít catch as many fish. Remember that these fish are very lethargic and they stay right on the bottom. They wonít go far to eat, so donít make it any harder for them than necessary. Put the bait right in their face.

So, I know where the fish are and that Iím going to use a short-leader dropshot to catch them. The bait I choose is the most important thing. I use a Berkley PowerBait 3-inch Minnow on a very small hook, say a No. 1 or 2. This thing is a small hook, but with a small drop-shot weight Ė say a 3/16-ounce Ė it works better than any Iíve tried for this presentation. I never have a fish come off with it. It hooks them right in the top of the mouth, right where you want it.

I hook the bait right through the nose and fish it vertically. Some of the bites come on the fall, but most of them come on the bottom. Fish it almost still. With this bait it doesnít take much for it to move and wiggle. Natural currents or even minor hand tremors are enough to give it all the action it needs.

I use two basic colors Ė black shad for murky water and emerald shiner to imitate baitfish. Try different ones and the fish will tell you what to use. Because the bait is made of PowerBait, I think it works better than plastic or live bait. This stuff is unreal Ė fish donít bite it, they eat it. Itís amazing.

Line selection is critical as well. Most of the time youíll be fishing in super-clear water, so a fluorocarbon line makes sense. I use Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for a couple of reasons. Fish canít see it and it is extremely sensitive, so I can feel every bite. And if everything goes right, Iíll be feeling plenty.

Too cold for you to go out? Fine by me, Iíll be catching 30 bass a day while you sit by the fire. I like catching bass any time of the year, but I like it even better when I have the place all to myself.

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