Winter fishing requires some changes in the way we approach our day, and not only in the way that we dress. We fishermen certainly feel the lower temperatures, but so do the bass and that’s why we have to keep in mind a few important principles when we’re fishing this time of year.
First of all, we have to remember that fish are generally more lethargic in the winter. There’s also a good chance that many of the fish will spend most of their day in deep water.
Sometimes the deeper fish are actually less lethargic in the deeper spot because the water temperature will be higher than it is in the shallower areas. Deeper water is also more stable than shallow water, which can fluctuate during the day.
The key point here is that the overall disposition of winter fish will be less active than we find during the warmer months. This plays a big role in which Yamamoto plastics I use and how I present them.
Here are a couple of key areas to consider:
Size: We often hear a lot about downsizing in the winter and I agree that this can be helpful, but within reason. When I think about smaller baits, I think about using a 5-inch Senko in areas where they like a 6- or 7-inch Senko in the warmer weather. But if I’m using a 5-inch bait, I’m not going down to the 4-inch.
On the other hand, I don’t ever find the need to upsize my baits during the winter months. A 5-pounder and a 10-pounder will both eat a 5-inch Senko.
Shape: This area of adjustment is probably even more important than size when you’re fishing in cold water. It’s less about size, more about slower and less action.
Basically, I think that using low-profile baits is even more effective than going to really small baits. For example, a 5-inch Senko has the right combination of overall bulk, but the slender profile allows me to make a subtle presentation.
Location: A simple rule of thumb is that the colder it is, the more I’ll look for fish in deeper water, but when we get a warming trend, I’ll look for the fish to move shallower.
On a warm winter day, bass like to rise in the water column or actually move up into shallower depths to soak up the sun’s warmth. What I’ve found is that when they’re up shallow sunning, I have a really hard time catching them.
If I see a lot of fish but they’re really lethargic. You can cast and cast and they don’t care. Their first priority is to get warm, so when they move shallow they’re not immediately interested in feeding.
What I’ll do is make a mental note or drop a waypoint on the spot and then I’ll come back later. Once I think they fish have had time to warm up, I’ll approach the area where I saw them sunning and keep my distance. I don’t want them to know I’m there, so I’ll make a really long cast with a weightless Senko.
A lot of times, they’ll see the bait but they won’t react right away. They’ll wait for that bait to hit the bottom and they’ll slowly sink down to get it.
I’ll let the bait sit there and just dead stick it. Then I’ll move it just a little to get the fish’s attention. Typically, they’ll just creep right up to it and suck it up off the bottom.
The important part of this pattern is to identify the spots that have those sunning fish. I hate throwing to a spot if I don’t know whether it holds any fish.
It takes a long time to wait for that bait to sink. It’s tedious, so if I don’t know a fish is there, I don’t have any confidence in putting in that much time.
There’ not everywhere, but you may get into an area where they come up in groups. Mark these areas and come back.
MY WINTER RIGS
For fishing deeper winter spots, I have three go-to baits. Two of them are similar, but I use different setups for different presentations.
Boss Football Jig (skirted): Depending on my depth, I’ll use a ½- to ¾-ounce jig (dark pumpkin color) with a skirt blending dark and light green pumpkin strands and a 5-inch Yamamoto Twin Tail Grub trailer. I’ll use this setup when the fish are more active.
Boss Football Jig (no skirt): Same size and color as the skirted model, but I’ll use a Yamamoto Hula Grub trailer for less action. This gives me the look of a skirt without all that flaring action like a silicone skirt. This is my choice when I think the fish are more lethargic. Winter bass usually don’t want active presentations that look like something they have to chase.
Texas Rigged Senko: I rig this bait on a 4/0 light wire OWG hook because I like to use lighter line – 12- to 14-pound fluorocarbon and still get a good hookup with that lighter wire hook.
Depending on my depth, I’ll use a 1/8- to ¼-ounce ounce Reins Tungsten slip sinker, but I won’t peg the sinker. I’ll make a long cast and let it fall on a slack line, so the weight and bait separate.
The weight hits the bottom first and the bait is fluttering separately for the last several feet.
A lot of times the fish won’t hit it on the fall, but that separation will get their interest. Once it’s on the bottom, the bait and the weight move together like a normal Texas rig, but any fish that noticed the bait fluttering on the fall will move in and grab it.
If you crawl this rig over a lock or rock, it will separate again for a few seconds and give just a little extra action and that may generate some interest. It’s subtle things like this that can make a big difference during winter. Remember, the fish are usually less active, so as appealing as Yamamoto baits are, you may have to employ a little strategy to get bit.