It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Chatterbaits with Yamamoto trailers; but in the winter months, it’s necessary to slow down and fish more methodically. This is the season when I turn to a jig for those chilly bites.
A jig is known as a big-fish bait and the winter to prespawn is one of the best times of the year to fish a jig. Especially in the winter and early spring, fish have a tendency to get around rocks because they hold heat. That clues me in to the fact that they’ll be feeding mostly on crawdads.
Also, you get into that time frame when the fish want to eat one big meal rather than chasing around a bunch of shad. I can use a variety of jig profiles, but they will all represent a significant meal for a winter bass.
Here’s a rundown of my top three winter jig uses:
My preference here is a 3/8- to 1-ounce to homemade jig head with 5/0-6/0 round bend Gamakatsu hook. All you need is some black or green pumpkin heads and then use skirts that match what you think the scenario is going to be. For example, if I’m flipping the muddy water that’s common to early spring I’m going to use a black and blue jig.
There are a lot of different variables, but you’ll always do well with a green- or black-based skirt. You can have black with blue, straight black, black with brown, green pumpkin with orange or red. You just take those basic colors and accent them with whatever fits the scenario.
My main choice for flipping jig trailer is the 4-inch medium Yamamoto Craw. I match my colors to the crawdad colors and, obviously a green or black and blue works really well.
If I want to condense my bait profile for more of a finesse presentation, I might go to the Yamamoto 3 ¾-inch Baby Fat Craw. If I’m fishing weed mats or grass that time of year, I want a nice compact trailer so my jig doesn’t get hung up a lot.
Now, when I want more action in my flipping jig presentation, the 5-inch Yamamoto Double Tail Grub works really well. The craw is more subtle, while the Double Tail has more commotion.
I’ll even put the Yamamoto Flappin Hog on the flipping jig for an active display. I might tear off a couple of the side appendages to streamline the profile. That way the skirt doesn’t bulk out. This looks more natural.
Presentation tip: This time of year, you’re going to want a silent entry because fish are ore skittish.
You’re not going to have 20 bites a day; you’re only going for 6-8 bites. But you’re going to have the opportunity for quality.
Also, let the jig soak in that piece of cover for a while. Let the fish go over there and find it. Don’ just flip it in there, let it go to the bottom and reel it up – fish slowly. Fish are cold and they’re not going to move over there really quickly and aggressively bite right away, so you want to give them a slower presentation.
BALL HEAD JIG
On the clear, calm winter days those fish like a little more of a finesse presentation because they’re a little more skittish. In this scenario, I’ll use a 1/8- to ½-ounce jig with either the Baby Fat Craw or the 4-inch Double Tail Grub. My preference is the Baby Fat Craw because the Double Tail makes the bait fall slowly and with the smaller jig you want to feel that fall, so I feel that the slightly heavier craw is best.
Because I’m typically using the ball head in clear water, I’m using natural colors like brown and purple or some kind of natural green colors like a green pumpkin with purple and copper. Also, I’ll have my jig skirt trimmed up for a really streamlined look.
I’ll fish it in those key little rocky areas on riprap and rocky points. For example, rocky secondary points that are hit by a creek channel or ditch can be super productive.
In the winter months, those fish like to use creek channels and ditches to travel and then they’ll come up and feed on any little secondary points along that route. Mostly, it’s not going to be main lake fishing. This time of year, you start transitioning into big bays as the fish move toward their spawning areas.
I’m not going to throw this up a creek where water is more stained. There you want a bigger, bulkier profile to move some water so the fish can find that bait. But on a slick calm winter day, that’s where a finesse jig shines in clear water.
Presentation tip: You can use baitcasting or spinning gear, but I prefer a baitcaster and I’ll go down to a medium action outfit with 8- to 12-pound fluorocarbon.
FOOTBALL HEAD JIG
This is one of my favorite jig techniques for winter. I use skirted and non-skirted models, based on the scenario and with both I use a moderate, soft weed guard. I don’t want a thick weed guard because that can impede my hook sets in deep water. With a more pliable weed guard I can fish an ounce football head in 40 feet of water and still get a hook in the fish.
I’ll cast this jig deep on rock piles and channel swings in deeper water. It just stirs up a lot of bottom sediment and looks like a crawfish down there moving around.
Here’s how I use my two football head jigs:
- With Skirt –I’ll use a ½- to 1-ounce jig with a Yamamoto 5-inch Double Tail Grub. The combination of a hand-tied banded skirt and a double tail creates a bulkier profile that slows the fall rate and moves more water so the fish can find it better in stained water. Also, on calmer days, when the fish tend to be more lethargic and spooky, a slow fall is better.
- No Skirt – With this plain football jig of the same size, I like the Yamamoto Hula Grub. This bait’s soft plastic skirt gives it a smaller profile and allows it to fall faster. This is my choice in clear water when the fish can see the bait better. In this scenario, I want to get that bait to the bottom quickly.
For clear water, I like trailers in brown/purple, smoke sparkle and natural greens like green pumpkin. In dirtier water, black and blue is good.
Presentation tip: With either football head setup, I can make long casts to cover a lot of water and find those fish ganged up. I can fish that jig effectively to 40 feet, but that 20- to 35-foot range is very good. Just like flipping, you might not catch as many, but when they get on that football jig, you’re going to catch good quality.