Winter Tips: Winter Fishing Time Periods
Story by Russ Bassdozer
Dusk and Daybreak
You often read or are told to sleep late or to go home early on winter days, to fish "banker's hours" - which is fine, but you'll miss potential flurries of feeding activity at dusk and daybreak.
Daybreak may be a brutally cold start of the day in winter, but the first light of dawn is nevertheless a peak period of heightened bass feeding activity even on the coldest day.
The late light before sundown is also is a favorite time when bass look for food on a wintry day.
The crack of dawn or last vestiges of dusk may be unbearably cold in winter - and that dangerous cold may be a wise reason to avoid being on the water then. Fortunately, the early afternoon, say from one o’clock to three pm is also a period when I like to be on the water in winter. By one o’clock, there has been as many as six hours of warming sun penetrating the water and the sun is high enough in the sky to have whittled any shade pockets down to almost nothing. This is a warming period and often a great time to connect with a few bass.
Drip Rocks and Shining Sand in Early Afternoon
In the early afternoon hours, a couple of my favorite places to find winter bass include “drip rocks’ and “shining sand”.
Drip rocks are found along bluffs or rocky walls or steep shorelines that have water seeping out of the rocks somehow. Often there is a demarcation line like a crack or fissure between two different levels of rocks, and that demarcation most likely means that swampy water stood there eons ago. Often the demarcation is an ultra thin layer of crushed vegetation like reeds, swamp trees and aquatic weeds that once flourished in the marsh. To this day, water still moves along the ancient swamp channel beds squeezed between two rock layers and seeps out of the rocks there.
The drip water and the glistening wet rock surface percolate with the heat of the early afternoon sun. You’ll feel the intense heat being generated in these areas. While you’re fishing in them, you'll likely work up a sweat. These are literally hot spots, and you may increase your odds for action wherever you may find a solar-heated drip rock wall like this. You have the whole food chain firing off here all winter.
Another situation that generates lots of hot water and holds winter bass is shining sand. As you move around the lake in early afternoon, keep a squinty eye peeled for intensely glaring surfaces along the shoreline. Specifically, look for wet or shining sand.
There will be a lot of glare shining off the wet sand. These areas also are often aquifers where water seeps or rises out of the terrain and drains into the lake. From a distance, these may look like featureless sand flats. Upon closer inspection, you may find channel cuts, rocky ledges or drop-offs adjacent to the sand. It’s the heat emanating from the shining sand that superheats the seeping water that makes the area attractive to every frigid link in the winter food chain on a sunny day.
Very Best Time to Catch Winter Bass
There’s one special time in winter when you stand the very best chance of all to catch a bass. That magic time is whenever you or your fishing buddy are hooked up. As one fish is played to the boat, odds are great that another fish in the area will become active as a result. Casting closely behind a hooked fish is often the best way to get a second hook-up. Regardless of whether you actually do or do not see other fish following the hooked one, it’s wise to cast behind a hooked fish. Act quickly because this brief window of opportunity doesn’t last long.
Now, I know you're thinking about your fishing buddy, and that he's really not going to appreciate you throwing over his one hooked fish of the day. You guys just need to get over that - and throw over each other's fish. It's a great way to double your catches in winter.
A fish may be hooked any time, anywhere, all of a sudden, and the second angler has to react immediately with the throw-in rod. Ideally, you need to have a lure already tied on a rod, ready to react. You know sometimes the window to get this second bite or not get it, the opportunity changes in a few seconds. So you must have good reflexes to react of course, but you must also be well-organized. If you have good reflexes, but your rod is a mess, if you don't know, the way you left your rods on the deck, or if you have to untangle the lure and things like that, you may miss the opportunity, believe me.
So keep a throw-in rod at the ready, so you or your partner are able to find it and get it in the water without fumbling or losing any seconds. You both don't need your own throw-in rods. If you are fishing together, designate one shared rod for this tactic, and if you're fishing in the stern, your partner in the bow, leave it at the ready across the boat seats where either of you may grab it.
(Note: If you are fishing as individuals, the other guy's probably not going to let you throw on his fish, but the sidebar below tells you other tactics for increasing your catch with the throw-back rod, so keep the throw-in rod separate from your other rods and ready to pick up in an instant (see more details below).
Every second counts, and having that second rod in the water really can turn one fish into two. So make sure you and your partner know where that second rod is, that it is ready to cast, not tangled with another rod, Pay attention to every single detail that can help you double your catches with this throw-in tactic.
One of my favorite lures to rig on the throw-back rod is a Senko, either weightless or lightly weighted so it suspends and sinks slowly into the hot area with it's own built-in action. You don't need to work or activate this lure in any way, just let it sink and it will do the rest. Rig one of the weedless ways like shown below so it will tangle less when cast in on a hooked fish.
There's no need to finesse following fish. Even if you can't see them, they're probably lurking there. They are already eager to grab a meal from the hooked fish. So a 5-inch 9-series Senko has the right size and heft to throw in, and they also have the perfect action - just do nothing - for following fish. There's already motivated to strike, so no need to finesse these hot winter fish - and it's the absolute best time and a great way to catch them in that instant.
All the above are weedless, therefore relatively snagless when cast in on a hooked fish. They will tangle at times - but less than other lures.