When it comes to being successful with plastics in the winter, there are three things to keep in mind. Downsize your bait, slow your presentation, and then when you think you’re fishing really slow, slow down even more. Even though fishing super slow might be as painfully boring as watching paint dry, if you’re trying to get bit in the frigid temps, you have to do what you have to do. In the winter, bass will generally eat only one 6th of the amount of food they consume in the warmer months because there metabolism slows down to a crawl and smaller meals will sustain their hunger for a longer period of time. This explains the need for downsizing your presentation and not trying to force feed them with a larger bait. Granted, there will still be times in really cold water when a bass will go after a larger profile bait, but that’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time…and those times are far and few between . I know this isn’t the easiest change to make for the “big bait” fans out there but when it means the difference between getting bit and not getting bit, the anglers who adjust accordingly to the conditions will be successful more often than not.
That being said, let’s move forward to the “super slow” part of the cold water plastics program. Not only do bass move more sluggishly in the winter months, but their brain function slows down as well which affects their thought process and reaction time. This is why working your plastics super slowly is so important. If you work your plastics as you do in the summertime and don’t slow down dramatically, you can be passing right by catchable fish before their brain even gets a chance to process the thought “that’s an easy meal, I should eat it!”. Fortunately, the art of dead sticking is very simple. Once the bait hits the bottom, let it sit still for a couple minutes, drag it super slowly for a few inches, then let it sit again for 30 to 120 seconds, drag it super slowly again and so on and so forth. Although this technique doesn’t sound too exciting, the anglers that can discipline themselves to fish this way will be putting fish in the boat when most others are sitting home watching fishing shows and wishing it was spring. When it comes to fishing plastics in the winter, just remember…less is more.
Here’s our choices for catching frosty bass; The Craw D’oeuvre rigged on a shakey head and/or rigged on a 5/16 oz finesse jig as a trailer, The Finicky Tickler rigged on a shakey head or drop shot (with a short lead), the JP Hammer Shad rigged on a drop shot (with a short lead) or rigged on a small football head, the Grub rigged on a light jig head, and the 3.5” Texas-Rig Jig rigged on a light football/arkie head. All of these baits can be fished on spinning gear, so yes, you can wear gloves! And to help you detect the subtle hits and spongy weight of the sluggish winter bass, for ultimate sensitivity we recommend using 15lb to 20lb braid topped off with a 6 to 8ft section of 6 to 12 lb fluorocarbon leader. So if you decide you want to do some cold water bassin’ with plastics, dress for the conditions, downsize your bait, SLOW your presentation, be patient and the results can be surprisingly rewarding.