By Josiah – Gaza
Growing up in upstate New York, winter fishing for me involved drilling a hole through a bunch of ice, sitting on a bucket with a 2 foot jigging rod, and catching a whole lot of frostbite. However, in more southern locales like my current home of Lynchburg Virginia, major bodies of water stay mostly free of ice throughout the year. For those willing to brave the cold, winter fishing can offer plenty of action, and there is no more popular or proven lure in winter than a jig.
While I have had success using a jig during the winter, because of my limited experience I am by no means an expert. For this article, I had the privilege of interviewing someone who is: Kevin Hawk. Kevin is a highly regarded professional bass fisherman who has been fishing the FLW series for several years, and he actually won the Forrest Wood Cup (the FLW tour championship) back in 2010. This year, Kevin is making the transition to the Bassmaster Elite Series where he will compete at the sport’s highest level. In addition to all of this, Kevin also happens to be a fantastic jig fisherman with a wealth of experience in all kinds of conditions. Whether you are just getting started as an angler or have many years of experience, you are sure to pick up some useful pointers here.
Josiah – So how long have you been professionally fishing, Kevin?
Kevin – I’ve been fishing professionally for 2 full seasons, so this will be my third season.
Josiah – And you are transitioning to the Bassmaster Elite Series this year, correct?
Kevin – Yes, I am fishing the Elite Series this year.
Josiah – Let’s talk about winter fishing. A lot of casual and inexperienced fisherman think that the fish stop biting when the water gets cold. What is your opinion on winter fishing?
Kevin – The hardest part about winter fishing is actually getting out there. A lot of guys are chicken, and they look out their windows at the cold and say, “man it looks nasty out there – the fish must not be biting.” So getting yourself out there is the hardest part. Once you get out there, just fish your confidence baits. I’ve built up a ton of confidence in a jig over the years, so that’s the lure I throw most of the time. The fish will still bite regardless of how cold the water gets.
Josiah – Where are fish usually located in the winter?
Kevin – It depends on the type of water you are fishing, but on a typical large reservoir like Smith Mountain Lake, I’m looking for the steepest drop-off I can find. Often, that drop will be on the edge of the main channel or a major feeder creek. Once I find that channel, I’m looking for any irregularity or cover on the drop-off that might attract fish. The best case scenario is a channel bend with cover on it, like stumps or rock. Usually, the fish will be more out on the main lake during the winter than at other times of the year, and they like to be able to move vertically, so that’s why I think they can be found on those steep drops so often. Another factor is that baitfish also tend to congregate on those steep drops.
Josiah – Why is a jig such a deadly cold-water bait?
Kevin –When the water is cold, bass get slower and more lethargic. A jig is a great lure to use because you can fish it very slowly, which is often crucial to being successful in cold water. The other great thing about a jig is that it mimics a crawfish really well. A crawfish crawling along the bottom is an easy meal for a lethargic winter bass. By changing the size and color of your jig to match the size and color of the crawfish found in whatever water you are fishing, you have a great chance of making a bass think it’s getting an easy meal, and that’s key when you are fishing during the winter.
Josiah – What style of jig do you usually fish in the winter? Is there a particular manufacturer’s jig you prefer?
Kevin -During the winter, my go-to bait is a half ounce football jig. If the wind is blowing, I may step up the weight to ¾ of an ounce. I am sponsored by 4×4 bass jigs, and in my opinion they make the best jigs on the market. I can’t say enough about how awesome these jigs are. I throw the Kevin Hawk Signature Football Jig, which just recently was made available to the public. Before, it was only a prototype.
Josiah – What kind of trailer do you like to use on your jigs when the water is cold?
I really only use two types of trailers on my jigs. When the water is a little warmer, I use a 5” double tail Yamamoto grub, which has a lot of action. When the water is colder, I use a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hawg, which has more subtle action. I often trim all the little side appendages off of the Flappin’ Hawg to slim down the profile down a little bit and further cut down on the bait’s action. Sometimes I’ll doctor up the tips of both trailers with a little bit of chartreuse dye, especially if I’m fishing for spotted bass or smallmouth.
Josiah – How do you like to fish a jig when the water is cold?
Kevin – I do a lot of casting and then dragging the jig slowly back to the boat. If I see fish on my graph, I may try dropping the jig right on top of them, but most of the time during the winter I’m just casting and dragging. I don’t hop the bait a lot like I would in warmer water conditions – I just slowly drag it and maintain bottom contact as much as possible.
Josiah – What kind of rod, reel, and line do you use when you’re jig fishing?
Kevin – I use a 704c Irod Air (7ft heavy action,) an Abu Garcia Revo SX baitcasting reel, and 15lb Invis-X fluorocarbon. That Irod is super sensitive, and the fluorocarbon is very low stretch which also helps with sensitivity. I feel very confident with this setup, and it’s the setup I use for most of my jig fishing year-round.
Josiah – Are there any modifications you make to your jigs? Do you trim the weedguard or skirt?
Kevin – You know, the way 4×4 jigs are, I don’t feel the need to make any modifications to them. They fish perfect right out of the package. The skirt is the right length, and the weedguard isn’t so thick that it interferes with hook penetration, but it’s still tough enough that I’m not getting hung up all the time.
Josiah – Are there any colors you especially prefer?
Kevin – Green pumpkin is something I always have in the boat, and it’s one of my 2 favorite colors of all time. Some of the other colors I like are Hawk’s prey, which should be available to the public in a few weeks, amber, green pumpkin blue, and defensive craw. I think my favorite color of all time though is just plain brown. It’s an old school color, but it just flat-out catches fish. All of these colors can be found at www.4x4bassjigs.com, as well as my newly released Kevin Hawk Signature Football Jig. I would highly recommend any jig fisherman take a look at these jigs – they are the real deal.
Well, that’s all I had so thanks for your time – it was great to speak with you!
Thank you, it was a pleasure speaking with you also.