The Art of Winter Fishing:
Prime Lures for Hawg Hunting
Fall is in the air. The cool nights are dropping the water temperatures. Here in Virginia, some below freezing nights are coming fast to more counties. And with it, thoughts of winter fishing are not far behind. At least, I know it is a season I truly look forward to. Winter is a time when you can find schools of bass and some true giants.
I have been out and found them where on every cast you catch a bass. Granted, they are not all going to be giants, but when you are catching 2 pound bass on every cast, life is fun. And from experience, we know that when you find them, there is always going to be some giants in the area. It is all a matter of presentation and bait. But what baits are prime winter lures?
One of my favorite winter baits is a SPRO Aruku Shad. Depending on where the bass are holding, it is a lure that can be thrown and retrieved at any depth. One of my prime locations this time of year are main lake points near spawning flats and adjacent to deep water. I like to anchor down off the points on the downwind side of the point. I then cast my lure over the point and count my lure down to bottom. Once it hits bottom, I give it a few seconds then I give the line a snap to make it jump off the bottom. A lot of times, a strike can happen with the jump off the bottom. From there I start a slow, steady retrieve, just keeping the bait vibrating and along the bottom. If you are in the right area, make repeated cast, changing angles and depth. If this fails, try a different style of retrieve, like yo-yoing your lure. Pop the lure off the bottom and let then it fall back. This can be done at any depth.
My second favorite way to catch fish in the winter is a deep diving crankbait. Depending on the depth I am targeting, the bait can vary, but for me personally, I love the SPRO lineup of lures. From the Little John DD 60, DD 90, XL 70, Fat Papa 70, and RK Crawler 55, each has a place and a time to throw them. The deepest diving of these is the Little John DD 90 and can get down to 24 feet. Line size has an effect on the depth each achieves, and by changing it to a bigger line, a DD 90 can be used in shallower depths without having it digging so hard into the bottom. But contact with the bottom is a must. And the longer the cast, the longer the bait will be in the strike zone on the bottom.
The third choice is new to me, but something I am working on understanding and using more, a jig. I have always liked moving baits, and while a jig can be cast out and you can swim it back, that slow approach of dragging and hopping it along the bottom has always been something I just had a hard time with. But I have been using more plastics and jigs this year. And I have caught some truly big bass on them. Most recently I caught a nice 6 lb 5 oz largemouth on a jig in some deeper water. So this late fall and winter I will be using them more and more. And jigs are know as big bass baits, so just maybe a new personal best might just be possible, but those big girls over 12 are hard to find.
A suspending jerkbait is a know winter time presentation that works also. But it requires a lot of work. And patience. The pauses can seem to take forever, but by counting, I have found it is easier. And it also allows to duplicate the same retrieve over and over. They are usually not for fishing along the bottom, but for drawing them up to your bait or when they are suspended. The cadence is what you have to work on. Make as long a cast as possible and get the bait down to maximum depth, then start your retrieve. Multiple cast in the same spot but with different cadence retrieves are what you need to get them to bite. I have caught some really nice bass on it, and have missed some monsters.
A different bait, and one I plan to try this winter, is the flutter and jigging spoon. They are different, and each has a use. The jigging spoon is more vertical presentation dropped straight down to fish relating to the bottom structure. You drop it down to the bottom and let it settle for a few seconds, then lift it up to a foot off the bottom and let it fall back down on a semi-tight line. At times, a lift and then shake before falling back will work better. The flutter spoon is used for more suspended bass. You cast it out and it flutters down like a dying baitfish. And when retrieved, it produces a wide wobble action. These two actions dominate for some big bass presentations.
While I am not a fan of it, a big bass producer in the winter is the Alabama rig. Regulations vary from state to state as to how many hooks may be used, but multiple catches are possible. They range from 3 pronged to some having as many as 7 arms. The object is to present the bass with a bait ball that you are in control of. While they are great at it, it is also hard on the arm and shoulder. I am not knocking them, just presenting facts. The real secret is having the right rod set up to help cut down on fatigue.
Soft plastics are still one of my prime choices. Texas rigged and worked around and in deep structure is one of my winter tactics. Size and action are prime choices. In the winter, bait moves slower, so the secret is not to overwork the bait. I like to use a few different baits, from a worm to a creature style. Like a jig, they can produce some monster bass. But you must be patient.
Winter is both the best time to fish, and the worse. Worse because of the unique dangers it presents. We have to dress appropriately, wearing layers to maintain body heat. And the added layers can also limit our ability to move normally. Accidents can and do happen at any time, with one of the worse for winter fishing being in the water. Hypothermia is deadly, and getting out of the water quickly is one key to surviving. Yes, I have been there, in the 37 degree water. I was lucky and I never lost contact with the boat. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. Getting out of the water sounds easy, but with the extra clothing, it can be a little more difficult. And once out, you need to think about restoring that lost body heat quickly. I now carry a change of clothing, and I mean everything including shoes and a towel, with me in the boat. I did not have them even in the truck that last time, but that will never happen again. I bring them in the truck in the summer, but you can be an hour or more from the truck when it happens.
For me, I love winter fishing. And hopefully this will help you find some true monsters this winter. Just remember to be patient and think smartly. Be safe, make memories, and live to fish another day! Fish on!