The Baits of Winter Fishing:

What Pro’s & Joe’s are Using

by Bruce Callis Jr

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While the weather has been anything but normal this year, it has been cold enough at times to have dropped the water temperatures. We haven’t officially started winter by the calendar, but meteorological speaking, we have. Winter fishing can be both exciting and challenging. The bite can be slow, the presentations can painfully slow, but winter time bass fishing can produce some true monsters. And usually there are very few boats on the water, so searching for them becomes easier, as in you can hit just about anywhere you want.

I know what baits I love to use, but what about others? I posed this to a mixture of anglers by asking them, “If you had to pick only one bait to throw all day right now through the winter, what bait are you choosing? And what set up are you putting it on?

John Crews

I’d pick a 1/2 ounce Missile Mini Flip with a Mini D Chunk on a Cashion Worm Rod with 14 pound Sunline Shooter and a high speed reel.

Grae Buck

For me it would be a 1/2 ounce Bill Lewis Rat-L Trap in Chrome Shad. I would be putting it on a Favorite 7’ Phat Glass Cranking Rod paired with a 7.3:1 Soleus XCS reel spooled up with 17 pound Seaguar Invisx Fluorocarbon.

Brandon Palaniuk

My choice would be a 1/4 ounce VMC Hybrid Jighead with a Xzone Mini Swammer. I would have it rigged on an Alpha Angler Clutch rod and a Daiwa Zillion SV TW reel spooled up with 10 pound Seaguar Tatsu.

Jimmy Gayhart

I love throwing a 1/2 ounce jig. I throw it on a 7’2” Phenix M1 paired with a Shimano Curado spooled with 16 pound Sunline FX Sniper. I like a jig when the water gets cool because it can be fished so many ways.
My second go to would be a shaky head. Often times, profile makes a huge difference. I use almost the same set up, but I spool my Curado with 12 pound Sunline for a more finesse approach.

Wade Middleton

For me, it’s a SPRO Little John Crankbait. I can fish rocks, grass, timber, boat ramps and more. I would put it on a 7 foot Johnny Morris medium action Carbon Light rod matched with a Johnny Morris Platinum Series reel spooled with 10 pound Sunline Sniper.

Derek Hudnall

For me it would have to be a SPRO Aruku Shad on a 7’3” St. Croix Victory medium heavy fast and a reel spooled with 16 pound Sunline Sniper.


Ty Adams Jr.

Right now through winter, it’s a 13 Fishing Loco Special jerkbait. I have it on aV2 rod 7’1” medium rod and a 13 Fishing Concept A Gen 2 reel spooled with 10 lb line or a 7’1” Fate V3 medium spinning rod and 6/8 pound test line.

Derek Horner

For me, it’s a Megabass Vision 110 on a 6’10” medium Duckett Jacob Wheeler series casting rod and a 7.1:1 Lews BB1 Pro reel.

Andrew Capps

I’m throwing a black and blue jig tipped with a Strike King Baby Menace on a 7’6” FX rod with a Diawa Tatula 8:1 gear ratio with 15 pound monofilament.

Jacob Stephens

I’m still cranking a SPRO Little John MD 50. I have it on a Bass Pro Carbonlite 2.0 rod and a Johnny Morris reel with 10 pound Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon.

Snookie “Bass Snatcher” Risch

For me it would be a SPRO Aruku Shad. I can cover any depth of water, from shallow to 10-20 feet with it and use many different retrieves, I can fish it fast or slow and I can pause it or jig it. I have it rigged on a 7 foot Quantum spinning rod and Accurist reel spooled up with 20 pound Seaguar Stealth gray Smackdown braid for those monster winter bass.

Oliver Ngy

I like throwing a Defiant 210 Swimbait rigged on a Megabass TS Destroyer Blackjack and a Lexa 300HD baitcasting reel. And I have it spooled up with 28 pound Defiant Fishing Heavy Cover fluorocarbon.

I personally love to throw the SPRO Aruku Shad during the winter months, and it is always my first choice. I have it set up on a BullDog Custom Rods7’4” MHMF rod made just for lipless crankbaits and matched with a Quantum EXO PT spooled up with Seaguar 12 pound Red Label fluorocarbon. This gives me the perfect combination to search out the big bass no matter where they are. I make long casts across flats adjacent to the drop off and work it back. The secret is to keep making casts to the same area and work out to each side. Vary your depth and retrieve until you find the magic zone. Once you start to dial it in, hang on. While some will never just reel it in, I have found that letting it sink to the bottom and slowly run it back across the bottom can be a great starting point. You would be surprised at how many of my big winter bass come from doing just that.

When I just can’t get them to really commit to the lipless, I love to throw the SPRO McStick suspending jerkbait. Everyone likes different setups for their jerkbaiting, and I like a 6’10 medium action rod and a Quantum EXO. And I prefer it spooled with Seaguar 10 pound Red Label fluorocarbon. The secret is to make long casts and to work it back slow. I’ve been told that is you think you are working it slow enough, slow down some more. I’ll work it out from the bank over the edge of the drop offs and around points. Working down it from all sides and then across it, working up the drop on one side and down the drop on the other. I like to make it jump in place, like a baitfish struggling to survive.

Winter fishing can be a fun time to be on the water or on the bank. The peace and quiet as boat traffic has died down and it’s basically other nuts like us who love fishing as much as we do out there. And while we may have to wear a lot more clothing, the reward of a possible 10 pound bass makes it all worth it.

Remember, you can remove layers as it warms, but what you start with is the best it gets, so prepare for the worse of the cold. Hand warmers are a great help and you can get bigger ones that you can place on the body. And having a change of clothing can be the biggest lifesaver if you fall in. It can be a long, long, brutally cold ride back to shore. Remember to think smartly, think safety, and live to fish another day. Wear your life jacket and make sure you have your kill switch attached to it. Be prepared for an emergency and pray it never happens.


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