Winter Bass Fishing:
The Art of Patience By Bruce Callis
December 4th 2017Print This Post
This is the time of year bass boats are winterized and put into storage to await the arrival of spring for so many. The thoughts of fishing and bass have given way to thoughts of big game and hunting. But winter is a great time to catch huge bass. If you are able to withstand the cold and have patience, don’t put those boats and rods away so quickly.
Bass still eat in the winter. The bass will feed less frequently in the winter and will not chase a bait far. The meal has to be well worth the energy put out to catch it. Big baits are great choices for winter fishing. Slow moving baits that come within easy striking distance are what they want. You have to look for prime locations and work them over thoroughly. Prime location can be rock, either deep or shallow. On bright sunny days, the shallow rocks will warm faster, in turn, warming the water around them. Steep banks leading to deep water, creek channels and ditches, and stumps or logs can be prime locations. I have always had my best days on sunny days with blue bird skies.
Whether you are in standing on shore or in a boat, you can catch monster double digit bass all winter long. I have caught more double digit bass standing on the bank as hunters ride by and shake their heads. I’m dressed for the weather, which is the most important factor to winter fishing. What is the secret? Simple, Layers! Start with a good base layer that allows your skin to breathe. I dress just like I would be hunting. I can move freely, but nothing is left to get cold. Today, there are so many options for comfort, but don’t skimp on the feet. If my feet get cold, I’m done.
My favorite winter bait is a lipless crankbait. It is my go to bait 99% of the time. I use it as a search bait and a primary bait. I love the SPRO Aruku Shad because of its action and super sharp hooks. It is not the only bait that works, just my preference. There are so many ways you can work it. There is no right way or wrong, only ones the bass either love or hate.
I prefer a steady retrieve, but steady doesn’t mean fast. I will make repeated cast to the same spot, but vary the depth. My first cast is my deepest. I let it sink to the bottom on a slack line, paying attention for a strike as I count my lure down to the bottom. I then will give it an upward snap of the rod tip, just causing the bait to jump up off the bottom, then slow crawl it just off the bottom, just enough to make my rod tip quiver slightly. The bass are not going to give chase to a fast moving lure, but if it comes right in front of them, its a freight train. I have had them slam my bait so hard that it almost rips the rod out of my hand. I will fan cast from just off the bank on one side to the other side using the same retrieve and depth. If I get nothing, I will repeat the same casts, but start my retrieve just off the bottom, not allowing the bait to hit bottom.
You can also use a yo-yo retrieve. Let the bait sink to the bottom on a slack line and when it hits the bottom, a pull up on the rod, then let it sink back down. This mimics a dying baitfish and can be deadly. You have to be patient and make repeated cast. You will not always make the same retrieve every cast. You could be slightly off and put the bait right in their face whereas the last cast, you went over then and dropped too far away.
My second choice would be a suspending jerkbait. Long casts are just as important as the pause. I prefer the SPRO McStick myself. They make suspending models that dive to 3 feet or 10 feet, the McRip, and they cast great. Make a long cast and reel the bait down to its depth. Pause, the on slack line, jerk. This is done with the rod tip, not the reel. I start with a pause, jerk, jerk, pause and make repeated casts fanning from one side to the other. Watch your line on the pause, if it moves or tightens, reel down and set the hook. Usually, mine have hit just as I start to jerk the bait.
A jig and pig is always a great bait in the winter. It is a weakness in my lineup, but I still have one on and ready. A big trailer is my choice for late fall/winter. And after talking to some great jig anglers, big is what they go with also. Hop it along the bottom. Swim it slowly, keeping it in contact with the bottom. Don’t give up on it if you don’t get bit.
A Carolina rig is another great choice. Experiment with leader length. I’ve used a short leader of 6 inches and a 2 foot leader with success. The bass will tell you if you are right. Big creature baits and big worms are the key. Bass eat, but a slow moving big meal, they can’t resist.
A spinnerbait is another must have bait. Slow roll it along the bottom. I prefer a willow/Colorado blade combination, but a Colorado blade puts off a lot of vibration. Here I love the Death Shimmer spinnerbait. The unique bend of the wire creates vibration along with the blades. Be careful, not every log you hit is a log. You may feel like you are hung, but then it starts moving. Could be an 8 pounder having dinner. White or chartreuse are my primary colors in the winter.
While I don’t use it, an Alabama rig is another winter bait that works great. It takes a special rod and it is a beast to throw all day, but it does catch fish. And it will also catch multiple fish on any cast. Just make sure that you are following your state regulations on the number of hooks you can use. Some limit it to 3 hooks, others 5 hooks.
Lastly, now is a great time for that swimbait, especially, those giant hard bodied, swim baits. Bass love a big meal in the winter. Big with little energy spent means an easy meal that will last longer. Work it back slowly, experimenting with retrieve and depth. Don’t go out thinking it is a quick strike bait either. You must put it close enough for them, or hit them in the head with it.
Winter can be a truly magical time. The lake receives less pressure now. In winter, they tend to hang more in schools. But to find them and entice them to eat, you must be patient. Dress warmly and be prepared to catch monster bass. But you have to go in order to do it, and you must be patient. Are you ready to get your big bass on? Are you ready?