By Larry Hemphill
Bass anglers are better able to deal with cold weather than are the bass they seek. While humans move around more to stay warm, bass do the opposite.
I have always maintained that the worst number in bass fishing is “47”. Bass really seem to “shut down” in water 47 degrees or lower. Since the past four or so winters have been mild in terms of temperature, with water temperatures not much below 50 degrees, fishing was pretty good.
This year could be different. Do we remember how to fish a REAL, COLD winter? I think I do. Here are three techniques that I use to catch “deep freeze” bass.
My number one weapon for winter bass is a “Weapon” or Rodstrainer jig with a single tail Yamamoto grub. I love to fish jigs because I get real “bites” and because the size of the fish is usually larger.
I mostly throw a 3/8 oz. jig with 10 to 12 lb. test. We don’t need heavy line in winter. Since lighter line doesn’t “float”, we get a better feel of the jig in deep water. This winter I may want to use a 1/2 oz. jig since the bass may be deeper than normal.
I like a brown or brown/orange jig with a #180 bluegill grub. Another favorite is a black/purple/blue tri-color jig with a purple/smoke #157 grub. Remember to fish the bait very slow, 25 to 55 feet, dead sticking often, if possible. I have been accused of fishing a jig so slow “it goes backwards”!
Spooning is always a good technique in winter, but it is especially efficient in very cold winters because bass are very deep and this heavy bait gets to ’em. Deep water bass are less affected by storms and cold fronts. This usually makes them more willing to feed on a more consistent basis. Winter bass station over creek channels and points, near schools of shad. As the shad die off, the bass inhale them with a minimum effort.
A spoon needs to imitate a dying shad. I like to use spoons in 1, 1-1/2, and 2 oz. sizes. Don’t bother with 1/2 and 3/4 oz. spoons – get down to where the fish are! Average spooning depths are 40 to 75 feet in a very cold winter.
Most anglers vertical jig their spoons right under the boat with a 6-1/2 to 7 foot med-heavy rod. If the water is real cold, 46 degrees or below, don’t lift the spoon too much. The fish may be very lethargic and only pick up a spoon with little movement. Don’t expect a hit, just pressure. If you lift the spoon and it seems to stay off the bottom, set the hook while you reel. If it’s a fish it will come to you, if it’s a tree, it won’t!
Finally, while the traditional “shakin” a small worm with a brass ‘n glass will work in frigid temps, split-shotting a 4-1/2 inch worm or reaper often works best. Dragging this rig with 6 or 8 lb. test line very S L O W L Y with an occasional twist, will catch bass in tough conditions. I like to use Magic Worms in colors #11, 39, 62, 72, and 74.
Again, there will be no bite. It will feel like you picked up some weeds. Just swing the rod forward and he’s yours.
If we do indeed have a very cold winter, don’t get too excited if we have one or two warmer days. It will take several warm days in a row to get those deep fish to think about moving up. I’ve seen that happen, even in January, but not too often. Anyway, let’s bundle up a and go set the hook!