Many bass fishermen lead double lives, torn between their bass boats and tree stands. But as the door slams shut on deer season, the choice for cold-water bass fishing becomes clear.
And, according to bass pro North Carolina’s Dave Wolak, the key to success is locating deeper fish and using just a handful of lures.
“Winter fish will retract from areas where they spent a good deal of the year, while seeking deeper-water highways like ditches and channels, deep points and vertical cover with deep water nearby,” said Wolak, co-host of the Know Fishing television series on World Fishing Network. “Rocky areas are generally better because they hold a good deal of residual heat from when the sun pops out.”
Riprap banks are the best of both worlds, as they are generally constructed adjacent to deep water.
Wolak sticks with five basic baits for most of his winter fishing:
Jig/soft plastic combos
“Any jig combination works in winter, but they work best when fine tuned to the environment,” Wolak said.
Football jigs are especially good when dragged around rocky bottoms and riprap, as the head design makes the baits stand up and they’re less likely to become snagged.
Green pumpkin jigs with crawfish trailers are good winter combos, and a ½- to ¾-ounce head gets the bait down fast.
Rattling lipless baits
“In cold water, its tough to beat this lure’s ability to get a reaction strike,” said Wolack, who recommends pumping the lures around old grass and deeper shoreline cover.
These sinking baits can be fished with a yo-yo style; after the lure falls to the bottom, the rod is lifted so the bait vibrates and rattles, followed by another fall and lift.
“These baits have a subtle and tight wobble, making them perfect for bass that retreat to ditches in shallower, dingy water,” Wolack said.
The tight wobble makes for a high-frequency vibration easily detected by winter bass, especially when this diving lure grinds along the bottom, kicking up gravel like a deranged crawfish.
“Vertical jigging smaller spoons will catch deep, suspended bass that may otherwise be considered untouchable,” Wolak said.
After finding a school of bass on sonar, a ¼-ounce spoon is simply dropped into them. Using upward jerks of 1 to 2 feet, the lure is allowed to flutter down on a slack line followed closely with the rod tip to detect strikes.
“The ever-popular Shad Rap is the best example. These baits have an even more-subtle and tighter action, making them a great crank(bait) for clear to dingy, medium-depth ranges,” said Wolak.
Shad Raps, a lightweight balsa wood lure, can be difficult to cast, but they are deadly when bass are shadowing schools of shad.