Be clear about winter bass

Clear water gives up bass more readily during winter than dirty or muddy water. Water clarity is even more important than water temperature.

Find clear water or don’t fish, veteran pro advises

When it comes to catching bass in February, things are pretty clear to bass pro David Fritts — clear, as in clear water.

“When it’s cold, if you want to catch bass, the water had better be clear. I can’t stress how important it is. If it’s been consistently cold, you need to find the clearest water and fish it,” said Fritts, a Lexington, N.C., native who is one of only two professional bass fishermen to win the FLW Tour Championship, the Bassmaster Classic and BASS Angler of the Year.

“Down (South), as long as the water temperature is around 49 or 50 degrees, you can catch ’em,” he said. “If it gets much below 49, the fishing gets extremely tough. For some reason, 49 is a big number; I’ve never done well with the water temperature around 45. It needs to be around 48 or 49, at least, before you can catch ’em good.”

Fritts said that when you find clear water, start looking for warmer water — and it doesn’t have to be much warmer.

“A difference of a degree or two can mean good fishing in one spot and poor fishing in another,” he said. “If you’ve had a warming trend, you might look in the backs of creeks, where the shallow water will warm up quickly. If not, you’re looking for places that are protected from the north wind, like short, deep pockets on the main lake.

“If you’re not fishing the back of a creek, you want to be fishing a place where you can sit in 20 feet of water and cast up near the bank. Real sharp drops are good, and rocky banks are not bad. Fish are probably not gonna move all the way up on a flat in February.”

Slow down

Fritts said because cold water makes bass act and feed sluggishly during the winter, you have to fish baits that will stay in front of them for a while — no zooming a bait past their noses, looking for a reaction bite.

Fritts likes a medium-diving crankbait, a jigging spoon, a jig or a suspending jerkbait like a Rapala Husky Jerk.

“Whatever bait you choose, you have to retrieve it as slowly as you can. The colder it is, the slower you go — and I’m terrible at that kind of fishing. I’ve fished with guys who were fishing suspended jerkbaits, and they’d make a cast and maybe wind it down a little bit, and just let it sit and sit and sit. I’d make two casts while they were just letting it sit there.”