Deep wood structure, slow presentations key to winter bite
After weeks of freezing temperatures, I awoke Saturday to discover mild temperatures and blue-bird skies — and by 8 a.m. I was packing up the boat for a quick trip to Henderson to see if the bass would cooperate.
The four hours I spent on the water proved fish will bite even when water temperatures are below 50 degrees. But it took more than an hour to figure things out.
My first thought was working a small Academy H2O squarebill down canal banks. I focused on drop-offs, but fish didn’t even sniff at it.
I wasn’t certain of the water temperature (my unit wasn’t reading for some reason), but when another angler came by and said it was 40 to 44 degrees I decided to put down the crankbait and pick up a flipping stick.
I soon had my first two bites in a couple of laydowns.
But not every laydown held fish: The trick was finding those downed trees extending into at least 4 feet of water, with deeper water nearby.
For the next two hours, I ignored everything else and hopscotched my way from deep laydown to deep laydown. Almost every one of them held fish.
Front to Back Boat Service‘s Ken Sherman, who for years was a stick on the Southeast Louisiana bass tournament scene, wasn’t surprised when I shared this pattern with him.
“What do bass do in the sumer?” Sherman asked. “They go to deep water to find more comfortable water temperatures. The same thing happens in the winter.”
He said finding those deep laydowns topping the surface only adds to the equation.
“That wood warms up, and fish will get in there because it’s warmer,” Sherman explained.
That’s exactly how I caught these flipping bass.
However, you can’t be in a hurry right now. I worked extremely slow, dropping my pegged plastic into the tangles of the laydowns, dropping it to the bottom and working it very, very slowly over the wood.
Bites were extremly light — it felt like I bumped a stick. Only a spongy feeling gave away the fish.
The first bass was caught on a tequila sunrise Zoom Baby Brush Hog, which tore on the hookset. I didn’t have any other Brush Hogs on the boat (hey, I was in a hurry to get packed up), so I switched to a small Jackall Speed Craw.
And bass jumped on that compact little bait.
The second successful pattern involved a squarebill crankbait. Yeah, I know I said earlier my first attempt with that lure didn’t work.
But I switched over after talking to an angler who said he had boated seven or eight fish on crankbaits. My plan was to fish water between some laydowns.
And switching to a slightly larger Sebile 2-inch chrome/black back Bull Crank, quickly put three nice bass in the boat along a 50-yard stretch of bank.
Again, however, the key was working the lure around deeper wood structure (stumps, laydowns, brush, etc.). I caught two fish — one of which weighed north of 3 pounds — off one stump.
As with the flipping bite, slowing down was critical to success: These fish are lethargic, so they’re not going to chase after a fast-moving lure.
I was using a 7.1:1 Rev Beast baitcaster, so I would cast out and reel just fast enough to feel that Sebile wobbling.
A bite was signaled pretty much by the action stopping, almost like I had picked up grass. Bass would just nip the lure and swim along with it. Every fish was hooked at the edge of the lip with the back treble.
Locations? I just headed to canals north of Interstate 10 and put my trolling motor down and fished.
My four-hour day ended with six bass in the boat and four misses. Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment trip on a blue-bird winter day.