Here at FR we like to give some love to local news papers that do stories on Bass Fishing. Here’s a good one from the Anniston Star, a paper out in Alabama. Good stuff guys!
By Charles Johnson/Special to The Star
There is an old saying around the state, “If you don’t like the weather just wait until tomorrow.” Or at least something like that. Either way, the meaning is the weather in the winter across Alabama is bound to change — hopefully, for the better.
Winter is probably not the most favorite time for anglers. Cold, blustery winds and frigid daytime temperatures can make any type of fishing less than enjoyable. Fortunately, in the South the cold gives way to warmer days and better fishing conditions.
While the cold may deter some anglers, sending them inside near the fire place, fishing can still be productive. Certain locations can hold different species waiting to be caught. And with the proper tactics anglers can forget about winter’s chill.
Bass catching locations
Former B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, Mark Davis of Arkansas, has to make a living fishing in any type of weather. During tournaments, he doesn’t have a choice on which lake he to fish. And he can’t wait around a few days until the weather changes.
“Cold water is any angler’s nightmare,” said Davis. “But, bass will bite if you can find them.”
One type of structure Davis will seek out in cold weather is rip-rap. The large rocks along roadways, around bridges and shorelines help prevent erosion. Also, these rock line areas are fish magnets during the winter months.
Bass will hold in schools during the colder periods of the winter. Usually, if you catch one fish, others will be nearby. Wintertime bass can be found at certain times along rip-rap banks. While some bass anglers may think the bass are in deep water, the opposite can be true.
“Many anglers don’t fish shallow during the winter months,” Davis said. “Sunny days can warm the water around rip-rap points drawing in baitfish and bass.”
Davis recommends targeting points and sections near channel breaks. With deeper water nearby, bass will move in to feed as the water warms. A few degrees change up the thermometer scale can have bass in a feeding mood. The rip-rap will be home to crawfish and baitfish, prime winter meals for bass.
Other areas with natural rock and wood are also top spots for winter bass. Long points extending out near creek or river channel drops are ideal holding areas for bas in cold water.
Shorelines and points exposed to a southern sun will be a few degrees warmer. Davis also recommends shallow pockets that receive sunshine during a major part of the day. Water in the 2- to 5-foot range will warm enough to attract feeding bass.
Lures for frosty bass
For cold water bass, there are a couple of certain lures that will produce fish on a regular basis. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, jigs and spoons are excellent choices for catching bass in icy water conditions. The key with any of these lures is a slow retrieve.
“In cold water conditions I like the KVD Jerkbait in some type of shad pattern” Davis said. “The key is to figure out how long to pause the lure after a twitch.”
The jerkbait has been around for several years, but gained popularity at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake of the Cherokee in Oklahoma as well as last year’s Classic on Lake Guntersville. The jerkbait style lures can be fished year-round in many different fishing situations.
Football-style jigs are another top bass producer for cold water fishing. Lures in the ½- to ¾-ounce sizes are a good choice. Black and blue combinations are hard to beat, but green pumpkin is also a good choice.
Texas-rigged soft-plastic lures like the Reaction Innovation Sweet Beaver is a good pick for flipping old grass mats or wood in cold water. The creature style lure gives a large profile the bass can home in on. These types of lures can produce some big bites.
Former Carhartt B.A.S.S. Collegiate angler Jordan Lee fired up the pro anglers at last year’s Classic when he brought a 8-pound, 8-ounce bass to the scales on the second day of competition. The monsters bass was in fewer than three feet of water.
“I targeted some rip-rap banks up and down the lake,” said Lee. “I had a few decent fish but, needed a good kicker so I decide to try some shallow mats during the midday.”
Lee’s move paid off as he not only boated the monster, but increased his five bass limit. He rigged the Sweet Beaver on a 5/0 hook with a 1½-ounce tungsten weight. Lee pitched the lure and twitched his rod tip slowly to give the lure a little action.
Jigging spoons, like the Strike King Sexy Spoon and the Hopkins spoons, are used for vertical fishing when the bass are a little deeper. Davis will make the switch when the water temp is approaching the 40-degree mark. The boat can be positioned above the bass and the lure lowered to the desired depth.
“Shad will school up in pockets in the main lake areas,” Davis said. “The bass will usually be below the shad and the spoon can be fished vertically down to the bass.”
The spoon is pulled up slowly with the rod tip and allowed to fall as slow as possible in front of the bass. The fluttering action of the spoon will simulate the dying of a cold shad. Don’t expect the strike to be heavy, it will be a slight bump or the line will go slack.
Layer up to stay warm
Davis and Lee both agree on dressing in layers for cold days on the water. The proper clothing will keep you warm and will help maintain focus to detect strikes. Layers of clothing traps air close to the body and it allows the angler to move a little more freely. Wool blends and polypropylene base layers worn underneath thick pants and shirts will hold in the heat and keep out the cold air.
Outerwear made from Gore-Tex fabric is waterproof and will turn back the cold winds. This type of clothing is lightweight and offers protection in cold and damp conditions. It is smart to wear a hat or toboggan style head cover. A jacket or parka with a hood will give some added protection.
An angler’s hands are probably affected by the cold more than other parts of the body. Special neoprene or Gore-Tex gloves designed for fishing will help keep your hands warm while allowing use of fingers. Davis and Lee trim off the fingertips of the gloves for better feel.
Disposable hand warmers are a great item to keep in jacket pockets. Also, some of the larger hand warmers can be placed in inside pockets of outerwear. The hand warmers will maintain their heat for several hours.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. He can be reached at ChrJohn7@aol.com.