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Thread: I love fishing the winter.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    202 Norfolk Dr Ruther Glen VA 22546
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    Default I love fishing the winter.

    I love fishing in the winter. I've been doing it for the past 20 years. I catch more big bass over winter than any other time of the year. The only exception to this is the spawn.
    I'm not implying I catch them every time I go. Some days it's a real grind and have to work hard for one bite the whole day. Then there are days when everything in the lake is biting and everything is above average in size.
    I've launched my boat in air temps as cold as 11 degrees and the high barely reaches 37 degrees. I've fished in cold rain, sleet and
    snow and thought it fun to do so. Now that I'm older, I'm also a little wiser, and not as tough. Lately I plan my trips on a day when the forecasted high will be at least 45 degrees and wait until morning temps get above 35 degrees before I launch. Water temps range from as cold as 38 degrees, but normally average in the low to mid 40 degree range.
    There are hundreds of easily accessible articles out there about winter time bass fishing. It's my intention with this one to teach you something that you haven't heard of yet, or that yoiu may not know.
    Beyond popular belief, a winter time bass will hit just as hard, and fight you as hard when water temps are 38 degrees as it will when water temps are 80 degrees. A bass's metabolism regulates the rate of food digestion only: it does not limit a bass's ability for sudden bursts of energy; in the coldest of water a bass is fully capable of moving fast when it needs to. What's important to note about metabolism, is this; when water temps are below 50 degrees it may take five to seven days or longer for a bass to digest a bluegill the size of your hand. What this means to us is there aren't as many bass feeding every day as there are in summer. The good news is, winter has a way of concentrating numbers of bass in small areas. When you find one, there's normally a lot more there.
    Here's another thing you may not know about a bass, its an energy management machine. The energy from each meal is used for three purposes; its immediate sustainment requirements, growth, and reproduction. The percentage break down of how much goes to each one is unique to each individual bass. What this means to us is this: a bass isn't into wasting energy chasing down a meal that doesn't offer a high return ratio between energy expended verses received. Bass are predators and like all predators, it's instincts are to pick off the wounded, and weak first. So the more you can make your lure appear "wounded", and easier to catch, the more strikes you will get. Energy management is probably why bass in cold water prefer to move vertical verses horizontal. It takes less energy to hunt, adjust to conditions, or otherwise sustain itself throughout winter. That being said, bass live year round in three distinct water levels: shallow, mid range and deep. It's not uncommon to catch trophy bass in 40 degree water, and in water depths less than 8 foot deep. So don't think you must go deep to be successful during winter.
    As mentioned earlier, even though a bass is fully capable of moving fast when it needs to, that's not its first course of action. In cold water situations you still want long pauses when using suspending jerk baits, slow retrieves with crank baits, use suspending crank baits when you can, and slow falling jigs or Texas rigs.
    Another trick of the trade is using red treble hooks. If the bass are biting or otherwise nipping at the rear treble hook, replace the center or front hook with a red one. In every occasion where I have used a red treble hook the bass has always been hooked on it.
    My favorite winter time lures are the suspending jerk bait, jig, and metal blade baits like the silver buddy and Dimiki Vault. That being said, lures are tools of the trade. Therefore I'll use whatever is appropriate for the conditions, structure, or cover I'm fishing. I like bluff walls in winter for the reasons mentioned above. Bluff walls have a little of everything on them, rock, docks, lay downs, brush, etc. They also have the drops, ledges, and edges that bass like for security and feeding. Just a note here; big bass like security. Security for a big bass equals access to deeper water or it will typically bury itself in the thickest part of any piece or type of cover that's available. When I'm fishing shallow in the two to six foot range, I'm looking for that spot where a shallow bank transitions to deeper water, or where there's a drop to deeper water if only by a foot or two. On a bluff wall I may catch bass in two feet of water, but my boat is in twenty or thirty feet of water for example. Another example is when I'm fishing a 20 foot deep flat or a deep channel edge. I'll typically catch my biggest bass on the edge where it breaks off to even deeper water. Bass love edges and drops.
    If your lake doesn't have bluff walls, look for the area that has access to deeper water of any depth, has edges, or other wise offers some sort of cover options for feeding and security. In river systems and tidal waters look for bass in eddies, (vertical and horizontal eddies), or around cover that provides a break from the current. This is a general rule and not an absolute. I've caught many a "feeding" bass around current in the dead of winter.
    Winter time is a time for me to take a break from fishing tournaments and just fun fish for whatever will bite. That's why I like the metal blade baits. It's a versatile lure that can be fished in two foot of water or fifty. The blade bait will also catch every species of fish that lives in any body of water in the world. It will get hung up on you frequently but it's nothing a 2 oz bell sinker with a snap attached to it can't get free. The 2 oz bell sinker makes a great lure knocker for any type of bait you throw.
    Blade baits are easy to fish with. If the fish are being aggressive you can chuck and wind it like you would a rattle trap. You can vertical jig it or make long casts and yo yo it back. My personal favorite is to make a long cast, let it hit bottom, then using mostly just the wrist, gently raise the bait off the bottom about a foot or two and let it drop again. The bite will normally come when the bait is falling. However, many times you go to raise it up and the fish is just there. You lift and think you're stuck on the bottom. So you pull hard and it pulls back even harder. Then you feel that big ole head shake. What an exciting feeling. That's the thing about fishing the blade bait, you never know exactly what you have or how big it is when you set the hook. I've caught bass up to 7 pounds on it, 20 pound Striper, 40 pound catfish, carp, blue gill, crappie, perch, etc. I've reeled it in and literally have had shad as small as the bait caught on each of the three hooks of the treble. What they were thinking I have no idea. It catches every thing!
    Blade baits are reaction baits. This means you can fish quickly and still cover water throughly. I use 1/2 to 3/4 oz blade baits 90% of the time. If I'm fishing a 5 to 10 foot flat I may drop to a 1/4 ounce size to get a slower fall.
    Most any good 7 foot, med to heavy rod, will work for blade baits. I use two, the 7 foot and 7 foot 3 inch JB custom "Hunting Stick" rods, paired with 7:1 reels and 12 to 14 pound Berkley fluorocarbon line. The seven foot Rod has a little softer tip that I like but has slightly less back bone. Which rod I use depends on how aggressive the fish are. If the fish are inhaling the bait I use the seven footer. If they're picking it up by the rear treble then I use the seven three rod. With my set ups I can literally count the vibrations as I work the bait, and I'm able to detect the lightest of bites with it. Acute sensitivity is important to me because sometimes the fish want the bait just laying on the bottom. They will pick the bait up by the rear treble and just sit there or very slowly swim off. When your bait is sitting on the bottom in 40 foot of water you need exceptional sensitivity to feel the fish pick it up. Fortunately, the fish rarely feed like that. Its normally when the water temps are between 35 and 40 degrees when they feed that way. When they do though, I'm prepared for it. Please note. The heavier the line test, the less vibration you will feel, and the less sensitivity you will have. There are times when I must go to 17 pound test and I'll loose a little action, but it still gets the job done. One last tip on blade baits. There are times when the hooks get tangled with the bait. 9 out of 10 times a fish took a swipe at your bait and that's what caused the tangle. You're not really able to tell you had a bite when they act like that. Making multiple casts back to the same area will catch em. If you are getting a lot of hits and no hook ups, downsize to a lighter weight blade. Also, line twist is a fact of life with blade baits. Tying on a swivel using a 9 to 12 in leader keeps line twist from being a problem.
    When fishing solely with blade baits I'm typically targeting fast breaking points, 45 degree channel banks, deep flats, humps and deeper channel edges. If the wind is light and there's no current I can get away with vertical jigging within a brush pile. Believe it or not, blade baits can be worked through brush piles surprisingly well.
    Blade baits come in a lot of sizes and colors. The type of vibration varies from manufacture to manufacture. The silver buddy has a very tight vibration compared to the damiki vault which has a more aggressive vibration to it. It's like the difference between using a flat sided crank bait and using a wide wobble crank bait. There are days when it makes a difference. I can't tell you why that is, it just is. If I'm not getting bit on one style, I'll start switching it up until I find one they like.
    If I had to choose just one bait to use throughout winter it'd be a blade bait. They're that good.
    Winter fishing with jerk baits and jigs are articles in themselves and I can cover each one in more detail at a later time. To try and do it now wouldn't do them or you any justice.
    I'll be posting my catches frequently this winter on FB, Twitter and a few live video feeds using periscope. You can reach me there with any questions you may have. Until then, God bless and good fishing.
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Overall Winner
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Big Striper



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    I do most my fishing from November to May. Particularly in Feb and March. I'm with you on the size, I'd say my winter bass average a full pound over what my warm water average is.

  3. #3
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    Another keeper, Jim. Thanks for sharing this. +1 on blades as a top choice and on the red trebs. Read and heed.

  4. #4
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    31-I'm working an out of town gig until 5 Dec. When I get back we need to do a day on Claytor. I've got a few cold water tricks I can show you up there to help cure the winter doldrums. I catch them pretty good up there until the water gets in the 30's then it shuts down on me. Maybe we can grab PokerFace and have a VAOWest outing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    C'ville
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    blade baits you say...never used them
    I'm about to play my Ace

  6. #6
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    Ready when you are, Charlie. Also need to spend some time on SML. Def need to snatch up Pokerface - been trying to get him out on a real boat for a while.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2008
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    Nate made me a believer in them last year! I need to hit up Andy for some more!
    Eric

    2004 Fishers of Men VA-East Division Champions


  8. #8
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    Apr 2008
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    Ashburn, VA
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    Don't forget about the tail spinners. I had a day with Jr. where the tail spinner out fished the blade pretty significantly. Not sure if it was the blade or the fall rate, but it definitely got bit more.
    cheers,
    Steve

    2011/2013 St Jude's Charity Tournament Champion
    Bass East Big Bass Challenge winner of 11-12 and 12-1 hours.


  9. #9
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    Mar 2014
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    Bealeton
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    Good stuff! I love Winter fishing too.

  10. #10
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    Jun 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by 31Airborne View Post
    Ready when you are, Charlie. Also need to spend some time on SML. Def need to snatch up Pokerface - been trying to get him out on a real boat for a while.
    We could do that.


    Last year was the first time I did any real fishing into December. The advent of these water proof hunting boots with better insulation helped a lot. I hate cold feet and they seem to keep me comfortable. However, the last time I paddled out I kept thinking about how cold it was, how sleepy I felt, and if I fell in the water, I would surely die. I didn't go back after that until March.

    If you guys want to go out on the real boat, I'd like to do that. Just let me know how much to contribute. I know running a boat is expensive and I would be the one gaining from your experience.
    Thank God For Rednecks

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