It's been my experience that a well placed, slow moving jig and pig or Texas rigged worm after a few days of bluebird weather can prove to be a productive mid-winter bassiní day. One late February of absolutely clear blue sky, I found myself fishing a 6 inch purple and chartreuse ring worm near an old rock slide. Since I rarely ventured out bass fishing in the winter I was amazed at the conditions for catching bass. The crystal clear waterís temperature near the shoreline was in the mid-to-high 40's. There, I not only found a few fish, but my best was a 4 pound female that hit, get this, an eighth ounce yellow crappie jig. I caught several other largemouth that day in the 2 and 3 pound class. The method I used was fairly simple, and a lot like early spring fishing, only smaller, lighter, and slow, slow, slower.
by Dennis Udlinek
This method, is called "dead sticking," and is used by bass fishermen when the fishing is tough, like early spring, or in this case, mid-winter. First, you slowly let the bait settle to the bottom, waiting quite along time before moving it, 20 to 40 seconds, which is an eternity for most bass fishermen. After the long wait, you then move the bait only a short distance at a time, slowly descending the lure down along the slide, inching the worm as if to land the tender morsel on every possible rock. Hesitating at each stop, and even in some cases, allowing the line to go limp before you slowly pick it up and move the bait to the next spot. The key is to be sensitive to the weight of your lure when you pick it up off the bottom. Often a bass has taken the bait in without you even being aware of itís presence, and the only way you will know is by the "heavy" feeling on the end of the line. If for any reason your lure feels like it just gained a pound or two, "set the hook!"
Often times when fishing rock slides there are many shelves created by the rocks being piled together, making staging zones for bass to move up and down. Vertically changing their depth, the bass quickly maintain their comfort zone with the penetration of the warmth in the mid-winter sunlight. Shores facing south, and the south side of fairly steep points are good places to begin looking for mid-winter bass schools. Most south shores are usually protected from the usual cold brisk north winter wind, and receive the longest hours of direct sunlight.
This time of year the water clarity usually is very good, and fish would be extremely spooky if you moved in too close. If you're fishing with the sun to your back be careful not to cast a shadow alarming the fish. Position yourself a long casting distance from the shoreline before letting the lure fly, then settle in for the long wait. Staying back avoids spooking fish that may have ventured into the shallows seeking warming water, and lets you slowly work your bait to a considerable depth off the bank in order to locate where fish may be staging.
I believe that whether the water clarity is turbid or not, the lure color selection can be critical in arousing mid-winter bass strikes. I use mostly colors in bright hues in clear water to attract the curious as well as the hungry. Colors like purple and chartreuse, grape and pink or yellow and white seemed to be productive. When the water isn't so clear, I will usually use a small black ring worm with a chartreuse tail.
Including water clarity, a lot also depends on the forage available. Don't forget that in most western impoundment's there are plenty of crawdads, so a small brown pork rind on a brown jig or brown on black pig and jig may also work well. In fact it seems the trend in western lakes the past few years has gone to using smaller lures.
For along time smaller baits have been the ticket for stubborn bass in the winter time as well. I suspect, that since Mr. Bass doesn't have the appetite he once had during late fall (see fall feeding frenzy past issue), he tends to need less to survive. Perhaps his stomach shrinks like mine when I've went on one of my extended weight loss programs. You know the kind, where you don't eat anything worth eating for a couple of days. Then when you can't stand it anymore, you go down to an "all you can eat buffet," only to find out you don't even clean off your first plate full, and all of this just because your eyes were bigger than your stomach! Speaking of stomach, mine is starting to give me some trouble, must be all this talk about how to catch bass in the dead of winter.
I suppose if you absolutely can't stand it, you can brave the cold and test your skills against the wary mid-winter bass, but don't forget, I'd wait for a bluebird day or three.