A small, slow moving, Texas rigged worm can prove to be very productive on a wintertime bassin' venture after a few days of bluebird weather. One late February day, and an absolutely clear blue sky, I found myself and an ole' fishin' buddy taking casts at my favorite rock slide on Owyhee Reservoir in Eastern Oregon. We were both fishing a 4 inch purple and chartreuse tailed ring worm in about 15-20 foot of water. Since I rarely ventured out bass fishing in the winter, I was amazed at the results that day for catching bass. The sun beating down on the crystal clear water pushed the water temperature near the surface to the mid-to-high 40's. There, along the boulder layed outcroppings, we not only found a few fish, but landed a released several respectable largemouth in a short time. My best catch of the day came along a submerged rockpile in about 15 feet of water. It was a 4 pound female that hit,.. get this, an eighth ounce yellow crappie jig! We caught and released several more largemouth that day in the 2 to 3 pound range. Our method was fairly simple, and a lot like early spring fishing. We used primarily small light colored (purple/white/yellow) Texas or jig rigged plastic worms, on light line and used as slow a presentation as we could bare!
by Dennis Udlinek
Some folks call this method "dead sticking." It is used by bass fishermen all over the country when the fishing is tough due to cold water conditions 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, 10 to 30 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 or crevasse. 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!"
Rock slides create many natural shelves and crevasses by the rocks being piled together all at one time. These age old structures make great hiding places and staging zones for bass to move up and down as water conditions change. Vertically changing their depth, the bass quickly maintain their comfort zone with the penetration of the warmth in the mid-winter sunlight. Rocky shores facing south, and the south side of fairly steep rocky points are good places to begin looking for wintertime bass schools. Most south shores are usually protected from the usual cold brisk north winter wind, and receive the longest hours of direct sunlight which contributes to the warmer water conditions.
This time of year the water clarity is usually very good, and fish will be extremely spooky if you move in too close. If you're fishing with the sun to your back be careful not to cast your shadow and alarm the fish. Position yourself a long casting distance from the shoreline before letting the lure settle in for the long wait. Staying back also lets you slowly work your bait from the shallows 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 wintertime bass strikes. I mostly use bright colored hues in clear water to attract the curious as well as the hungry. Colors like purple and chartreuse, grape, pink or yellow and white can all be productive. When the water isn't so clear, I will usually use a small black ring worm with a chartreuse tail. The dark color helps the bass locate the bait and chartreuse gives it that vibrant flash that often entices a strike.
Fishing also depends on the forage available. Don't forget that in most western impoundment's there are plenty of craw dads, so a small 1/4 ounce 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. 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 can't even clean off your first plate, 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 wintertime bass, but don't forget, I'd wait for a bluebird day or three.