For the last couple of weeks most of our country has been gripped by a nasty cold spell. That creates different conditions depending upon where you are. Some areas have been dry during this period but a lot of others have had a lot of rain and snow.
We'll talk about each one differently. (I'll skip way up north. The smallies are all under the ice up there.) The first thing to keep in mind is that the forage — almost always shad and crayfish — are cold. They're looking for any warm water they can find.
A temperature difference of just a degree or two will make a big difference in where you'll find them ... and the bass. Keep a sharp eye on your temperature readout. Where it's been dry, most of the bass have moved out of the creeks and are in open water. They're probably in some of the deepest water they can find. In my part of the country that's around 30 or 40 feet, maybe a little shallower if the water's dirty.
Try dragging a football jig around the edges of weeds or structure breaks. Smallies like vertical stuff at this time of the year, so don't pass up anything like that in your search. Try to fish right on the edges. They like to suspend, too. I occasionally pull my jig way up and then let it fall down on a semi-slack line. You won't feel the bite when you do this, so keep an eye on your line. If it twitches, set the hook!
Those of us who have had rain and snow need to stay in the creeks. The bass will be shallowest in the lakes and rivers that have had rain. Rainwater's warmer than the air, so they'll hold nearest the bank and way back in the creeks. If you're dealing with snow runoff, then you need to look for deeper channels.
My favorite lure for this type of fishing is a bright yellow hair jig. I learned to use this lure from the legendary Bill Westmoreland. He pointed out — while he was whipping on me like a rented mule one afternoon — that when it gets cold, a crayfish's shell turns pale yellow and drab green. A lure the color of a school bus looks like a crayfish to the bass. They grab it up in no time. Try one before you say I'm crazy. You'll have a different opinion quick enough.
Start way back in the creek and work your way out. Most of the shallow bass will be near the back. Look around. The deeper ones are almost always found from halfway out all the way to the mouth of the creek at the main lake. Work the edges of any irregularity you can find. Don't go too fast. Most all the water is now under 50 degrees. Nothing moves very fast at that temperature.
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.