Winter fishing can be challenging

As true winter arrives in most of the country your fishing options become more limited. Limited doesn’t mean they don’t exist, however. You just have to look at things a little differently and develop a different mindset. Let’s talk about the weather first.

It can get really nasty in late November through December. Strong winds, bitter cold and generally miserable conditions are common throughout much of the United States. Fishing can be really tough. When you’re faced with those conditions flipping and pitching might be your only option. I’m not saying it’ll always be a great one. I’m saying it’s all you've got.

Try fishing the heaviest, nastiest cover you can find that’s next to deep water. The fish often retreat back into the heavy stuff to wait out the storm. I almost always go with a 1/2-ounce, Strike King Denny Brauer Pro-Model Jig. I want something that I can work slow as I thoroughly explore every inch of the cover. The water is almost always clear, so I go with color Number 46 (green pumpkin).

Slow and thorough is key. When bass retreat from a winter storm they often hold very tight to the cover. And, they won’t eat anything that doesn’t fall right in front of them. Cover every inch of water from every angle.

If the weather’s a little better, but the water’s still really cold, an often overlooked opportunity for bigger fish is along riprap banks that drop into deep water. Almost every lake and river has one or two. I usually pitch riprap banks. You can get a better angle — I like something close to 45 degrees — on the rock that way and not lose so many jigs and still catch plenty of fish. (Fishing a riprap bank at the wrong angle with a jig can get expensive.)

It probably won’t surprise you that I use my 1/2-ounce jig in Number 46 for this kind of fishing. If I want a little more bulk, I’ll put a 3X chunk on my jig. The thing is, though, make sure whatever you use doesn’t have much movement to it. Nothing at this time of the year is moving very fast in the water. Natural looking works. Unnatural looking doesn’t work.

A third option is to look for any mats that are still living, or at least that have some green to them. I said last time to avoid any mat that’s dead or dying. That advice is even more important now. Reread my last lesson for advice on how to fish them and for information on picking the right lure and color.

This is a flipping and pitching column. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t point out that baitfish can be found in deep pods at this time of the year. Bass often lay under them, sometimes a lot of bass. You can’t flip or pitch to them but you can catch the fire out of them with a spoon or a tube. Keep that in mind.

Don’t let the winter weather get you down. They’re out there and they have to eat sometime. If you don’t catch them somebody else will.