Watch the weather

OK, it’s officially winter. Being brutally honest about things, I’ll tell you that fishing in the colder parts of our country isn’t always fun. When your reel freezes and your fingers turn blue it’s hard to be positive.

But, the thing about winter is that it isn’t always cold. There will be warm spells that make getting out of the house and out on the water fun. 

Let’s talk about two common situations that we all see except in the deep South and up North. 

The first is when it turns warm and it rains heavy. That’s really about as good as it gets for us here in the Midwest and anywhere else where it’s cold but where the water isn’t frozen. What happens is that the creeks, runoffs and any inflows start pouring water into the lake. That water is much warmer than what’s in the lake, and it has a little color, too. 

That situation will pull fish into the area. The warmth makes them more active, and they start feeding. Under these conditions you can have a fishing experience like no other. Note, however, that I said fish, not bass. 

Throw a small spinnerbait, flat-sided crankbait, jig or blade bait right up to where the water is entering the lake and you’ll likely catch anything that swims where you’re fishing. It’s not at all unusual to catch largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, bluegill, flatheads or channel cats without ever moving the boat. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a blue cat. 

That’s fun fishing at its best. You’re probably not fishing tournaments in January and February so every fish doesn’t have to be a black bass. The most important thing is to get out and have some fun. What’s pulling back on your line and fighting hard doesn’t matter.

A second common situation is when the weather turns warm without rain. That can happen two ways. 

If the warm spell only lasts a day or two, it probably doesn’t amount to much. It won’t activate the fish, and it probably won’t activate you, either. But, if the warm weather lasts for five days or more, things will change — for both man and fish.  

You’ll get in the mood to go fishing and so you’ll start thinking about it. The next thing to happen will be that you’re messing around with your tackle.  It won’t be long after that and you’ll be hooking the boat up to your truck and heading to the local ramp.

When it comes to the fish, though, don’t expect any radical changes in their behavior.  A few of them will move shallow but not in large numbers. Their instincts are good. They know that it’s not spring. But, then again, there’s always a few fish shallow no matter how cold it gets so shallow is still a pretty good place to start your search.

You can catch these warm-spell bass with a number of different baits. My favorites are small crankbaits fished slowly, small jigs and suspending jerkbaits. 

Winter might not be the perfect time to go fishing, but it beats not going at all. Watch the weather and make your plans accordingly.