Fish riprap for winter success

We’re talking about water temperatures around 40 degrees this week. That’s a pretty good definition of winter fishing in most of the country.

One of the best places to catch bass in that temperature range is along riprap banks. There are several reasons for that. One is the reason why there’s riprap on a bank in the first place. Generally it’s used to control erosion. Almost by definition that means the bank has a sharp drop to it.

Another thing about riprap is that it’s usually somewhere along deep water. There’s almost always 10 feet of water depth within a short cast of the bank, a lot of the time it’s deeper than that.

And, it’s perfect habitat for cold water bass. I think that when the water first gets cold the bass go really deep. It’s a shock to them. They do what they can to get away from it. The water on top is colder than the water on the bottom. After a while, though, all the water is the same temperature. There’s no advantage to being deep. So, when you get a couple of warmer days the water near the surface warms up a couple of degrees. The bass move up to take advantage of it.

That movement isn’t limited to just the bass. It includes shad, bluegill and all kinds of forage. You’ll even see crayfish moving around sometimes. If you’re a bass, that’s all wonderful — warmer water that’s close to deep water and forage.

The best riprap is usually located on the north side of the bank. That’s where it’ll get the most sun and warm the most. That’s the general rule. There are exceptions.

I don’t know why but sometimes you’ll find them on the east, west or south sides of the water. Fish don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. I might start my fishing on the north side but I don’t leave an area that has riprap without fishing all of it. You never know.

Clear water with at least 3 feet of clarity seems to produce the best, and my best days seem to be when the sun’s out and the weather is a little better than usual. My thinking about that is that the fish act like we do. If the sky is overcast and the weather’s miserable, we don’t feel like going outside and messing around. But, if the sun comes out and it warms up, we feel just the opposite.

That’s the basics of what I fish, and why I fish it, when the water’s really cold. I’m covering that part first because if we don’t fish where the fish are we can’t catch them. Do you know what I’m sayin’? You have to fish the right spots.

Next week we’ll talk about my three favorite lures for fishing riprap. My first choice is a crankbait; my second is a jerkbait; and bringing up the rear is a jig. We’ll talk about how to pick the right one, what tackle I use and how I fish them. We’ll also cover why it’s critical to know how far out into the water the riprap extends.