KVD: Swimbaits for cold water

It’s no secret that power fishing is my preferred way to fish, especially during the fall. You’re going to find a crankbait, jerkbait or Redeye Shad tied onto my rods 90 percent of the time.

But one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is how effective swimbaits can be when the water gets cold.

When swimbaits first came out we didn’t have a lot of choices. But now that lure companies have taken a serious look at this category, we have several different sizes, styles and tail shapes that provide different swimming actions to suit a wider range of conditions.

We’ve learned that what works in stained or dirty water during the summer is not the best choice for clear, cold water of fall and winter. That big wobble and thumping tail that triggers strikes during the summer doesn’t work as well in cold, clear water conditions.

Which brings me to the point of all this: If the power fishing bite isn’t getting the job done in late fall, try fishing a single swimbait on a jighead.

It’s a time to scale down your tackle and opt for a swimbait that has a subtler tail action. Shorter, more finesse style swimbaits like the Strike King KVD Swimming Shiner have really shined for me in the clearer waters of the North.

It’s become my go-to bait when I recognize the bass are feeding on smaller baitfish, such as emerald shiners, on the flats and near the dropoffs. When the bass are targeting smaller minnows, they want a smaller bait.

I experiment with the 4- and 5-inch versions and there are days when I will trim them down from the head to make them even smaller. Now, at Guntersville in the fall, I’ll go to the full-size 5-inch Shiner because the baitfish are bigger.

I also like to scale down my tackle. Light line really helps me get more strikes, partly because you get a different sink rate with smaller line. I’ve also discovered that the bait swims differently because the line creates less drag.

For example, a small swimbait rigged on a 3/8-ounce jighead and 10-pound fluorocarbon line swims better than the same rig with 14-pound line. The 10 stays deeper in the water column and the bait has a little livelier action.

Depending on the conditions, I may even drop down to 8- or 6-pound line and throw the bait on spinning tackle.

Jighead design and hook size also comes into play. I like heads that have a 30- or 60-degree line tie because they swim better than one with a 90-degree. I also pay attention to hook size; a beefy hook on a jighead becomes difficult to stick and hold fish when fished on light line.

I choose my jighead weight based up upon the depth zone I want to cover. Most of the time I’m using 1/4 or 3/8 ounce during cold water periods, yet I rarely use less than 1/2 during the summer months. I’ve found that the lighter the jighead during the fall, the more bites I can attract.

During the summer, I use a faster presentation to trigger fish. But during cold-water periods, the fish prefer a slow, smooth natural swimming action.

Water clarity dictates lure color. If the lake has some color to it, I like pearl white. If the water is real clear, I prefer natural colors that best imitate the forage.

Keep all that in mind if you’re faced with cold, clear water this fall. Don’t give up completely on the power bait presentations, but remember that a subtle swimbait fished on light tackle can save the day when the bass are ignoring the fast movers.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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