Old Yeller

It's been more than a year since I first revealed one of my favorite secret techniques for catching smallmouth bass in cold weather.

If you're a regular reader of "Think Smallie," you know that I love jig fishing. I make jigs with my Punisher Lure Company and I fish them —one way or another —12 months out of the year. They're that good and that effective at catching smallmouths.

Most of the time when we fish a jig for smallmouths, we're trying to imitate a crawfish that's crawling across the bottom. Some of the time we're imitating a shad or other baitfish, and we swim the jig through the water column or suspend it beneath a bobber using the float and fly technique.

Right now is a great time to catch bass on a jig without imitating either a crawfish or a baitfish. I call the technique "bussing" because it involves a jig that's school bus yellow in color. That's right, it's the brightest, gaudiest jig you'll ever find, and it absolutely slays the smallies at this time of year.

My favorite jig for this technique is a 3/16 or 1/4-ounce Punisher Hoss Fly in that school bus yellow color. I fish it on a spinning rod that's 6 feet, 8 inches long or a little longer with a medium-heavy extra fast action. I spool my reel with 6-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line.

Once the water temperature dips into the low 50s, bussing is a great way to catch big smallmouths. The float and fly is another of my favorite techniques at this time of year, and it really works, too. But when the bass are holding deeper than 15 feet or so, it becomes tougher to catch them on a float and fly and bussing can be just the ticket.

That bright jig generates a reaction strike from lethargic bass, and I think the color is a big part of the technique.

I usually do my bussing in 30 to 50 feet of water around steep drops. I'll cast the jig out into that deep water and wait for it to sink all the way to the bottom. Once it gets there (and I'll be watching my line all the way in case a bass grabs it as it falls), I'll pop it up off the bottom with a sharp lift of my rod tip. I like to make it jump a foot or two off the bottom with each lift. Make them sharp, so it really jumps, but don't jerk it too hard or you'll pull the jig away from the bass.

When that bright yellow jig jumps out of the rocks, I'm betting that every bass in the area sees it. After all, how could they miss such a thing?

Then, as it starts to settle back to the bottom, if it's close by, they simply grab it. It's instinct for them, even in that cold water. They may not be hungry at all, but they react to that stimulus and suck in the jig before they even think about it.

If a bass doesn't grab the jig on the first pop, pop it again as soon as it falls back to the bottom. Keep hopping it like that and expect your strikes to come on the fall. Fishing it so aggressively seems contrary to just about anything you read or hear about wintertime fishing, but it works.

Try it! What have you got to lose?

It'll make you a better smallmouth angler.

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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