Winter tactics for flipping

Let me say right up front that for most of the country — certainly the northern half, anyway — the dead of winter isn't the best time for flipping and pitching a bait. It's just too darn cold.

The extreme temperatures force the fish to drop down into a deeper zone. That makes things tough. Add to that the clear water that's usually associated with winter, along with a lack of heavy cover, and you have a one-two knockout punch for most of your flipping and pitching. If you're in those areas, however, all is not lost.

You can still pick up a few bass flipping or pitching a green pumpkin and brown jig around boat docks and channel swings if that's your thing.

This approach is especially effective if the weather has been stable for a few days. (Stable doesn't mean warm. It means not changing.) If you can fish the South, the situation changes for the better, and quickly. Find a lake with lots of heavy cover and work it over thoroughly.

Remember, though, that it's still winter. The water temperature has dropped a bunch from what it was earlier in the year. That means you have to slow down. Fish at this time of the year are very location specific. I fish the heaviest, shallow cover I can find or any cover adjacent to deep water.

Pay particular attention to areas that have a vertical aspect to them. Normally, they're the most reliable. Not all of your places will produce. Bass tend to bunch up when the water gets cold. You'll have to cover water to find them, but at the same time slow down your presentation so you can make them bite.

That's not easy. I wish I could give you a quick and easy way to do both of those things at the same time. I can't. It's a struggle, and it's painful. No matter, it's what you'll have to learn to do if you expect to catch winter bass flipping and pitching. There's just no other way. On the positive side, when you do find them you're in for a real treat. You can catch a boatload of them. When you get your first bite, try to repeat everything you did with each subsequent flip or pitch. Shift into a lower gear.

Take every piece of cover apart from every angle you can imagine. Your best bait for this will likely be a Strike King, 1/2-ounce Denny Brauer Premier Pro-Model Jig in green pumpkin brown or green pumpkin craw. Occasionally black and blue will work, but I only use it if I'm not getting bites on the other colors.

The water's very clear at this time of the year, so you want to stay natural. If the cover is especially heavy or you're fishing thick mats, you might switch baits to something that'll punch through the mess a little easier. I'll go with a 1-ounce sinker and a Strike King Perfect Plastic Rodent or Baby Rodent. Oftentimes that'll work more efficiently for me. Regardless of what lure I'm using, though, I always spool my reels with Seaguar fluorocarbon line in the winter. You want something tough, reliable and perfectly clear. I have no intention of losing a good fish because I was using a cheap, off-brand line. In Lesson 15, we'll catch some serious weight flipping and pitching the prespawn.

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