Finding bass in winter

Before Grand Lake went off limits for the Bassmaster Classic, I spent a few days there in late December. Pre-practice conditions were pretty cold, but the bite was so good I didn’t mind the winter weather.

I know some people don’t like fishing when it’s cold, but I’ve found that wintertime offers some great opportunities. If you dress properly and put in your time.

What I really like about fishing in the winter is you knock off all the traffic. You don’t have jet skiers, water skiers and you don’t have many other anglers on the water. You have the lake to yourself without having people all over your spots.

Once you find bass in the wintertime, they’re easy to catch because they’re not so pressured, and a lot of times, they’re grouped up. I find this to be true on Oklahoma lakes like Eufaula, Texoma and Grand (non-Classic years), but I also fish a lot of farm ponds.

I like going to a lake, but there’s a lot to figure out. A lot of times, you have to cover a lot of water to find where the fish are grouped up. In a farm pond, there’s not as much to cover, and you can catch quite a few fish.

To keep it simple, I look at a farm pond as just a scaled-down version of a big lake. That means I pay attention to all the same factors that affect where fish want to be this time of year.

If I’m walking to a farm pond, I keep it simple; I don’t need 20 rods. A spinnerbait, a Booyah Hard Knocker lipless bait and a jig can cover almost anything I’ll encounter on farm pond. On a big lake, I can do everything I need to do with that lineup, plus a Smithwick Rogue jerkbait.

Whether I’m fishing a big lake or a farm pond, I know it’s too cold to fish whenever I can’t cast because my rod guides freeze up. The only time I won’t go in the winter is if the wind is blowing 40 mph and it’s snowing.

But if it’s snowing and the wind isn’t too strong that’s a different story — some of the best days I’ve ever had have been when it was snowing like crazy. It’s not that common in Oklahoma, but when you have a major winter weather change, they just go nuts.

I’ve been out a few times when my front deck was completely covered with snow; I couldn’t even see my rods and reels and just waylaid the fish. My personal best was just under 12 pounds that I caught on a jig one February when we got out of high school because we had snow on the ground.

It might surprise some people, but we catch them dirt shallow when it’s really cold. They’re a cold blooded creature, and I think we allow that to dictate our thoughts too much.  The water out really deep is liable to be colder up shallow anyway.

Also, a lot of the food sources in Oklahoma live in less than 10 feet of water. It doesn’t take much for them to move from zero to 10 and, I think, when they get active, they want to be up there feeding.

One think you have to consider is that you’re not fishing for a lot of bites. The best winter days I’ve had are when you catch seven or eight fish, but they’re way bigger than average.