It's cold ... slow down

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Mark Menendez

You can catch a bass almost anytime, and anytime includes winter. But, you’ll have more success if you keep some things in mind. Proper bait movement is where it starts. After that, or maybe along with it, you need to think about water clarity. And, of course, you’ll need to fish in the right places and at the right times. 

I fish primarily with crankbaits when the water’s cold. Bass are cold blooded, but they’re still bass. They eat and they react. 

The best way I know of to attract wintertime bites with a crankbait is to throw it out, crank it down hard and fast until it hits something and then slow-crawl it back to the boat. The early speed and deflection gets their attention and the slow crawl lets them get to the bait.

When the water’s clear I like something with very little wiggle. My preference here is a Strike King Pro Model Lucky Shad. If the water has 15 inches of visibility or more, but still has some color to it, I switch to a Strike King Pro Model Series 4 Crankbait. It has a little more size to it and a much harder vibration. That helps the bass find it. 

I throw both of these lures in very specific places. I’m looking for a flat spot with something on it — a stump, a rock — in 4 to 6 feet of water in the main lake. And, for it to be productive there needs to be a sharp drop into deep water right alongside of it. 

This sounds very specific, I know. That’s because it is very specific. Winter bass fishing is not a numbers game and the fish aren’t scattered all over the lake. In the type of spot I just mentioned the bass will come up to feed during brief periods of time and then drop back down into the depths. 

You may have to look to find a spot like I’ve described, but it beats the alternative — fishing dead water. Obviously, my depths aren’t always available. But, the closer you stay to the 4 to 6 foot range the more fish you’ll catch. 

The brief periods of time I mentioned are easy to identify. The first, and best, is at first light. I don’t mean early in the morning, however. I mean when the sky first starts to lighten up a little. 

The second best time is a sunset. Im guessing that’s because it’s usually the warmest then, and it’s their last chance to feed before their world turns dark and cold. The third time is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. I don’t know why this time period is so good, but I do know that some of my best winter bass came around noon. 

The morning break and the afternoon break are good times to get a cup of coffee or something to eat. But they are not good times to fish in the winter.