It’s almost winter

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Steve Bowman

With Thanksgiving past it’s almost winter and that means it’s time to start thinking about a different approach to bass fishing. To be clear, my definition of winter is when the water temperature drops to around 50 degrees, but that’s here in East Tennessee and the Midwest. That might be a little high for the North and a little low for the South. Nevertheless, it’s a place to start.

Experience tells me that winter bass want security. They won’t always be found deep, but they will always be found near deep water. I think they have an internal sense that tells them things aren’t good, that their lives are about to get tough for a while. So, when I’m out during the winter I’ll always be found near a drop, channel or creek bed that’s substantially deeper than the water I’m fishing.

We need a note of caution here: There are times when winter bass go deep, really deep. If you’re not getting bit in shallow water that’s near deep water, don’t be afraid to move on out. Sometimes that’s the ticket.  

Along with the need for security comes a change in their feeding habits. When it’s warm they often like bigger baits that are moving along pretty fast. That’s one of the best ways to get their attention. In the winter it’s just the opposite. They want smaller offerings, and they want them moving slower. 

Slower doesn’t mean stopped, however. As long as the water’s around 50 degrees you can keep a bait moving and still catch them. But when it drops down into the low 40s things really slow down. Any bait you throw under these conditions had better be just crawling along.

When I mentioned smaller baits I neglected to mention that smaller applies to everything — jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits, plastics and anything else that I decide to try. In cold water a heavy jig to me would be one that weighs 3/8 ounce and a 1/4-ounce crankbait is plenty. That should give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Something else that I haven’t mentioned is the rate of fall of your bait. If you’re fishing with something that drops down towards the bottom, it should drop as slow as possible while still having some movement to it. Cold water bass are not aggressive, and they’re not into chasing things. 

I limit my winter lure colors, too. If I’m fishing a crankbait, something like a Rapala Shad Rap, I want it to be in a crawfish color. I’m not sure why because you don’t see a lot of them in the cold, but they are definitely the ticket with crankbaits until things warm up. With plastics I like baitfish colors. With jigs I usually go with green pumpkin unless the water’s really muddy. Then I fish black-and-blue. 

If you dress properly and follow common sense safety precautions, there’s no need to winterize your boat or anything else. Go out, catch a few and have a good time.