Editor's note: Read part 1.
Know your body of water
Fishing in the late-fall and early-winter in Connecticut and the northern states is different than southern regions. Keep in mind the water temperatures I’m experiencing now are at their warmest 43 degrees, and the coldest are in the mid-30s. We are one major cold snap from getting ice on quite a few fisheries in my region. By the time you’re reading this ice has probably formed on some fisheries.
The way I will fish a natural lake versus a reservoir this time of year is different. In the same respect, the way I’ll fish a body of water with vegetation versus one without will be different.
The natural lakes will be great places to fish many types of jigs, especially when they may be shallower lakes of 30 feet or less. My go-to lures are living rubber jigs and hair jigs. Meanwhile, on a reservoir you could work on a swimbait, dropshot or that freestyle technique which are more baitfish oriented and are effective 25 feet or deeper. Blade baits and jigging spoons work great as well when imitating baitfish in the winter.
No two lakes will be the exact same, so keep an open mind and understand the type of fishery you are dealing with. A higher percentage of fish may reside shallower on given fisheries this time of year if they have vegetation and no offshore structure. Meanwhile fisheries that have good offshore structure may be excellent for smallmouth because they tend to group up deeper on reservoir lakes.
Beating the elements
Preparing for a winter fishing trip can be a task. Do I overdress and stay warm, but can’t move around and fish effectively? Or does the “less is more” rule apply? Here are some ways I combat the cold. I do not fish with gloves at all, I don’t use hand warmers, and I don’t use heat in my truck on the way to the lake. I will use gloves, but it’s for driving the boat or cutting a hole in the ice with an auger. I think when you don’t rely on those things, your body gets more conditioned to the cold and you begin to tolerate it more.
Cold events won’t phase me on the Bassmaster Elite Series because of that body conditioning I do in the offseason when I’m on the water. Two examples of that are Cherokee Lake in 2017 and the Lake Hartwell Classic in 2015. Both were extremely cold and anglers were taking extreme measures just to fish, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me.
Now there is a difference in being crazy and preparing yourself. So be safe, but fish as long as you can without any aids. I love fishing in the winter because it makes me a better angler. Don’t be afraid of the winter season and cold weather because it’s a great opportunity to learn and enhance your skills.