Welcome to Denny Brauer's Bass Class. In this new series, we'll talk about locating structure, being aware of temperature, choosing the right bait and finding a pattern, even in the middle of winter.
Bass behavior in relation to water temperature is a relative thing. What's cold in Louisiana may be just right in Missouri. In general, though, cold is cold and there are a few things every angler should know when searching for a winter pattern, no matter what area of the country he's fishing.
First, cold water usually means clear water. Try to stick with natural bait colors and presentations. Also, consider spooling up with fluorocarbon line. I use 15-pound fluorocarbon because it matches the water's clarity and it's extra sensitive for the subtle strikes from cold water bass.
Second, bass are opportunists and they react to minor differences in water temperature. Pay attention to the trend in water temperatures. A few days of sunshine may warm the water up just enough to bring bass up from deep water to feed. The banks exposed to southeastern sunlight get the most exposure and warm up quicker.
Third, by December, most bass are in a winter pattern. Concentrate on main lake fishing as opposed to the backs of coves or shallow points. The bass are often relating to or suspended near some kind of structure or cover, whether it is a rocky point, a creek channel, deep grass beds, submerged timber, deep water docks or a particular water temperature around steep ledges.
I find standing timber, deep rock piles, deep water docks, bluffs and deep points good places to search.
Three baits are the backbone of wintertime fishing: jigs, crankbaits and suspending jerkbaits.
The jig should match the color of your local crawfish. Tone down the action of the trailer to attract sluggish fish. A Strike King Denny Brauer Chunk would be a better choice than a Strike King Rage Chunk, in this case. I also find myself dragging the jig slowly across the bottom rather than hopping it. Always be looking for that subtle strike!
A crawfish-patterned crankbait can be effective, especially when the bass have become more active after a few mild winter days. A good style to chose is the Strike King Series 4 when they're deeper, or a Series 4S when you find them shallow.
A suspending jerkbait like Strike King's Kevin Van Dam's Wild Shiner can also be the trick, and they're easy to throw all day. Jerkbaits work well off deep points, parallel to bluffs and above deep grass.
You'll have to experiment to find what retrieve the fish want. I start by reeling it down to depth and killing it. I let it sit for 10 seconds or more and then jerk it three times and kill it again. Be prepared for a strike at any time, but especially after the pause.
Wherever you're fishing, there will be bass feeding somewhere. By locating structure, being aware of temperatures and choosing the right bait, you'll find that pattern even in the middle of winter.