Winter's one big bite


Don Wirth

More double-digit fish have been caught during wintertime "Day on the Lake" outings than any other season.

Let me make one thing clear: Russ Lane is not a wimp. The 6-foot, 3-inch veteran Bassmaster Elite Series angler was a standout athlete at Huntingdon College in his home state of Alabama and pitched for the Richmond Roosters minor league baseball team before becoming a professional angler. Today, when not on the road competing in B.A.S.S. tournaments, he stays in shape through low-impact cardiovascular workouts and rigorous weight training. Put simply, he’s one big, tough dude.

But on one frigid January morning back in 2007, Lane was shivering like a frightened bunny rabbit.

In the wake of a monster cold front, the air temperature was only 10 degrees when Lane arrived at the remote reservoir for his “Day on the Lake” outing for Bassmaster. The pro looked as puffed up as the Michelin Man after donning every piece of extreme-weather apparel he owned, yet he still worried aloud that the wind might blow through his multiple layers of clothing. Ice at the bottom of the boat ramp was so thick, it shattered the taillights and transom tie-downs on Lane’s trailer when he launched his bass rig.

The lake’s surface temp was barely 39 degrees, by far the coldest water Lane had ever fished. He realized ice extending several feet out from the bank around the reservoir’s perimeter would limit his presentation options. His fingers were frozen, and the unrelenting glare from the low winter sun was already giving him a crushing headache. “Why didn’t I schedule this article for June?” he groused. “I’ll be lucky if I get one or two bites all day.”

Lane’s prediction proved accurate. Seven hours of fishing in those brutally cold conditions did, in fact, result in very few bites. His tally for the day: only two bass. But it was a fishing trip he’ll never forget.

Lane’s first fish, a bug-eyed giant, weighed a staggering 11 pounds, 14 ounces. It still leads the “Day on the Lake” all-time lunker list and remains the biggest bass Lane has ever caught. His second fish weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces — a fine specimen, even though Lane remarked that it looked like a minnow alongside his 11-14.

Two bass with a combined weight of 18 pounds, 6 ounces. If that doesn’t warm you up on a frigid winter day, nothing will!

As Lane proved in spades, you may not get many bites in winter, but your odds of catching some seriously big bass are high if you play your cards correctly. I asked Lane and other Elite Series anglers for some tips on scoring the big bite during the coldest weeks of the year. Heed their advice and you, too, could boat your bass of a lifetime this winter!

Lane's lunker lesson

Page views