10 Conclusions About Winter Bass Fishing
1. Winter bass are highly influenced by fishing pressure.
My best winter bass fishing has been in low pressured waters, such as Stevens Creek, Lexington, and Almaden Reservoir. The highly pressured Calero Reservoir is typically a much tougher winter lake. But what makes me believe this statement even more is that I rarely have spots that stay good for a long while. I have run across several great spots that get fished out by me alone in a matter of days. And they never recover.
2. Winter bass will not move far to hit a lure.
I think one of the biggest keys to winter bass fishing is to make multiple casts to your targets. I can't count the number of times when I've made 3-4 casts to a small area from one angle, then made another cast from a different angle and caught a nice fish. I don't know if the first casts missed the fish by a foot or two, or if the fish finally got aggravated by the last cast, but in any case making multiple casts to the same spot is always worth it in winter. One of my most successful summertime techniques, dragging a jig or split shot rig behind a float tube, has not produced for me at all in the winter. Even though it puts the right bait at the right depth and moves it at a snails pace, this technique doesn't work any area well enough to produce. You're better off making 10 casts to one piece of prime structure than dragging jig once across a quarter mile of shoreline.
3. Winter bass will hit reaction baits.
Bass will definitely hit reaction baits in the winter. Spinnerbaits are one of my number one baits when the water's around 50F. I've also done will with rattle baits in January, fished along the bottom at a moderate pace. It is important to make a lot of casts with them as I mentioned above. Even if the bass can see and feel a spinnerbait from 3 feet away doesn't mean it's going to make the trip.
4. Large bass are less influenced by weather systems than small bass.
I know, it doesn't make any sense. But from my experience I've seen no difference in large bass activity no matter what the weather conditions. Small bass on the other hand have shown a strong preference to warm stable days.
5. Fishing can be terrific in drawn down reservoirs.
The big problem with winter bass fishing is that only a small percentage of the bass are active at any point of time. But if you drop a lakes water level and concentrate the fish your chances of putting your bait in front of an active one is greatly improved. By concentrating on reservoirs between 10 and 20 percent of normal spring water volume I've greatly improved my winter success this year. What's more, drawn down reservoirs get much less pressure than full ones. The launch ramps become unusable, and hand launching becomes a lot of work in the soft mud that typically makes up the bottom of the lake. And few people have much confidence in these mud holes anyway. This gives you the whole lake to yourself most days. Nothing gives me confidence like knowing I'm the first one to cast to a piece of structure in the last week.
6. Winter bass like steep banks best.
And they like isolated steep banks even better. Even a moderately sloping bank in large expanses of shallow flats can be a fantastic spot. Big long rock walls can be ok, but I've never seen a great one in winter. Another pattern I've seen is that winter bass seem to like cuts more than points, even if there's no water flowing.
7. The most consistent depth range for winter bass is 10-20 feet.
But they will move shallower or deeper for excellent structure. Especially...
8. Bass will move into flooded cover as soon as it is covered.
Especially big fish. Last year at Stevens Creek I caught several nice fish flipping a 10 inch power worm with a 1/2 oz bullet sinker into super thick cover that had just been covered by recent rains. All the bites I got were in less than 2 feet of water. Also watch for pockets of floating debris, fish will move right up under the floating trash in really shallow water.
9. Jigs are the ultimate winter bait.
Any kind of jig is my best all around bait. Two jigs I especially like is a 3/8 oz brown round rubber jig with a green pumpkin Baby Brush Hog as a trailer, and a 1/8-1/4 oz brown fine (frog) hair jig with a olive green Bo-hawg Jr pork trailer. For a search bait I like a 1/2 oz Little Big Man spinnerbait by VPR Pro in chartreuse/blue/white. And for the flipping I mentioned above I'll use a 10 inch red shad Power Worm, black 1/2 oz bullet weight, and 4/0 Mustad Mega-Bite hook. Fifteen pound test green Big Game for everything but the power worm which gets 20 pound.
10. There's nothing like time on the water in the winter.
More than any time else, if you fish long enough in the winter, sooner or later you're going to catch some really big fish.