If you can find limits of bass that will bite a jig any time of year, the chances of winning the tournament are statistically in your favor. Add to this, the fact that many other presentations are ineffective during the winter months and it becomes easy to realize why most fishermen default to jigging in cold water. Merely the fact that you are using a jig, however, is not what makes the difference. The magic is in how and where you employ the tactic. Jig fishing and design expert Roger Fitzpatrick explains what has allowed him to amass over $86,000 in FLW events alone.
Fitzpatrick begins his pursuit like any seasoned pro does. “The seasonal pattern generally puts fish closer to the main lake so that is where I will start.” Sticking to the basics of patterning and fish habits helps him more quickly locate the fish. “The water closest to the dam is usually clearer which makes cold water fishing much easier.” Since fish can be spread out early during the winter season, Roger picks one large cove with all the right qualities and takes the time to fish the whole thing. “I pick a large cove near the dam that will take me about half of the day to fish. This cove will have a variety of types of cover and structure to give the fish options and help me start to find the pattern.”
Establishing a pattern, according to Fitzpatrick, is the key to winning the tournament. “The first thing I want to figure out is if the fish are on the main lake, ¼ of the way back, ½ way back, or ¾ to all the way back in the cove. I will pull into the cove at the main lake and fish the entire thing. Even if I hit fish near the mouth I will continue to fish the rest of the cove to make sure I am not missing an even better bite.” Keeping the boat a long cast or even more from the bank allows him to cover multiple depth zones. “I will keep my boat in about 20 feet of water or more until I find out if the fish are in 5, 10, 15, or 20 feet. Primarily, the fish hang between 8 and 15 feet depending on water clarity.”
The best jig for cold water from this expert’s experience is the Baby J finesse ball head jig by Omega Custom Tackle. “This is a jig I helped design that excels in cold water. It is a small profile jig that comes over rocks very easily which is where cold bass warm up and feed.” He fishes it on 12 lb. to 15 lb. P-Line fluorocarbon. “You want to slowly drag this jig with a medium heavy St. Croix LegendeXtreme over the bottom. In the summer hopping and stroking is effective, but in the winter the fish won’t bite it. Also, use a craw trailer that has very subtle movement.”
Roger also says to mark your spots on a map when you do find the fish. They generally stay put throughout the winter. These spots may, however, change from year to year. “One year the spot may harbor a winter of limits and the next year nothing. But, a few years later they may be right back on that spot again.”
So for your next tournament: choose a large cove near the dam, fish your Baby J jig from the main lake to the back and all the way back out while keeping your boat in 20+ feet of water, slowly drag the jig with a subtle craw trailer on 12 lb. to 15 lb. fluorocarbon from shallow to deep, when you find the depth zone and pattern spend every second of the day presenting your jig to only what you have determined to be the strike zone.