Living in the South has been a blessing in many ways, but especially when it comes to winter bass fishing. While we have all four seasons, I pretty much fish year ‘round. Now, bass activity does slow down during winter months and we have to make adjustments. Many of the river systems draw down during the late fall and winter so changes must be done there too. The combination of weather and water depth change can make for some tough conditions; however, it also provides a wealth of opportunities to learn and grow as an angler.
Winter Bass Fishing – Taking Advantage of Draw-downs
I lived in Northeast Tennessee for a couple of years after retiring and got to know many of the regional lakes and rivers well. One of the unique things I had to adjust to was the winter draw-down. In some instances, lake levels drop by more than 40 feet. Vast areas become desert-like as the water recedes and the ground dries. A 40-foot drop in water level exposes a lot of things not normally visible to the naked eye. Taking advantage of draw-downs allowed me to study the structure and cover I would fish in the spring and summer. I always keep a camera handy on winter bass fishing outings. The pictures I take of points, ledges, rock and brush piles, flats, and channels are important additions to my journals. Studying these helps me come up with new or different presentations. It also helps with boat positioning and targeting.
Another benefit of the draw-down is the ability to track bass. As the water recedes, bass pull back successively to holding areas. As these holding areas become visible, anglers have the potential to see how and where bass will move come spring time. On waterways without dramatic water level changes, anglers are limited to map and electronics study when trying to discern these transition lanes. Physically seeing these areas adds a huge degree of knowledge and confidence when it comes to targeting and catching bass.
Winter Bass Fishing – King of the Lake
Bar none, the single best thing about winter bass fishing is having the water to one’s self. In the deepest, coldest part of winter, only the true hardcore bass fishermen come out, and they’ll be few and far between. In many instances, I’ll spend an entire day without seeing another boat or angler. I have complete dominion over the water, I am the king of the lake. I practice the special techniques I manage to screw up so badly in the warmer months: skipping, flipping, and pitching to name a few. I spend time scanning and studying structure and cover in detail, often shooting video or taking snapshots for my journals. I don’t have to worry about getting in someone’s way or managing wakes and waves. I can focus all of my energy and attention on learning.
Winter Bass Fishing – Patience is a Virtue
During those periods when it gets real cold, and bass become lethargic I have to force myself to rely on my patience gene. I spend a good deal of time using slow and finesse presentations. A 30-second pause with a jerkbait may seem like an eternity to me, but to a bass, it can be too quick. It’s taken me years to learn to barely jiggle the tip of my dropshot rod, looking more like a mannequin than an active angler. The old rule about letting the bass tell us what they want and how they want it comes together for me in the winter. Patience is a Virtue and what I’ve learned about patience and listening (to the bass) during those cold, dull outings has made me better come tournament time.
Winter Bass Fishing – Special Planning and Preparation
Special planning and preparation for winter bass fishing is essential to a successful outing. Even in the Deep South, we have cold hard days. Cold weather injuries are just as common (maybe more so) in 45-degree rain as they are in 20-degree snow. The wind accentuates the cold. Wearing a good base thermal layer and a solid wind-waterproof outer layer is key. Good shoes, gloves, and headcover are essential but not always 100% effective. Those pocket-size hand warmer packets are very handy when the wind and water bite at the hands, ears, and feet. Remember to stay hydrated. Water plays a significant role in helping the body generate heat so don’t forget the water in between those cups of coffee. I always keep a change of clothes on board during cold weather just in case. Wet clothes can be a fast ticket to hypothermia. Spend some time looking at a map before going out on a lake which recently came down 30 or 40 feet. Pay close attention to electronics when underway, stay in the channels and watch for offshore structure and hazard markers.
Winter can be a terrific time to enhance bass fishing skills. A little bit of preparation and patience can help us learn new things and fine tune old things.
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