Pocketing winter bass

Wiggins got onto the pocket pattern about five years ago while fishing Smith Lake, Alabama, his home lake, with another angler.

“He showed me the basics of it,” Wiggins said. “I’ve refined it from that point on and expanded on it.”

Wiggins was surprised that other Elite Series pros did not find his productive pocket at Cherokee because he said, “It was so obvious on a map.” What was obvious to Wiggins was that the pocket had a hole-like depression in it that was a magnet for wintertime smallmouth and baitfish.

Like Lee, Wiggins said winter pocket bass are hard to see on sonar units because they belly up to rocky bottoms. If he knows of a pocket that holds bass, Wiggins avoids idling over the fish before casting to them.

Just how far into a pocket the bass will be holding depends on the particular pocket. For spotted bass, Wiggins looks for the 15- to 30-foot depth range. His basic rule of thumb is that the longer the pocket is, the farther into it the bass will be. With a short pocket, he may find the bass only 100 yards from the pocket’s mouth. Bass in a long pocket may be a quarter-mile or more from the main lake.

At the Cherokee Lake tournament, the magic depression that produced four limits of smallmouth bass for Wiggins was 20- to 25-feet deep. The water temperature was in the mid-40s. Wiggins teased the sluggish bass into biting with a 3/8-ounce tungsten ball-head jig dressed with tiny soft plastic minnow imitators, including a 3-inch Jenko Big T, a 3-inch Damiki Armor Shad and a 4-inch Zoom Super Fluke Jr.

When he fishes winter pockets for spotted bass, Wiggins scores with a homemade 3/16-ounce shaky head jig matched with a 6-inch green pumpkin Zoom Trick Worm. He casts this bait with spinning tackle matched with 20-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braid and a 10-foot leader of 12-pound Seaguar InvizX. A 12-pound leader may seem heavy for a finesse presentation, but Wiggins has found no need to use anything lighter.

“There’s nothing special about the baits,” Wiggins said. “It’s all about location, location, location, location.”

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Author: Mark Hicks

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