In the twenty plus years I have been a fisherman in Ohio, I have fished very little for bass during the winter months. Ohio winters can be harsh, and many waters completely freeze over. This year has been different. The weather has fluctuated enough not to allow much if any ice to form on the lakes, and the temperatures have been particularly mild.
The fact that water has been open has driven me to do what I love the most. I have braved cold temperatures to fish water that I previously condemned as unfishable. Bass do not hibernate as I once believed they did, but they become lethargic enough to make a person think they have. Healthy bass feed during the winter, and many times they are located in predictable locations in any body of water.
When approaching winter time fishing, I first think of the lake or pond that I am fishing. In the wintertime, baitfish, bass, and other game fish will migrate to obvious vertical breaks in the water. Bluff walls and steep channel swings are obvious places to look for fish. The bass move to these locations not only because of the presence of baitfish, but also because they can conserve energy in these locations.
Bass inhabit these vertical breaks so they have easy access to moving up and down in the water column without wasting vital energy. I think of it this way. A bass on a flat in two foot of water might have to swim five hundred yards to get to ten foot of depth. However, a bass in two foot of water on a bluff wall will only have to swim eight feet to accomplish the same feat. We know that a bass will vary its depth in the water column according to atmospheric conditions. The bass on the flat will waste valuable energy moving to deeper water that the bass on the bluff will not.
When examining a map of a lake I plan to fish, I locate these vertical areas by looking for tightly bunched topographical lines. In these locations, the depth change is greater than in areas where the space between contour lines is more spread out.
By far my favorite technique to use in the winter time is the drop shot rig. My gear for this technique is a six foot, six inch medium action rod matched with a spinning reel. I opt for 8 pound test monofilament line, a ½ ounce sinker, and a 1/0 drop shot hook. My preferred baits are straight tail worms like the Reaction Innovations Flirt worm, or the Roboworm. Either of these worms are 4 to 5 inches in length, and I use either green pumpkin or watermelon colors.
When I arrive at the lake I look for any available structure or cover in these areas with vertical depth changes. If I am fishing from my boat, I also watch for the presence of baitfish on the cover or structure on my fish finder. If there are bait fish present, you can bet that game fish won’t be far away. Using the drop shot rig in winter often involves minimal rod tip action. But with the higher temperatures this winter in Ohio, the bass have often preferred the bait with some shaking of the rod
Remember to adjust your fishing to seasonal patterns and offer the bass a presentation that will tempt them to bite during the winter months. If you do these simple things, you may just learn that fishing is a 12 month a year activity. Even in Ohio.