After my last couple of unsuccessful trout trips to Collins Lake, I started targeting bass, just to get some kind of action. It turns out that bass can, in fact, be caught when the water temperature is in the low 50s.
I’ve been landing some nice size “spots” and even a few large mouths on every trip. Most hardcore bass anglers will say they catch some of their biggest fish at this time of the year. However, there are a few things that need to be remembered for wintertime bassin’ success.
First, one needs to understand that all fish have a slower metabolism when it’s cold. That means they are eating less and trying to conserve energy. Bass will not chase bait like they will during a spring or fall feeding frenzy.
They will eat, but the offering has to be presented in front of their faces.
While unhooking a fish this week, I saw there was a whole crawfish still stuck in its throat. This fish still hit a drop-shot worm, even though he had just swallowed a meal!
I advise slowing down the presentation. I often “dead stick” it; meaning, I let the bait just sit there with very little movement. Drop-shotting plastics will do the job, as will jigs and worms like Senkos.
Finding fish is a challenge now, too. By nature, bass like to hang out under some cover or next to a deep channel. Someone once told me that a bass is like a mugger that waits in an alley to jump out at easy prey passing by.
When the water is cold, they will move deep and tend to school up. Rock piles and the sloping edge of a point are always good. I have been seeing fish at 30 feet or deeper.
I rely heavily on my electronics now. Fish may be in the general areas that I’ve fished in the warm weather, but just moved off shore. Use darker colors for dirty water or sun-less days.
A sensitive rod is really helpful too. Some of the bites are just a slight “tick” on the line. For drop-shotting, I use a 6-foot 10-inch St. Croix “Mojo” Drop Shot/Finesse rod. I love it and it’s the best drop-shotting rod I have.
For a reel I use a Pflueger “President,” spooled with 8-pound P-line fluorocarbon line. I use a No. 1 or No. 2 hook and either a 1/8-ounce or ¼-ounce drop-shot weight.
I find, when fishing deeper targets, I prefer the heavier weight in order to get to the bottom faster. I also have a fairly short dropper between hook and weight, like maybe 6 or 8 inches.
I let out line until I hit bottom, then raise the rod tip slowly until I just feel the weight at the end. A fish will just load up; no need to set the hook.
This style of fishing can really twist up the line so, while moving around the lake, let out the line behind the boat until the entire spool is empty. Let the line drag in the water for a few minutes then reel it back up. That will usually straighten out the twists.