Fishing & Boating News

On the Dock with Rick Smith

Cold Weather Fishing

by: Rick Smith,

Photo by Rick Smith
Drop shot round weight
Photo by Rick Smith
(Jan. 18, 2011 - Temple, TX) For many years bass fishermen considered spring and fall the best time to catch lunker fish. The spring spawn produces the large sows full of eggs and the foraging fall fish are fattening up for the winter. You have lots of structure where the fish will gather and on many lakes the grass is plentiful giving the fish plenty of places to hide. Plus it's easier to find the fish in the shallows, especially on the spring beds where you can actually sight fish.

Winter fisherman may stumble on a few fish, mostly dinks, as the youngsters move shallow during the warmer parts of the day. Otherwise it's a time to clean gear and get the boat ready for the spring.

The advent of modern technologies like the Humminbird 700, 800, 900 and 1100 series of side and down scan fish finders are changing the norm as fishermen become proficient at reading the screens. To the surprise of some, fishermen are finding the fish in deep water in the middle of the lake. The fish are following the shad, which typically are holding in deep, dense balls of bait.

Being cold natured the fish are moving extremely slowly but are still eating when the need arises. These shad balls appear as clouds on the screens of the locators and the fisherman are able to follow them as they move about, since the fish finder not only shows what is directly below the boat, but also what is out to each side up to 150 feet.

Of course fishing techniques must change for this cold, deep water (20-50') fishing. The key word is to fish slow and when you think you are slow enough then slow down some more. Two successful techniques are drop shot and jigging spoons. Choosing the right lure is also more critical as plastics tend to become stiff in the cold water. Some fishermen use hand warmers to keep the plastics more supple and pliable giving them more action for a short time. It's also a good idea to use larger 12" worms to get the fish's attention.

Jigging spoons are typically _ oz or greater to get them to depth quickly. The spoons and drop shots are worked very slowly, with the rocking action of the boat normally being enough movement. Keep working different depths until you find old bucket mouth. You may have some issues getting the lures to the depth for largemouths as the more aggressive whites, stripers and hybrids go after the bait. The black bass will normally be below these other predators. Your patience will pay off with some of the largest bass you'll find being stacked like cordwood. To protect the fish, bring them up slowly, allowing their bladders to decompress, otherwise you'll need to release them immediately, so that they can go back to depth (recommended) or fizz them, if you plan to keep them in the livewell for a tournament. Of course some of you may wish to keep a few for camp meat, but I recommend you keep the whites for eating and release the blacks.

Don't forget to protect yourself as hypothermia is no fun and with water temperatures in the forties and fifties you only have a few minutes to get back into the boat if you fall overboard. Plan ahead, take a friend and make sure you have an accessible ladder. Take a change of clothes just in case and some chemical hand and body warmers. Wear your life jacket. Hot coffee or cocoa is always a great idea. Eating well before heading to the lake helps keep the body warm. With correct preparation, filing a float plan and using caution you'll find winter fishing in Central Texas to be enjoyable and fruitful.
Author Rick Smith