By Dan Wells -
Jigs will catch fish 12 months out of the year however the cold water period is when a jig can really shine! When the water temps are at their lowest during the winter many bass only eat once every few days and they prefer a meal they don’t have to work hard for and provides a large amount of protein, what better then a slow moving crawdad. A jig mimics a crawdad better than any other lure!
Winter fishing with jigs will take place from 5’ to 50’ of water so you need to be prepared with a few different weights. 3/8, ½, and 1 oz will do fine. As a rule and to keep it simple use the 3/8oz jig from 1’ to 20’, 1/2 oz 20’ to 40’, and the 1oz from 40’ and deeper. Having the right tools for the job are critical. In clear lakes I use 12lb fluorocarbon line and in extremely clear water I will go to 10lb fluoro. When fishing Clear Lake I use 15lb fluoro because the water is usually more off colored and there is heavy cover present. A high speed 7;1 gear ratio reel is critical so you can pick up slack line fast and keep pressure on big fish that are hooked in deep water. The right rod is just as important as the line and reel. For my 3/8oz jigs fished to 20’ of water I use a Dobyns 734C Champion casting rod and for the 1/2oz and larger jigs fished in deep water I use a Dobyns DX 784C ML casting rod. The DX 784C ML rod is 5” longer then the 734C rod and this will help move more line on a deep water hook set, both rods have a fast action which allows the rod to react very quickly for hook sets and working the jig.
There are a million different colored jigs out there and they all catch fish but again I try to keep it simple with my colors. Brown, Brown/Purple, Green Pumpkin and Black Blue are about the only colors I use and they cover almost every situation you will come across. My number one go to jig is a 1/2oz Brown/Purple football jig, this jig is very versatile and will catch fish on every body of water there is!
There are 3 types of retrieves I will use in the winter. Dragging (slow movements with the rod tip in a downward angle, or using the trolling motor to drag the jig in a certain depth), small hops or shaking (using the rod tip in short popping movements and letting the jig rest back on the bottom) and stroking ( fast sharp hops similar to a hook set then letting the jig rest back to the bottom). You will have to experiment with all three retrieves daily to find what the fish have keyed in on or what mood they are in. There will often be a certain cadence that fish will key on and respond to better then another.
Use your electronics to find what depth the bass are holding at best and concentrate on that depth. Once you have a determined depth then try different types of banks and cover( mud, small rock, boulders, 45 degree banks, etc) soon you will have a pattern developed to start targeting larger bass.
In winter I really focus my search for bass on deep main lake features such as points, ledges, humps and creek channels. Start fishing your jig shallow and work your way deeper till you begin to get bit. When a little warming trend moves in and settles for a few days I will start fishing creek channels that go from main lake areas into pockets and deeper flats that the fish will move on to and feed.
Jig Tips. Use scent! I have been using the BIOEDGE crawdad potion and I have noticed my number of bites go up. In Cold water apply scent often to help attract sluggish bass. If you are fishing a lake with little cover in it you can thin a few strands out of the weed guard and spread it with your fingers to help with hook ups and if your jig ever feels funny or a little heavier than normal, SET THE HOOK! Colors can be confusing and if you are not sure exactly sure what the fish are keyed on and what the crayfish look like, just match the bottom color the best you can, this will give a good starting point. One more thing to remember when fishing a jig in the winter is to experiment with different trailers on your jig and if the water gets real cold, say in the 48 degree and lower range try a pork trailer. You can’t fish a jig to slow and often large bass are caught on jigs while barely moving them or even dead sticking them.
Good Luck out there and stay warm!
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