by Rick Lawrence (A.K.A The Fish-N-Fool ) -
The Largemouth Bass is a cold blooded creature, meaning that the fish’s body temperature will always match the water temperature. Like all cold blooded creatures its metabolism slows down as the surrounding water temperature becomes colder. When this occurs the Largemouth Bass has a greatly decreased energy level. As an angler you must take this change in behavior into account as you plot your fishing outings. The key thing to always remember when approaching a fishing strategy for Largemouth Bass at this time of year is you need to slow things down dramatically.
The first thing to consider is just how cold the water temperatures are. Remember the important factor this time of year is the water temperature, not the air temperature. If the water temperature is less than 40 degrees you will find targeting Largemouth Bass a tuff row to hoe. This mainly only occurs in the Northern United States. At 45 degrees the Largemouth Bass become a little more active and are within a reasonable expectation of catching, It is not until the temperature reaches fifty degrees until Largemouth Bass become active enough to have some good fishing days. These techniques are what I use in that low 40′s to low 50′s water temps. One important thing to remember is that in that cold water bass feed less often, they want to use the least amount of energy to catch that meal and the bigger the meal the more benefit they get from it. Studies show it takes a bass on average 6 hours to digest an average meal in 80 degree water temps. That same meal in 50 degree water it takes them 4 days to digest. So therefore I do the best with somewhat larger slow moving baits. The three main baits I like to use are, larger jig n pig baits with a slow fall, a suspending jerk bait, and a horizontal falling soft plastic stick baits. So remember it is almost impossible to fish too slowly in cold water for Largemouth Bass.
First we will talk about the Jig n Pig. This is a great cold water bait, as one of a bass’s main forages in the winter months is the crawdad or crayfish. The Jig n Pig is one of the best baits that imitate this food base. The bad thing about most jigs is they fall to fast in cold water conditions. There has been a big move in the past fews year to larger slow falling jigs. Many guys are making their own with large trailers and 60 to 80 strand skirts trying to slow the fall rate as very few companies are marketing a truly slow falling jig n pig. One company that has come out with an excellent slow falling jig is Fish-N-Fool Lures. Their Super Slow Fall Jig falls at about 4″ per second which is the slowest fall rate I’ve heard of for a Large Jig n Pig type bait. It weighs 3/8 oz. so it casts and pitches very well, but still has that amazingly slow rate of fall. In cold water that can be a real game changer from loading the boat to going home empty handed. No matter what jig you use you want to fish it slowly near, in, or under wood cover like dead trees in the water or floating wood docks. Wood is a key thing in colder water temps as bass seek out the warmest water they can find this time of year. Wood warms the water near it and provides bass with a sense of security to hold near. I fish wood in the 4 to 10 foot depth, with deadfalls in about 6 to 7 feet of water being the best in my experience. Let you jig fall on a semi slack line and watch it closely for a tick that would tell you a bass picked it up. Let it fall all the way to the bottom and let it sit on the bottom for 30 seconds or so before you move it. Then lift the bait up with a small pop about a foot or two and let it float back down. 90 % of the time the bass will fallow your bait to the bottom watching it fall. Then when you give it that little pop and it flutters back down, it will trigger the bass to strike. Small hops or a stop/start dragging technique both done slowly seam to be the best producers in these cold waters.
Here are some samples of some slower falling jigs. The Fish-N-Fool Lures, “Super Slow Fall Jigs” are a great choice.
Another good choice of cold water bass lures are the suspending jerk baits. When I put on a suspending bait, the first thing I do is put the bait in the water at the temperature you plan to fish it at. I make a short cast and crank the bait down a foot of so and see if the bait truly suspends. If it sinks or raises you need to try to correct it. I always carry suspending strips in my tackle box if the bait floats up to fast or suspends nose down or tail down. Most baits will float up slowly so I add a small amount of weight to fine tune it. Ideally you want a bait that suspends perfectly flat and in place or raises very slowly. That way you can work the bait as slowly as you need to without it sinking to the bottom or popping up like a cork. Natural looking minnow type baits are the ones I have found work the best. I try to match the bait to the forage base in the lake. Where I fish that’s a 3″ to 4″ yellow perch, but for you it may be a shad or trout color. The key to fishing cold water with suspending jerk baits is to be slow. In very cold water you want to keep the bait in the water as long as possible, moving it with very slow pops or pulls and let it just sit for as much as a minute in between the small pops. The hardest thing I find for me is to work the bait slow enough. It may take you 10 minutes per cast, but if you slow down you will put more fish in the boat Good water to fish jerks is near wood cover. Docks, down trees, and brush piles are all good choices in the spring. That and deeper water weed lines if you can find any left from the last year will hold Bass. Dead weeds hold no fish, so look for weeds that still have some green to them. Remember then fishing jerk baits this time of year almost all your strikes will come while the bait is sitting still, so watch your line for any movement.
The last bait I like to fish in cold water are the “Fish on the Fall” heavy salt soft plastic baits, like the Sink-N-Fool made by Fish-N-Fool lures and the Senko type baits made by many of the bait companies. This type of lure has an enticing fall that bass seam to love.
The Sink-N-Fool bait is the best I have found as they have a slower rate of fall and a lot more movement in the water. They tend to arc as they fall much like a dry leaf does in the air. That and the extra heavy salt content these have make it a great choice for cold water fish. Fishing this type of bait you want to fish them as close to wood cover as you can get. Rigged Tex-posed on a wide gap hook fished weightless these baits are very hang-up free, so you can throw them back under docks and into the middle of a down tree to pull out some big old greenies.
The last thing I want to cover is the type of gear for fishing cold water. The heavy action rods you use later in the year are not what you want to use for this type of fishing. You are not going to be getting the bone jarring strikes, so lighter more sensitive rods and lighter lines are the keys to feeling the softer bites and catching more cold water bass.
About Rick Lawrence (A.K.A. The Fish-N-Fool)
Rick is owner and the inventor of the Fish-N-Fool Lures and the Fish-N-Fool Knot the winner of “Knot Wars” in 2011. Rick has been a Bass fisherman for almost 40 years and an inventor for another 25 years. “I took all my knowledge of Bass fishing and designed my own line of baits. I wanted a lure that could do things that no lure that was on the market could do, so I started making them myself. It all started with just one lure and now I’m working on a dozen or more”.
Visit Ricks website : http://www.fnflures.com/index.html and be sure to check out some Fish-N-Fool Lures.