Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Largemouth - What you really need to know

Largemouth Bass
In southeastern NC it appears we have been dealing with the coldest winter we have seen in thirty years.  According to any weather bulletin I have seen regarding the other parts of this great country....North Carolina is not alone.  This past week, Mother Nature has been showcasing her sense of humor here in my home state.  We have gone from temperatures in the 30's to a few days of the high 60's and mid 70's.  It now appears that we will be back in the 40's later this week.  For those of us who love the outdoors, there are two thoughts that flash into our mind when these "warm spells" take place: turkeys and largemouth bass.  I find myself facing he age old dilemma of scouting verses fishing. Typically, what I find myself doing is a combination of the two.  I will scout at first light in the coolness of the morning, and then head toward the water to pursue the  largemouth.  It is important to realize that this time of year, these rulers of the lake are very lethargic; this makes sense though, due to the fact they are cold blooded creatures.  Ronnie Garrison had this to say in his post on About.com: "Since bass are cold blooded, their bodies are the temperature of the water.  Their activities are controlled be the temperature.  The colder the water, the slower their hearts beat, the less oxygen and food they need, and the less they move.  Everything about them slows down." Does this not make perfect sense?  In order to make this short warm spell productive, you must understand how to approach this fish....otherwise you may be wasting your time.


Cypress tree on drop-off in Jones Lake, NC
As water temperatures drop, so do the bass. They will go into deeper water near structure.  Remember that just because the air temperature has risen 40 degrees in twenty-four hours the water temperature will take many weeks, if not months, of consistent warm air in order to rise.  I begin my search looking for structure and ledges in the body of water I am fishing.  I try to position myself on these structure laden ledges or steep drop offs that are located closest to the shallows where the bass typically spawn.  As the water temperature rises, the bass become extremely aggressive in the pursuit of forage.  However, right now, they are waiting persistently for their meal to come to them.  Structure, in any water system, generally holds the life of that system.  Whether fresh or salt water, bait fish are typically found in very close relation to structure.  The bass, knowing this, will lay still waiting for smaller, less challenging prey to come within very close proximity.  Since the metabolism is as low as it will be for the entire year, they can feed less and survive on little.  In the colder temperatures, it can take a bass up to 48 hours to digest a small bait fish that in warmer months can be digested in as little as six.

Location tip:  Concentrate your efforts on deeper drop-offs with structure (rocks, stumps, trees, root systems) located closest to an area that bass typically spawn.


Jigging Spoon
Would it not be great If I could relay to you one "sure fire" bait that is guaranteed to catch largemouth bass this time of year? Truth is, I cannot and I know of no one who actually can.  What I can do, however, is share with you what seems to create a higher percentage of strikes andhook-ups than any other bait I have tried this time of year.  Let me add, I have caught bass on soft plastics, crankbaits, and live bait in these tempertures, but most of my success has come from jigging.  The best set-up I have found is a 6' medium-heavy spinning rod with  10lb braided line jigging a 3/8 to 1 ounce silver jigging spoon.  The beauty of jigging spoons is that it truly mimics an injured or frightened minnow.  Largemouth will typically suck these in as they are falling.  Remember they are slow and very sluggish this time of year.  They will strike injured or weak forage that is nearby.

Bait Tip:  Jig slower than you really want to fish.  It is important that you make your presentation appear to be very natural.  You will not get strikes on every cast, however, when you find the fish...you will get results.

I greatly appreciate your follow and for taking your time to read this post.  If you have questions, comments, or have tips that you have used in cold water bass fishing - I would enjoy reading them.

Best of luck,

r.b. wright

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