No matter how you look at it, wintertime cold weather fishing presents some challenges. Of course we are blessed to have fairly mild seasons here in Northern California, as compared to many parts of the country.
Still, once the rains come and the temperature drops, the angler has several new considerations. Is rain in the forecast? What about snow? Exactly how cold is it going to get out there before I decide to stay home and watch re-runs of Angler West TV.
All living creatures slow down when the temperatures drop and fish are no exception. Whereas a hungry fish actively feeding in the spring may attack anything in range, they will be much less willing to expend a lot of energy in winter, which brings us to the subject of wintertime bass fishing.
While the action may not be as fast and furious as the rest of the year, a patient angler can most definitely catch bass in cold water. In fact, many of the hard-core bass guys I know swear they catch some of their best fish in the winter months.
One such person is my old fishing pal Mr. Green Crestliner, who invited us along for some bassin’ at Collins Lake last week. My daughter Sabrina joined us in search of some big ones.
One good thing about wintertime fishing is a noticeable absence of recreational boaters.
We launched about 7:30 a.m. and by 8 we were fishing. When the water temps dip into the low to mid 50s, bass will tend to stay in deeper water and not move around much. They can also be very finicky about when and what they will decide to hit.
On this day, we used the fish finder to locate some big bait balls in water that ranged from 40-60 feet deep. Now that may seem like a long way to drop a bait, so the choices we had were heavy spoons, from half ounce and up, jigs and drop-shot rigs, again using heavier than normal weight to get down on the bottom.
A slower presentation is key, also. We were barely moving the baits once they hit bottom.
For spoons, let out line until it hits bottom, and then reel up one or two cranks. Slowly raise and lower the rod.
For drop-shots, I found that dead sticking the bait was often the key. The bites can be very soft; also, one will just feel the rod get heavier as the tip is raised.
As we moved around the lake, we picked up a few fish at each stop, which is pretty normal also. We’d catch four or five, then the action would die and we’d move.
Sometime we would come back to the same spot an hour late, and again start picking up fish.
As the day progressed, I started doing a fish count and realized that we had managed to land over 30 fish. We all lost fish along the way too, another testament to the finicky way the bite can go.
My tips for winter bassin’ are go deep, slow down, try spoons, and use baits that can be fished very slowly.