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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Winter is approaching, and even down south bass go as deep as needed to find a comfort zone. That's true until your lake does a turn-over, cooler surface water falling through stable deeper water where oxygen has been too low for them. When that happens they can be severely scattered all over a lake at many depth zones. Once the lake settles down they will regroup into schools, most staying tight to some kind of cover, stump fields, snags, or structure like humps and ledges as deep as 50 feet. Few lures get to them. A few that do are large jigs, blade baits, 1 oz + spinnerbaits (my favorite is Ledgebuster), lipless crankbaits, large weighted swimbaits, and of course some deep diving crankbaits to about 20 feet.

I tie on a 2-6 oz lead sinker for trolling depending on depth to a school. Use the least necessary to get the lure down there and still be fished SLOW as possible in the strike zone. Wide wobbling crankbaits have produced well for me in winter months, tending to swim slow enough. Luhr Jensen sells the Dipsy Diver which more accurately selects a running depth for trolling. I use those for striper fishing. For bass casting I use Fireline superline, with a very small line diameter, and a suitable sinker upline, rigged similar to a Carolina rig. Winter bass often suspend off bottom, so the rig is kept above bottom as necessary. Determine sink rate of your rig by dropping it directly under your sonar transducer while sitting still, watching and counting until you see it reach the target fish depth. If your sonar is fairly good and set for high sensitivity it will track the lure. Then you can cast and count it down. If it's too slow add a little more weight. Don't experiment over the fish. Determine their depth from one pass over them then test the sink rate away from them. Then either make a pass trolling (start the troll after counting down), or approach within casting distance and count down before reeling it in. Be sure to cast well past their location to give the lure time to get on zone, then keep it at that depth through the bass.

Now it's ya'lls turn to add tips.

Jim
 

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I cant say that I have ever trolled for bass. Nor can I say that I get to fish water deeper than 15 feet that often. Most of the lakes and rivers I fish down here, 10 foot is considered deep and 20 foot is considered VERY deep.

I always wondered if in shallow lakes like the kind I have become accustom to fishing down here in SC go through as extreme of a fall turn-over as the northern lakes I grew up fishing. I tend to think not but dont really have any proof? Any one have any thoughts or experiences to share on that topic?

As far as fishing for cold deep winter bass, I have had my most success slow rolling big single colorado bladed spinnerbaits. I have also some decent luck ripping big jerkbaits.

I remember the first time I ever ripped a jerkbait. I was about 13 years old and had read an article in Bassmaster about ripping husky jerks in the cold winter waters. I got all excited to try it so my friend and I strapped our fishing rods to our bicycles and headed up to the reservoir near my house. After a 45 minute, mostly uphill, ride I stood on a point and started casting the big black and white rusty jerkbait. I slung it out there and did just what the magazine told me to do. I cranked it down a few turns then ripped my rod to the side, 3 times, violently, then paused. I made a couple casts and then in the middle of my third cast I ripped it down then prepared to pause but there was no pause, a bass snatched it and snatched it hard! That was it. I was sold! Now it's 26 years later and I still love to use that technique!
 

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I agree with Jared on the jerkbait or dead sticking a senko, worm, or fluke for cold weather bassin. Also look for the places where the sun can warm the rocks, wood, shallow water, a bulkhead, or a bank.
 

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I have a sweet spot on my lake where this little unmarked creek trickles into the lake. I know there can't be much of a fluctuation in water temperature, but for what ever reason in the coldest part of the winter I have smoked them on jerkbaits in less then five feet of water. I have spent a lot of time with the tube and chomppers grub in the cold and have found the fish to be close to where you would find them in the summer. Brush piles and ledges and points. Drew
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I keep forgetting about those shallow lakes. Lake Ouachita has a good bit of 175-200 foot water in the main river channel. The most mature LMBs and stripers spend most of their time in that area, suspended 5-20 feet down in warm months, 30-60 feet in cold months like in western canyon reservoirs. When they are massed up it takes something trolled right through the middle of them to generate interest. On a warm day they will feed actively enough to chase a spinnerbait or jerkbait, but mostly it takes hitting them with a spoon. Out of a few hundred bass one will take it. Once that one takes a bait a feeding frenzy sometimes sparks. I do watch for those "Indian Summer" days, 2-3 days of good warming. Then I go to dark muddy or clay bottom shallows that retain solar heat longer, where some of those big boys will venture up for a short feeding on most anything they see. But when we have a narrow shelf of thin ice around the shady shorelines they won't be found there. Warmer water is deeper in winter, the coldest water cooled by cold night air and winter winds at the surface. A sonar trip across the lake will uncover huge schools staying deep. They are hard to catch, but worth the effort.

In your shallow lakes the bass really don't have much alternative, able only to find the deepest warmest spots available, probably stump holes, ditches, and next to ledges. But here deep fishing brings up the biggest bass of the year from out over deep water, mostly along the edge of the main channel near wood. We have lots of stumpy humps at various depths which also attract winter schools. I don't mind catching stripers and wipers in winter, the flesh not so strong as in summer. Trolling is the main method, which catches a largemouth occasionally unless the area is mostly largemouth-occupied.

A jerkbait swimming 5 feet down might interest a smallie 20 feet down to come up to get it, but a largemouth that deep or deeper won't waste calories coming that far up for any bait in winter. It has to come right by them during their winter siesta. I don't see LMBs shallow much once the water temp hits 50, but when I do I switch to shallow running lures.

Jim
 

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The main presentation is as s-l-o-w as you can stand it which does not conincide with my hyperactiveness very well. Alot of guys will say they throw the bait out, crank it down, pull one twitch, and then light up a smoke. Thats when the strike will occur. I like a fast jerking cadence similiar to a spook. but it doesn't always work, and its hard for me to change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I figure 99.9% of anglers would rather fish hyper-actively all the time. We're talking a "cold blooded" animal in cold water not far around most our corners. Bass are like snakes when cold. They must find tolerable surroundings. Last night we put in under a half moon or whatever that stage is called. Air temp was 36, water surface 55 (which warms back up to 68 by noon). I dropped my old Chevy thermometer down to 10 feet and it was 60, at 16 feet 65, then hit the thermocline at 18 feet, suddenly dropping to 60, 55 at 24 feet. No turn-over yet, but the thermocline is weakening. That means bass will be able to survive a little below the thermocline the more surface water cools and sinks into it.

When bass get cold their metabolism slows way down very quickly. The colder they get, the less they will chase. That goes for older, too. They are already taking up winter ambush spots out in open water near stands of flooded timber where there's 60-80 deep escape water very near. The most successful lure will swim a fairly straight line right by their faces so all they need to do is inhale the passerby. Deadsticking does work great, but only if the bass are on bottom and can watch it lay there.

Jim
 

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Jim, What do you know about crappie? I seem to catch my biggest strings when it is absoulutly misserable on us fisherman. People always tell me you are crazy to fish in this cold and wind, but I catch my best fish and usally alot of them in the nastiest weather. Are crappie that much different or is a fish a fish?

Drew
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Heh. Kinda a late response...sorry

Actually, that's what I've been going after, ever since we lost the thermocline in an apparent lake turnover. There are some similarities betweeen bass and crappie, as both are..... fish. But the key for crappie is they only watch and chase up, while a bass will chase down. I'm fishing them in the woods in the western end shallower tributaries. The bass are off chasing and gorging on shad, finding die-offs here and there (already). I'm using a Norman Little N to avoid the hand-sized fish. I suppose it reaches 10' down, but it's critical to always keep it shallower than the crappie are. If they are shallower I'll switch to a 2" grub on a round head 1/8 oz jig. We've been filling the freezer. And yes, the messier the weather the better the crappie fishing. In clear calm water I catch maybe 90% less, so I chase the bass down instead.

Jim
 

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I finally hit the shad kill off due to the weather, man was it phonemenol the shad were dieing like mad and when they do they sit perfectly still and thats why everyone says to set the bait as still as possible. best day ever and i'm going back today.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ain't it sweet? Our kill-offs are coming in spurts. There's still plenty of shad on the north sunny side. Stripers have them on the run there after gobbling up the dead ones on the south side. Now that the water temps are rising a little above 44 the baitfish can swim OK.

When I run across a threatened school suspended because it's too cold to swim, I want a bait that sinks and flutters like one in the school that gave up the ghost. A sinking Senko will do fine, or a sweet beaver, tube, fluke, wide wobbling 1/4 oz spoon, etc.

Jim
 

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I just got back in. We didn't catch the numbers but they got bigger. The sun was out more and the water had cleared up alot which gave me trouble finding the fish they weren't in the ultra clear water had to have some denge to it.I stroked a solid 5 pounda way back in the shallows (you know I ain't getting to deep. scared of it) but for the most part text book point patern. My thumbs are tattered its awsome!
Drew
 

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danielt said:
Wow, I wish it was raining here with 50mph wind gust!
HUH?? I Think I'd rather get skunked than put my johnboat in the lake, only to watch it fill up with water and be blown donlake faster than my poor trollin motor could run, or bilge pump could work. :D ;D
 

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danielt said:
opps I ment WAS NOT! lol. Our weather has been crazy in a bad bad way
That makes a hell of alot more sence. I bet I read your post ten times to get what you were talking about and couldn't figure it out. LOL ???
 
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