Catch More Late-Season Bass
By Hank Parker
There’s no argument that November and December can be cold months just about anywhere in the country. But that doesn’t mean bass won’t bite.
Years ago, when I used to keep records of my catches, I was surprised to learn that I caught just as many 8-pound-plus fish in December as I did during the spawning month of April, and that’s the truth.
Admittedly, I caught a lot more fish in April, and I didn’t get many bites in December. But when I did hook a winter fish, the chances of it being a big one were good.
I don’t know why that is, except that big fish must eat more often regardless of the fishing conditions. All fish are fairly lethargic in the winter, but the big ones seem to get hungry more often and are somewhat easier to catch than the little guys.
There are other benefits as well. You don’t have to battle the Jet Skiers or the pleasure boaters, the air is crisp, and ducks, geese, deer and other wildlife are more visible.
The downside, of course, is the nasty weather. An uncomfortable angler loses concentration and confidence. That’s why I believe a good mind-set this time of year is as important as the lures you’re using. You can improve that mind-set by accepting the fact that you’re not going to get many bites, while realizing the odds of hooking a big one are good.
You’ll increase those odds by fishing lakes with big-bass reputations. If you don’t know of one, contact your state fisheries agency and ask about nearby lakes that consistently produce quality bass.
Also, remember that big fish aren’t always deep this time of year. In fact, most of the big ones I’ve caught in December have come from water 6 feet deep or less. Of course, those areas were always adjacent to deep water, such as along a point, a ledge or a creek channel, and had good cover, such as big stumps, logs or rocks.
You don’t need a lot of different lures to catch late-season bass – just slow ones. The jig-and-pig is my favorite, although I usually scale down in size, and prefer pork trailers over soft plastic.
A slow-rolling spinnerbait also works, provided you choose one you can crawl along the bottom. I’ve even caught them on tight-wiggling crankbaits that don’t require a fast retrieve to make them vibrate.
Slowing down retrieves is not an easy task for someone as impatient as I am. Consequently, I use a slow retrieve reel that has a 3.7:1 gear ratio, and I don’t fill the reel completely with line. That allows me to use the same cranking rhythm I use in the summer and still slow the bait to a crawl.
Line size is another important consideration. I like lighter line in winter because it provides a more subtle presentation and there is less water displacement. Even though I may fish around cover, I still reduce line size from 20- to 14-pound test.
Winter bassin’ isn’t for everyone, and it does require a more patient approach. But if you’re persistent, you’ll discover some quality fishing that most people ignore.
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