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Conflict! Doesn't it keep us guessing?!

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Here's some conflicting information that's been bugging me about fishing winters in my neck of the woods...

Winter fishing use LARGE lures because 1-Most baitfish that survive winter are adults, hence larger.

2-Bass feed infrequently in very cold water so when they do feed, they want a good(large) meal.

Winter fishing use SMALL lures because 1-Bass can be tempted more often by a small offering that looks like an easy meal.

2-Bass' digestion is slowed remarkably in extreme cold and large prey cannot be digested quick enough to keep from spoiling in the bass' body.

Are you seeing the conflict? I could give more examples for both sides of the argument but you see what I mean. Right? This is just a small example of conflicting information relating to bass fishing, but it's the one that's bugging me most right now.

Usually my lure size is based on water clarity or the general size of preferred forage. Sometimes I choose by the size fish I'm after but mostly I decide on water clarity.

Other than in winter I think I'm o.k. with lure size or profile but this cold water fishing with large or small baits is confusing. I mean, other than fishing water with a pretty heavy stain I have to say that smaller profile baits are what I have had the majority of my success with. Am I missing out? I'd really like to hear the skinny on this matter from you guys who know the same kind of winter water temps as we do here in Va., say 45F down to freezing. Believe me, I know all to well that bass will hit nearly anything with no rhyme or reason to their choices and they keep us guessing but I'd feel much better if I had a general guideline to start with in cold water, and less conflict. Can this even be resolved? Thanks

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This is something I think about a lot too.  Someone posed a very similar question to the Bass Professor.  I hope it's one he answers.

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Yep!

This question wiil never be resolved. There will always be conflicting "expert" advice on this topic. I decided a long time ago to fish "big", I never downsize. That's not to say that I never use smaller lures, bit sometimes I just start with them. I never make a concious decision to downsize due to specific conditions, sometimes I just feel like using a particular profile on a given day. Pretty scientific, hun?

I see the logic or at least I think I understand the reasoning for smaller presentations, but I don't fish tournaments and don't really care if I catch little fish or not. Now, I know small baits often catch trophy fish, lots of guys have proven that, but big baits consistantly catch bigger fish for me.

On another note: I don't think largemouth bass are line shy. I have read a number of "expert" articles (some here at BassResource.com) that state that smallmouth are NOT line sensitive, either. Many smallmouth fisherman use braid, 10-12 lb mono or copolymer with great success. With hard baits or reaction lures I too believe line diameter is not important, but with soft plastics and live bait, MY EXPERIENCE has been that line diameter is crucial. I NEVER fish line diameter above .010" for these presentations. I have PROVEN (to myself) that size matters.

Oh! Want to talk about line visibility? Well, that's just another example where "experts" are going to have to agree to disagree.

"It's not that you're wrong, it's just that I'm right!"

Good luck and good fishing to all.

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In cold water fishing conditions the rate of fall is the most important factor and this can be accomplished with either small or large baits.

Small baits do not have to be a tiny perch jigs and large baits do not have to be a 10 worm.

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yep i hit doug hannon up with this in the ask the proffessor and im hoping he gives some hints because i think about it a lot.

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The small bait idea is because in cold water a bass can see your lure better or at a greater distance. Small lures also will draw more strikes than big lures when the bass are picky. If a bass has an offering that is large and easy to catch they will hit it but in most cases larger baitfish are the strong fish that are hard to catch. Bass feed infrequently because their metabolism has slowed down. They require less food because they are not using as much energy. "When they do feed they want a big meal" that is false when they do feed it is because they had an opportunity. Bass don't think I got to eat a large shiner because the small ones are not big enough to help me survive the winter. They think hey there is something to eat and if they can catch it they will. Bass feed heavy in the fall to pack on weight for the winter. They use the fat reserves in the winter and because of the slowed metabolism don't need to feed as often.

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In preparation for winter, bass automagically lay-up fat from late summer throughout the fall (not a conscious effort).

Bass eat very little throughout the winter, and it's not by choice but is dictated by their low body temperature & low metabolism:

1. In very cold water, bass can't muster the energy to move very far or to move very fast

2. When their innards are cold, their food digests very slowly, I've read that "1" minnow may take as long as a week to be ingested.

Minnows-of-the-year are at their largest in the winter, but also at their lowest numbers (do you see the beautiful symmetry?)

If you're not hungry, it won't matter if the meal is big or small, you'll most likely pass it up (i.e. bass in winter).

During warm fronts in winter when the temperature trend is up, bass actually go on short feeding frenzies in mid-winter.

When bass are feeding in winter, the size of the lure isn't nearly as important as the speed in which it moves.

Even if a bass wanted to chase your lure, in very cold water it may simply be physically impossible.

Roger

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Wow what great stuff!! RoLo, and Chris, I believe you have it "nailed".

I think we need to TRY to think more like a Bass. What would you do if you were in there place?

Considering that my metabolism has been drastically reduced, due to the extreme cold water, I doubt that I would be all that hungry most of the time. Now, if I were hungry... and I had spotted something to eat in my close proximity... I doubt that I would hesitate to eat any thing that was smaller that myself. That goes for any "easy garbage" that I might find on the floor. ;)

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I am still confused on the topic.

I was fishing today at this small pond and was throwing a 4inch watermelon dinger along a ledge that the bass hold on. I had a 15inch LM bass take the dinger and when he got hooked, he took off like a bat outta hell. I started the day throwing a 3 inch dinger based on the small bait theory, and after walking most of the way around the pond, I replaced the 3 incher with a 5 inch dinger of the same color. I still didn't get any bites. So I went midway between the two, and tried a 4 inch dinger and finally got a bass. First bass since early October. It has been warm this past week here in PA, and was 50 today. Tomorrow is supposed to see a high of 60. I'm going back tomorrow to see if I can catch a couple more.

I think that basic ideas can be followed for certain conditions, such as fishing slow this time of year, but you have to experiment with size to see what the bass really want, or are in the mood for. Just my opinion though.

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BASS Fisherman,

I think maybe you got rewarded for perserverance rather than discovering an exact bait size.

"The harder you work, the luckier you get."

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"The harder you work, the luckier you get."

Ain't that the truth. It seems in winter time I get "rewarded for my perserverance" more often than not. Usually takes me forever to find and catch bass in the winter time since I fish from the bank. I can never seem to nail down a specific pattern in the winter time though. A lot of one or two average sized bass (2 lb class) days.

As far as the larger or smaller bait debate goes, in the winter time I usually do the exact opposite of RW, starting out with the largest version of the bait I am fishing first and working my way back to the smallest. My three "go to" baits in the winter time are jig 'n' craws, hard jerkbaits, and tubes fished on an inserted jig head. If none of that works when fished at the absolute slowest retrieves possible, then it's time to search for the reaction bite. I'll tie on the cranks and traps and "burn" them past where bass may be hiding. Again, I'll start big and work backwards. On one of my latest outtings the bass decided they were in the mood for a good sized meal hitting my largest jerkbaits. I have had days in the past though when my smallest jigs (1/8 oz.) were necessary to get 'em to bite. One trick I like to use with the smaller jigs is to try to get the best of both worlds...large profile and slower fall rate. What I mean is I us an oversized trailer for my smaller jigs sometimes, giving it the bulk of a larger one, but without the weight of the larger sizes.

Anyway, I guess my point is that just like in any other season, winter fishing takes trial and error. Bait size can seem to go either way, and just takes a lot of time, effort, and experimentation to find out what the bass in your area want to hit. Yep...makes ya think a lot don't it. :D

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Both baits works.     When threadfin die in the winter due to temps dipping below 45 degrees, it is the smaller shad, usually the late summer shad fry, which are by no means fry at this time that are the first to die.

They don't just die and sink straight to the bottom, they will flutter and kick, but eventually, mother nature wins and they kick and flutter down slowly as they die.

If winters are more severe and colder than most, and lakes and resorvoirs that are not as deep as others, the larger threadfin will die also.

Up in northern states, its not uncommon for shad to be restocked.   Also in the north, there are strains of bait fish that do well through the winters that don't get effected by brutal water temps.

Its these times during winter that a spoon just hanging off in deep water with out much action that seems to work.      Why?   because the spoon mimics dieing shad that are slow to sink due to the density of the winter water.      If the majority of shad that are dieing are 1-2inches at this time, a smaller spoon is used,    later in the winter after numerous die offs occurs, larger shad will succumb to lethal water temps.     Matching the size of the spoon and bait is important on some days and not on others.

Most lakes in Texas have two types of shad, one being the small threadfin that never grows more than 3-5 inches, the ohter is Gizzard shad that reach 2lbs or larger.    

For Trophy large mouth on Fork, Two of the best bait sources in winter on lake fork are yellow bass, aka bar fish, and gizzard shad.        Swimbaits of 5-9 inches works well for simulating bar fish, and a slow rolled 1/2 -1 oz spinnerbait works for gizzard shad.

The other bait during winter that bass feed on for protien is crawdads to help develope their eggs, and we know that a jig n pig is one of the best baits during the winter.

I don't think jig size is important, but do feel presentation of the jig is the key.   We go to pork because its more bouyant in winter months, and again, thats due to the density of the water in winter.    Along with the pork, we some time add another skirt to bulk it up, and what this does is slow the jig fall down with the added pork trailer.   Keeps the bait in the strike zone longer.

I think slowing down, and then slowing down even more is very key in homing in on subtle bites in the winter time.      If it looks natural and stays in the strikezone long enough, the bass will be more apt to hit.

Bass don't discriminate against an easy meal.   Bass aren't in chase mode in the winter, they will feed aggressively on warmer days after the water warms up, but don't pass up free meals becasue of size very often.

Thats why they are opportunistic feeders.

matt.

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Try fishing with one of your buddies. Let him use a large bait, and you use a small bait, or vice versa. See who gets bit first. Or, you could just experiment until you figure out what the bass want. I would probably start with a larger lure like a jig or something, but that's just me.

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I tend to fish larger baits (big bait theory) but bass are opportunistic.  Last year I caught a 3 lb bass thru the ice with a waxworm and a small hook.  He fought like hell too, especially on a 2 ft rod.  I think it is what you are comfortable with and have confidence in doing.  

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I tend to fish larger baits (big bait theory) but bass are opportunistic.

I think it is what you are comfortable with and have confidence in doing.

  I feel exactly the same way Pond Hopper.But, any given day who knows

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IMO the bass do not care about the size. it is just more of an opportunity thing.

I know the bass dont seem as fiesty in the winter also.

I caught a 5lber on jan 31 last year on a 1/4ounce rattle trap. I knew this was a big fish but this fish i dont think even pulled on the drag. (If it did it was only a little.) I was using 6lb test and the drag wasnt very tight.

One other thing i noticed in the winter was that the number of fish i was able to catch went down but the size of the fish went up. This happen to anyone else?

I hope i can at least match my results i had last year  :P

Mike

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In largemouth fishing I dont think it matters a whole lot around here.  Like Rolo said its more about speed.  I catch fish off 4" tubes, 4-5" jerkbaits, same jig year round.  I am the master at catching dinks off a 4-5" jerkbait also in the winter.  I can go out and catch 6-12 fish that are 8-10"'s long on a rogue.  I dont have any scientific knowledge on this but just experince of catching fish in the winter.

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Typically, i find as another had mentioned I catch fewer fish, but the ones I do catch are the good ones during winter. I dont think this means I am catching more big fish, I just dont catch all the dinks that confuse my perception. To further on that point: i typically fish the same spread of lures and sizes all year round. Now if i am catching the same number of big fish and fewer small fish in winter on the same lure sizes that I catch plenty of dinks on in warmer water, then there must be a slight preference for the size of lure in cold water by the larger fish. Since the middle of november I have not caught a fish shorter than 14in. I know thats not a monster, but usually I catch lots of smaller fish in the same areas during warmer water periods. Big fish have to eat more to maintain than little fish no matter what the water temp. If they can eat big they will, but if they are full, a big meal might not turn on the feeding response like a small finnesse bait laid on their front door. On texoma, there is a ton of bait (threadfin and gizzard shad as well as craws and bluegill, skipjack herring, and ghost minnows) bunched up in big schools during the cold months. Usually we dont experience die offs unless there is a couple of weeks of sub-freezing temps. Subsequently, there is always bait of all sizes and shapes for the bass to feed on. The guides for smallies and largemouth use the threadfins that are about 2-5in long for loose linin in winter, and catch the largest fish of the respective year doing this. During the warmer months they will use the larger threadfins and gizzards. They make a living doing this, so I figure there is somthing to it. The same even applies for the striper and catfish guys who go after the big boys in the winter. i figure a big crank can get you a reaction bite, and I have had the best luck in the coldest water (40 and below) with DD22s and Diawa draggers (big cranks) and 1oz spinner baits. I can cover the water and hook up with the fish that will bite, and leave the rest where they sit and move on. When the water is say 45-50, I like a drop shot or shakey head, and get bit better on it than the big cranks. Then warm up another 5 degrees, and its back to big cranks. I figure there is a correlation between consumtion size and water temp, but I dont think we have enough REAL data to figure it out..just empirical and anacdotal stuff.

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