Top 3 Crankbaits for Winter Fishing pt.2

Winter Bass Fishing Videos
The best 3 crankbaits for winter fishing according to pro James Niggemeyer. Fantastic details and advice to help you catch more bass on crankbaits this winter!

James: Hey, BassResource. James Niggemeyer here. This video is part two of my top three favorite crankbaits for the winter time. Period. In part one, we talked about squarebills. In this part, we're gonna talk about lipless or rattle bait style crankbaits, the Strike King Red Eye shad in particular and your shad profile, more flat-sided type crankbaits like the Strike King Lucky Shad.

The Strike King Red Eye shad, lipless style crankbait has got to be my number one cold water period crankbait. This is a bait that's gonna catch them anywhere in the country and literally 12 months of the year but seems to really shine when the water temperatures get in their coldest of the year. I've caught fish on these guys when there was ice forming in my guides and the water temperature's below 50. They're so versatile and unlike most crankbaits, they sink.

Obviously, they get their name, rattle baits, by the rattles that are inside the chamber of these baits. Probably the most popular one is a half-ounce size followed by, for me, a quarter-ounce size but not by much because I also like the three-quarter ounce for deeper scenarios.

Golly, this guy's hot. Ate it. Just ate it. Look at that.

Kinda like part two of the same video. And the conditions were real similar. You've got bright bluebird skies, little to no wind, colder water temperature. I think true winter is December 22nd. So we're know, as the calendar goes, we're not in actual winter time but we're definitely in the cold water period. I think I'm marking water temperatures 52 to 53 degrees and that was my first fish.

So we're on Lake Fork. My home lake for many, many years. Guided here for a lot, a lot of years. Still do some guiding through the season. And then obviously in the offseason as well but I'm out here and trying to do...trying to catch some on a crankbait. I think when it comes to the cold water period, cranking is one of my absolute favorite ways to catch them because a lot of times, when it's cold, the only way to get them to bite is to do a reaction strike.

So that was my first one. Got in here, got on the water maybe about an hour ago and made a run to an area where I've had success in the past and boom. That fish was probably in about two, two to three feet of water.

Because it sinks, you can yo-yo this bait. You can fish it anywhere from right in inches of water all the way out to as deep as you wanna let it sink. You can adjust this presentation to the activity level of the fish.

When it comes to lipless crankbaits, I really like a gold black back. That works really well. A chrome blue back or sexy shad or chrome sexy shad would work well also. And then your crawfish, your red crawfish colors. Pretty much keep it simple. That gold seems to work better on darker days and then the chrome on brighter days.

You wanna definitely vary your retrieve and try to figure out where those fish are in the water column. If they're relating more closer to the bottom, then you wanna let it sink to the bottom and maybe yo-yo it or rip it up and down. And sometimes they're actually really shallow. It's kind of an interesting deal but those fish sometimes that's where the little bitty baitfish is, just up there in that say one to three foot zone so you kinda wanna play around and sometimes that's...when they're really shallow, I'll go with a quarter ounce. And then when they're deeper, I've caught them out into the, you know, 12, 13, 14 and even a little bit deeper and I'll use a three-quarter ounce for that.

And then for my lipless crankbaits, I like the Lew's Custom Speed Stick. It's a 7-3. It's called their Magnum Hammer. It's a medium heavy but it really has a nice tip. So when the fish come up and eat these lipless style crankbaits with the treble hooks, I really hook them well. It loads up really nicely.

I've got that paired with the Lew's HyperMag and I believe that's 14 pound test fluorocarbon and I generally go between 12 and 14 pound...or 12 and 16 pound test fluorocarbon. And that's what I use primarily for a half ounce and three-quarter ounce.

And then with the quarter ounce red eye shad, I was throwing that on a seven foot medium heavy Lew's Custom Speed Stick. It's called their Worm Rod One. And again, the same reel and I believe I've got 12 pound test Gamma fluorocarbon.

And the last lure that I wanna talk about is a Strike King Lucky Shad. This is a great bait in the cold water period primarily because I believe of the flat sides and the finesse style way that it swims through the water. It definitely works really well but like the red eye shad, is a fish producer year round.

Flat sided baits have a real natural look and something about tighter vibrations really gets a fish's attention and gets them to react to them, especially in the cold water period.

There's one. Got him.

Daniel: You need a net?

James: No. That is definitely the interesting thing about winter time cranking. It seems like no matter how often I do this... That's a chunky chunker right there. Thick right here. Pretty fish. It seems like any given day, you're either gonna catch them on a lipless crankbait, a shad profile, tight wobble one like this Lucky Shad, Strike King Lucky Shad, or a square bill. But rarely do you catch them on all three. I mean, there's times when you do but it seems like on any given day there's a bait that they want more than the others. Today, definitely the Lucky Shad. That's, you know, just kind of a crawfish. I think this is called DB Craw.

Shad body style crankbait. This is the one that gets that real tight vibration. I'm throwing it on a Lew's Custom Speed Stick. It's actually called their Square Bill Crankbait Rod and I believe it's a 6-10. And again, with the Lew's HyperMag.

I really like Lew's HyperMag. It works well for just about any type technique. If I was just gonna have one Lew's reel, I believe that the HyperMag would be it. And I believe I had that on actually a pretty fast gear ratio. 7-5 to 1 gear ratio. And actually that rod is a 6-9, 6 foot 9 inch Square Bill Crankbait Rod. That's a great little crankbait rod for just about anything on your smaller crankbaits, your shallower run...

Shad profile's real similar to my lipless crankbaits. Your crawfish. And this is actually a bluegill pattern but that one kind of...I think can kinda cross over and be kind of a crawfish pattern. And this one's actually kind of like a gold Tennessee shad pattern which has got a little bit of silver, a little bit of gold in it, a little bit of orange belly. That's a good one for baitfish, kind of a baitfish profile. And this is a Sexy blueback herring which is kind of a whitish color. I try to use those.

Generally I'm going with more of your natural palettes because I feel like I throw this and catch more fish on these when the water's clear and when fish actually try to suspend as well. So those work really well. It's a very subtle bite. You wanna play with retrieve speeds on those. And I generally like 10 or 12 pound test for these. I don't wanna go too heavy. Throws really well. It's got a rattle in it and I believe it's got even a weight transfer system. Works well for those cold water situations. Fish are maybe heavily pressured...high pressure situations. They might be a little bit deeper in the water column. That's when I'll reach for that guy. But I have caught them on these really shallow as well. So you wanna keep an open mind.

My top three baits for the winter or... Oh, there's one. Oh, is it... Or cold water period. I paused it and he just ate it. I really feel like these fish are very inaggressive. It came out of the grass and I paused it and he just ate it right there. Ticked it like a worm. I mean, it just popped right out of the grass. There you go. All right.

It's been a tough day. It's so beautiful. It's really...a lot of times it can be hard to catch them on these types of days. Pretty bright, bluebird type, no wind. So yeah, I was just talking about that shad pattern, that shad profile crankbait and how this thing will catch them a lot of times when the lipless crankbait and square bill won't. So you definitely want all three. Those are probably my top three picks. This is just what I would throw in the next couple of cold water months that we have. January, February and in some places even March. So just depends.

Clear water lakes are gonna be...obviously gonna be...they're gonna be colder longer. Your shallower, more stained lakes are gonna warm up faster.

So I just wanted to do kinda my three picks, my top three crankbaits for this time of year and I know a lot of people think, "Well, it's winter time. We gotta go deep." That's not true. You don't necessarily have to be out there probing offshore rock piles and different things like that, though I'm not discouraging that. I'm just saying that you do not necessarily have to do that. These are some fish that I feel like are a little bit more accessible whether it's a jerkbait or a crankbait or a jig. I just feel like when the conditions are right, you can catch them with a shallow crankbait.