Why do so many bass anglers hang up their tackle when the weather and the waters get cold?
For some, it is the lure of the hunt. Deer and other game become more important than fishing. Some aren’t willing to pay the price of being cold, wet or both. Most fishermen give it up because their bass fishing success diminishes when it gets cold.
Whatever your reason, there are always some bass -- even huge ones -- that are willing to cooperate, even during the worst weather. The good news is, we have some very nice days even in the middle of winter.
A fish’s body carries the same temperature of its surroundings. It takes three to four hours for a bass to digest a captured prey in 80-degree water. At 45 degrees, this same process takes several days. Do not expect as many bites when fishing cold water.
Forget about surface lures. With the exception of those rare times when schooling bass chase a batch of baitfish to the surface, your quarry will be in much deeper water.
Since the metabolic rate of the fish is so much less than in warmer water, discipline yourself to slow down the rate of retrieve. Although the bass must still eat, their reaction to prey species is much slower. It is often a good idea to stop even a slow retrieve for a few seconds, allowing the lure to remain dead-still. Many of your strikes will come at this time.
The Wacky Worm, as explained in a previous article, is a deadly cold water bait. Many anglers don’t like it because it takes a while for this unweighted lure to sink. Developing patience will fill your live well faster.
The most dependable cold-water lure I have ever used is the jig-and-pig -- a lead-head jig with a frog-like trailer. For cold water, the trailer should be an actual pork rind lure in either blue or black. In winter, the pork trailer will perform 10 times better than a plastic one -- and I don’t have a clue as to why.
The Wacky Worm should be fished with 10- to 12-pound line; the jig-and-pig with 20-pound test.
Many other lures are effective in cold water. Spinner-baits, deep-diving crank-baits and jigging spoons are all very good at times. The two aforementioned, however, have been most dependable for me.
Concentrate your efforts in water that is at least 6 feet deep and fish edges that have at least a 45-degree slope.
If you choose to fish for bass in the cold, safety is even more important than the other three seasons. Winter winds are usually more fierce than warmer times, causing whitecaps that are very dangerous for those fishing in a small boat. A fisherman tossed into water that is 45 to 50 degrees will develop hypothermia in a scant few minutes. A deterioration of body function and death soon follow. Never fish alone, wear a life jacket at all times and always let someone know where you are going.
Emory Josey is a freelance writer who has a weekly column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org