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Bass Fishing
Written by Scott Binnie   
Friday, 01 December 1995

There are still a huge number of bass anglers who put the boat in dry-dock and mothball the tackle for a few months once the weather gets cold. Talk about missing something! Here are a few tips to hold over some of you dedicated bassers who can't do the "winter-water-walk" the way we can in Canada.

1. Think Small

Fall is a wonderful time to fish. The water is still warm and the bass are big and feeding up for the winter. Likewise, the baits you use to catch them are big. But when the water gets cold, the bass start to get less active and most go into deeper water. If you remember the discussion in last month's article, Bass by the Spoonful, about the energy relationship between bass and stalked prey, you might think that big baits will still work best. Alas, such may not be the case. Fish are cold-blooded. Pardon the statement of the obvious, but we must remember that as the water get's cold, the internal temperature of fish decreases accordingly. Therefore they do not need as much food to sustain themselves as they must have during the warmer weather. Fish do not always tend to eat less often, but what they eat will be less. Think about it. If you had lunch a couple of hours ago and hadn't done much since, but were feeling a bit hungry, you would probably order a soup and salad rather than a huge plate of roast beef with peas, carrots and a baked potato. So instead of reaching for that 12 inch super-duper plastic worm, I suggest you go for a 4 to 6 incher.

Since there is also likely to be much less boat traffic at this time of year, the water will normally be more clear than in the high-traffic seasons. So if you're fishing open water over rockpiles, sunken islands or outside deep weedlines, it's also an idea to reduce the diameter of your line. A small reel with a good drag system and a medium action rod with only 6lb. test line can easily handle an 8 - 10lb fish in open water.

2. Think Slow

However, the application of the formula in the previous article still applies to the speed at which you fish. Your bait must either be on the nose of the fish, or be in the strike zone for a longer period of time in order to entice a hit. Additionally, as the bass are relatively inactive compared to the other seasons, they will be where you might expect to find inactive bass -- on or near the bottom. It's difficult to reach them with a fast moving bait, or one that hangs suspended high above.

A third reason for moving the bait so slowly is that the stirke -- if you want to call it that -- will hardly be noticeable. You will probably feel only a slight bit of resistance to indicate that your bait has been munched. If you're not using live bait, set the hook immediately. If you are using live bait, wait a couple of seconds, even if it feels like an eternity. Fish don't often let go of live bait, but they will take a little time to get it arranged in its mouth.

3. Think Verticle Jigging

Obviously, the best way to keep a bait in front of a fish for an extended period of time is to jig it vertically, which brings us to what baits to use. In the last article, we covered jigging spoons, so we'll leave them alone this time and concentrate on jigs. In their many forms, jigs probably out-produce any other family of artificial baits available. I'll leave the discussion on which jigs are best to others or another time, but the two most successful for bass are the leadhead jig with a plastic curly tail grub, crawdad or worm, and the perennial favourite, the skirted jig with a trailer, a.k.a. the "Jig 'n Pig".

Just by slowly lifting the jig a couple of inches off the bottom and letting it settle back down every once-in-a-while, while dragging it across the bottom as your boat drifts, can be one of the most productive techniques you'll find. If the fish are a little active (i.e. you can actually feel the bite), you may want to doodle (slightly shake) the bait occasionally.

4. Watch your electronics.

When bass go deep, there is a geater tendency for them to school. So watch for these groups of fish on or near the bottom in deep water. As always with bass, if you can locate some prime structure such as a pocket or point on a weedline, fallen timber or brushpiles, mark it and come back later. Contrary to some stories I've heard, bass do not hibernate, stop eating, or scatter to remain suspended throughout the cold months. But you must locate them to catch them. When you do, and if you practice some of the ideas you've read here, I'll guarantee that you'll be more successful, more often on cold water.

So try out these tips, and email me to let me know your results (put "bass" in the Subject header).

Scott Binnie

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