In many of my previous articles discussing wintertime techniques I’ve been focused on comparatively deep water scenarios and the tools to attack them. But what about places where it typically doesn’t get very cold? Or where there’s not a lot of deep water? In Florida, 5 feet may be considered “deep.” On the Louisiana Delta lots of bass live their entire lives in water shallower than that.
Whether you live in one of those places, or in California or South Texas, the reaction of the fish to cold fronts may not be to go offshore, but rather to bury deep into cover. Often that means vegetation like hyacinths, pennywort, lily pads or hydrilla. In South Texas, it might be bushes or buck brush or hardwood trees. Their reaction is to get in and under things.
When this situation arises, you need a lure or lures that will penetrate that gnarly jungle. Most often that’s a single-hooked flipping bait. Many anglers choose the soft plastics that they use for this purpose indiscriminately. Of course, there are times when bass aren’t picky, but in a cold front scenario or when there’s lots of fishing pressure, making the right choice can be critical. I have a theory that helps me break down my choices into two basic types.
In the simplest form, here’s how I break it down: When the water is clear and/or the fishing is tough, I pick a soft plastic with minimal action. You pitch it in, move it around a little, and then it pops back out. Usually, this means beaver-style baits, something without curly tails or ribbons or big bends. My favorite is the Berkley Maxscent Creature Hawg, which has the added benefit of the infused scent – that too can be a difference-maker when things are tough.
When the water is clear and the fish are educated, a neutral action works to your advantage. Too much action doesn’t look right. The opposite is true when the water is stained or dirty, or the fishing is good. In those situations, I want a little action or movement. At this time of year, it’s still not a huge action, but more than when the fish seem to be extra-lethargic.
What are those situations? They include a falling barometer, a warm south wind, a cloudy day, or when you have the lake all to yourself. When one or more of those is in play, I choose either an action craw or an action creature. Berkley makes two proven lures that fit that description to a T. The first is the good old Chigger Craw. The latter is the Pit Boss. They both have great action, just enough to get the fish’s attention, but not so much as to be overwhelming. That helps as the water gets more stained – that little extra motion enables a bass to find the lure.
By making the right choice, you can often outfish the competition and even someone in the same boat. Be as selective with your soft plastics as you are with your crankbaits and spinnerbaits, and you’ll get more bites. That may be especially true in the wintertime, no matter where you’re fishing.
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