I don't especially love winter fishing; however, when I do hit the lake I can usually cash in by covering a bunch of water and slowing down a jerkbait presentation.
Fishing is at its best in December when the water temperature hits the mid-50s. If your particular lake has any vegetation or shallow rock, there will be bass holding tight, ready for your delivery. The reason shallow rock is so valuable during this time of year is that as the sun beats down on the water, it heats the rock up to the point I'm looking for. In addition, there are always the backs of pockets that will continually produce during these frigid days.
Bass are ending their long days of chasing bait to the shallows and homing in on the low-hanging fruit. Jerkbaits like the Berkley ® 5-inch PowerBait ® Jerk Shad are the perfect reactionary baits that we want to present. After the gorge fest has begun, bass are still looking to feed to get them through the winter lull.
When I start my day the most important thing to remember is not to rush out the door at first light. I hate being cold especially when I'm out there trying to fish. It drives me insane fishing while I'm dressed like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. The water temperature takes a while to heat up on these cooler days, so when you have a cold day stay in bed and enjoy the warmth. Trust me, you'll thank me later.
Throwing a Jerk Shad doesn't take a genius, but to fish it with efficiency is a tough technique. Patience is key when I throw the Jerk Shad. In December, I like to use a light color jerk shad that has a slow rate of fall.
Jerk, Jerk, Pause
Once I cast to the edge of some milfoil, shallow rocks or hydrilla, I use a single/double cadence when retrieving my bait. When I mention patience, it particularly relates to the pause while the bait is in the hot zone.
Pausing the bait throughout the retrieve will initiate the strike. Keep the pauses at 10 seconds or more and watch your strike count increase. It seems like a long time to let a bait hang up, but the Jerk Shad that can hang in there that long will initiate a reactionary strike.
Any time I pick up a rod for this presentation it is a 7-foot medium action rod that has a good backbone so I can set the 5/0 wide-gap through the bottom lip of some big bass.
I really don't like to use a weight when using this technique. If a weight is necessary for keeping the bait low, I get a 1/32-ounce pinch weight. The standard line that goes with most applications is a 10-pound Berkley 100% Trilene ® Fluorocarbon. This line is super sensitive and has the durability that will last all day long. With any line, it is important to check and retie knots often.
The rest of my equipment includes my signature low profile Abu Garcia ® Skeet Reese Revo ® that is greatly superior to any other reel that I've used. The 6.4:1 gear ratio is perfect for keeping the cadence of the retrieve. When times get tough and I need to speed things up, I use my namesake Revo reel to cover more water.
I'm not sugar-coating these fishing trips in the depths of December. It's cold and you will be uncomfortable, but there is no better time to get into a school of big bass. You might remember to pack a small propane heater for the front of the boat and dress for the weather.
If you are going alone, which I don't recommend, be sure to let someone know where you will be fishing. Boats break down and staying safe on the water is the No. 1 goal?well, that and catching a bunch of fish. Brave the elements and test your skills against these cold-weather feeders. You won't regret what could be the fishing trip of a lifetime.