Bluffing In The Cold
By Marc Rogers
The winter season can prove a difficult time for many anglers. When the water temperatures fall into the 40-degree range and below the bass’ metabolism slows drastically. They become lethargic and feed infrequently, sometimes only once per week. This lethargic behavior makes them more difficult to catch.
Presenting slow moving lures along bluff walls is a very productive technique to catch bass in cold-water conditions. Bluff walls have some key features that other structure lacks. Bluff walls allow bass to reach a comfort zone in both temperature and depth with less distance to travel by moving vertically. If the bass desires a ten-foot depth change they have the opportunity to move just ten feet when positioned along bluff walls.
The key to bluff fishing in the colder seasons is a slow, vertical presentation. Jigging spoons and jigs tend to be the most productive. While both lures can be productive the jig is a little more versatile than the spoon for a slow presentation and bass key on crawfish for a cold season diet.
Finesse jigs are often a good choice for winter bass fishing. The slow metabolism of the bass, a cold-blooded creature, requires much smaller meals in cold water conditions. The presentation of the jig should also be slow because crayfish are also cold-blooded creatures. A fast moving crayfish in cold water is very unnatural and not effective for catching bass. Also, bass will not chase bait when its metabolism is running at such a low rate.
The finesse jig presented to the bass should be natural crayfish colors. Bright colors are great for grabbing the bass’ attention in warm-water conditions but cold water is a completely different situation. Natural colored jigs, presented slowly, are much more effective during the winter. The best colors to use are brown and dark green colors. Under most winter conditions water clarity is not a factor in color choice because the lack of rain allows for the water to remain clear. Clear water allows these natural colors to be seen easily by the bass.
Larger jigs are effective at times and many anglers believe this is because the bass will look for bigger meals at fewer intervals to conserve the energy required to pursue prey. Others believe the larger profile attract the bass’ attention and it is the slow presentation that is the key to the baits effectiveness. Regardless of the thoughts, it is ideal to tie both baits onto two different outfits and present both in the same areas throughout the day.
Football head jigs are the best choice when presenting jigs in rocky areas. The football head design keeps the jig positioned upright because of the wide profile of the jig head. Also, the wide profile minimizes the chance of the jig head getting wedged in crevices throughout the bluff.
Bluff walls offer a variety of structure and cover for the bass. The broken rocks, strewn throughout the bluffs, are ideal for Smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass tend to prefer rock cover more so than Kentucky and Largemouth bass. Also, Smallmouth bass will often school with others of similar size during the winter. If a Smallmouth bass is caught the angler should spend some additional time in the same area to target the possible school. Anglers targeting Largemouth bass should look for fallen trees (commonly called dead falls) along bluff walls. The Largemouth bass prefer the additional cover provided by the fallen timber. However, the lure presentation for Largemouth bass is generally the same as for Smallmouth.
Spinning gear is a better choice for presenting lures to bluff walls. The spinning reel allows an angler to leave the reel’s bail open, which aids in the vertical presentation, by allowing the lure to free-fall through the water column. To get a true vertical presentation with a bait casting reel anglers must pull line off the spool while the lure is falling. With either reel, if the spool is locked after the cast a lure will fall with a pendulum like presentation and not keep in contact with the structure. Keeping the jig in contact with the structure is key to mimicking a crayfish falling along the bluff. Once the jig rests on the many small ledges on the bluff it should be moved slightly, allowing it to fall to the next ledge. The key to detecting a strike is paying close attention to the line after the lure lands on a ledge. Many times the strike is so light an angler cannot feel it.
There are many effective cold-water presentations available to anglers pursuing bass in impoundments. Current weather and water conditions play a major roll in which ones are most productive on any given day. However, if you find you favorite impoundment to have water temperatures to be in the low 40-degree range or lower you should spend some of your time presenting jigs on bluff walls. Clear water conditions will make this presentation even more productive.