By Mark Menendez
As I awoke from a deep sleep this morning, my dogs were telling me it was time to go outside. A very nice morning I must add. The wind was howling to 25 miles per hour from the north. The little drops of rain felt like I was being shot with a BB gun. Then, I heard the choir in the sky! It was not a dream. It was a harsh reminder that old man winter is on his way. The Snow and Blue geese were on their way south with the cold northern wind at their back. Hundreds filled the formations in the sky. This is the annual signal that the bass are migrating as well. They are not headed south. It is time for them to head back to the main lake.
The turn of summer in to fall finds the bait moving to shallow water for warmer temperature. The bass follow to feast on the “shad buffet”. When the nights dip below freezing and the days become shorter, the bait begins to move out toward deep warmer water. Clouds of baitfish will suspend in deeper water. They will have a tendency to hover just off of breaklines. The bass will follow in numbers. A look at the Lowrance will show that most of the biomass of the lake is suspended just under the buffet.
There are key water temperatures to note as the water temperature slide down the thermometer. A water temperature of 56 degrees can result in some fast action. A high gear ratio Lew’s reel can still see action at this time. The purpose for the 7:1 ratio reel is burning a Strike King Spinnerbait or Redeye Shad. Casting these baits at small flats or points with deep water adjacent can result is some of the most savage strikes of the year. Wind will be the friend to the angler. The angler needs to put the wind at their back and run and gun windy main lake flat spots and points. Smallmouth and Largemouth bass will position just inside the breakline waiting for the wind to blow them a meal. The water will be the clearest of the year and the bass will have a large strike zone. Speed of the lure will trigger these active bass into chasing the offering. 20lb Seaguar Senshi Monofilament line is needed for two reasons. The large diameter of the 20lb test will help keep the bait near the surface in the strike zone. The monofilament is needed for a bit of stretch from the strike of these aggressive fish. This pattern is really productive on sunny days as well as overcast days. Wind is needed to activate the bass.
As the calendar continues to turn, water temperatures will continue sliding downward. 52 degree water is perfect for a 6-8 foot diving crankbait. Choose a crankbait with a bill that is the shape of your thumbnail. A Strike King Series 3 fits this requirement. The rounded bill is most effective in rooting through and deflecting off of rock. Fishing the same main lake feeding stations as with the spinnerbait is a good bet. The only difference will be the fish’s reluctance to position as shallow as the warmer (56 degree) water temperature. A shallow flat area with a significant drop off to deep water is always a good structure element to find bass. Match the crankbait color to shad tones (Sexy Shad or Chartreuse Shad) to mimic the food source. Brighter florescent colors on overcast days will give the bass a better view of the crankbait. Always choose an abrasion resistant line for cranking these rocks. Seaguar InvisX in a 12lb test will allow the small crankbait the required depth and strength the land big bass.
December is a good month to target numbers of bass. Water temperatures in the high 40’s will find bass following shad to vertical banks. Bluffs, channel swings, and points that have very deep water nearby will hold the bass through the winter season. A cold water bass tends to move up and down in the water column rather than making long trips horizontally to feed. Sunny days will bring the shad up in the water column as well. The bass will follow. A longtime winter staple is a grub. A four inch pearl Strike King Rage grub will match the size and color of the shad. Anglers need to cast the grub will various size grub heads (1/8-3/8 oz.) and count the lure down to the level of the bass. This technique is best suited with spinning gear. A Lew’s Speed Spin on a 6’10” Team Lew’s rod is of the best balance and sensitivity to feel the light bites of a grub bite. Seaguar 8lb InvisX will help the angler to feel the slight tick of the strike. Multi-species will be caught on this bait as the entire lake will be focused on feeding on shad. Sauger, white bass, and stripers will all be utilizing the same bait holding structure at this time of the year.
When fishing in the winter, extra precautions are needed. Always tell family or friends what part of the body of water you expect to be fishing. It is always a good idea to carry a dry change of clothes in a water proof bag. Extra sets of gloves and headwear can save the day. A thermos of hot liquid such as soup or coffee will warm an angler in the winter chill. Following these tips and safety ideas, can turn a winter day in to a fun fishing adventure.
Mark Menendez is an Elite Series Angler. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Markmenendez.com.