Cooling water temperature is a sign for bass that it is time to eat and to eat as much as they can. No matter what part of the country you reside in, there is always a fall feeding frenzy as winter approaches.
For FLW Tour pro, Brandon Cobb the fall and early winter are times to grab your moving bait rods and cover water as you search for feeding bass.
Clues to Find Bass in Cold Water
“This time of year the fish are going to be feeding somewhere and the best thing to do is look for some type of activity. It could be visually looking on the surface for fish feeding or it could be with your electronics,” he begins. “Often when you start to idle, you will start seeing those big balls of baitfish on your Lowrance units. Some areas will have life and tons of activity and some will have nothing, so it is important to keep moving.”
Reaction Bait Options for Targeting Cold Water Bass
There are many different reaction baits that will catch fish during the cooler months. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and even topwaters all have their place and Cobb will have them all ready to go.
“Fall is really known as a ‘junk-fishing’ time of year and that continues into the early winter. They will eat a variety of different lures and I usually have them all rigged and ready on my deck,” he says. “There are certain days where they want an erratic bait like a jerkbait, some days they want a crankbait and sometimes they will bite a topwater.”
The key, according to Cobb is covering water until you find the fish and then dial in what the fish are eating and also match the size of the baitfish.
“This time of year, they are often eating really small bait so you may need to downsize your bait. It is also important to know if they are primarily feeding on bluegill, shad or crawfish,” he says.
Winter Crankbaiting for Bass
There are two types of crankbaits that Cobb uses when the water starts to cool; a shallow crankbait and a lure that can reach the six to eight-foot range.
“I always have the two sizes of the Yo-Zuri 3DR Series Mid Crankbait tied on, one dives to six and one dives to eight feet. The 3DR is the new series with more realistic colors to better match the baitfish they are feeding on,” says Cobb. “I most often fish these two on 10-pound Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon.
The other bait he likes is a squarebill, the 3DR Series Shallow Crankbait. Even though this bait technically has a round bill instead of a square lip, he fishes it like a squarebill around cover and likes to utilize it for shallow cold water bass.
Jerkbaits a Wintertime Go-To
Jerkbaits are a cold-water staple and many bass anglers realize their potential when the water temperatures dip. Cobb is no different and relies heavily on them.
“The one I use the most is the Duel Hardcore Minnow Flat 110SP, it has a great suspending action and I’ll fish it on 10-pound Yo-Zuri Top-Knot fluorocarbon and will even drop down to 8lb sometimes to get the bait down an extra foot or two,” he says.
The other jerkbait he uses this time of year is a bite-size version, a Yo-Zuri Pin's Minnows.
“This is something I will have tied on a ready if I am seeing schooling fish that are feeding on small shad and do not want a full-size jerkbait. Because it is so small, I fish it on spinning gear with 6 or 8-pound Top-Knot fluorocarbon,” he says. “What I have found with this fluorocarbon is that it is much thinner than some of the others on the market. It is also not stiff, which is important to get the best action from your lures and to get the longest cast you can.”
Topwaters Can Catch Winter Bass
Topwater baits can work surprisingly well during the winter, according to Cobb, especially if there are two or three warm days in a row or if the fish are feeding on baitfish near the surface.
“The 3DB Prop is a great walking bait that you can cast a long way to reach schooling fish,” he says. He prefers to fish topwater baits on Yo-Zuri Hybrid, which is a fused line that includes both nylon and fluorocarbon.
“What I like most about that line is that it has all of the good properties of mono without any of the negatives. It still floats really well, but it does not have nearly as much stretch as a regular mono,” he says. “It still has a little stretch, which is good for topwaters so you don't rip the treble hooks out of their mouth. It also has much better abrasion resistance than a standard mono.”
Lipless Crankbaits a Winter Must-Try for Bass
Another one of Cobb’s go-to baits during the cooler months is a 5/8-ounce Yo-Zuri Rattl'n Vibe.
“I have this ready in case I see fish feeding on the surface because it can be cast it so far. It is also very good if there is some grass,” he shares. “I like to fish it on 20-pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid if there is tall grass because the line is much more buoyant and keeps it up. When the grass starts to die off and isn’t matted on the surface, you can go down the grass line with parallel casts and do really well this time of year.”
There are many different reaction baits that will catch fish when bass are feeding heavily as winter approaches and that’s the point.
For professional angler Brandon Cobb, having a variety of moving baits at your disposal is the best way to cover water, dial in what the fish want that day and keep moving until you find willing fish.