Straight-Up Bassin

Bass fishing is strange. Just when you finally figure out how to catch’em, everything changes and you have to learn again.

Last month the smallmouths fought to eat your dropshot rig when you made a long cast and worked it back to your boat. Now Thanksgiving is over, and it seems like those same bass have started a diet.

Time to change tactics again. Sure, you could still take that same dropshot rig or football head Yamamoto grub and sling it a country mile. And your rig will likely get bit. The problem is that unless you are dragging your bait on a tight line, you may never know it happened.

Winter is one time that I shun taking new bass anglers on the water with me. Besides the obvious discomfort of dealing with cold and wet weather, most beginners spend the day never feeling a bite. I can put them on top of fish, and I can even get fish to bite their lure; the hard part is getting them to feel the bite in time to set the hook.

Heck, it is hard for me to feel half of the bites this time of year, but at least it is enough to keep bringing bass over the side of my Stratos.

You can improve your odds this winter and put bass in your boat if you remember your bassin’ biology 101.

When water temperature drops into the 40’s or lower, the metabolism of Mama Pesce (my favorite Italian moniker for the biggest of bass, the “mother fish”) slows way down. No longer is this awesome predator able to chase down baitfish, fill her stomach, and continue to chase more bait for hours. Now she is sluggish, and becomes a couch potato. Her digestive tract is just as slow, and before long a solitary meal can sustain her for longer than a week before she even begins to feel the slightest of hunger pains.

In fact, everything in Mama Pesce’s world is trapped in slow motion during the winter, because that is how cold-blooded organisms respond to cold temperatures. Bass are opportunistic predators and will continue to eat, but don’t expect them to go out for “fast food”. This is the time for home delivery!

The best advice I can give you now is to fish slow, and fish with a vertical presentation.

Picture a bass sitting in one spot on the lake bottom, below your boat. You drop a Flash-Trix minnow with a 3/8-ounce QuickDrop to the bottom, and immediately engage your spinning reel when touchdown occurs. After reeling in the slack so your 8-pound McCoy line is straight as an arrow to your Lamiglas rod, you start to gently shake your dropshot rig. Suddenly your rod tip isn’t vibrating in the same steady rhythm, but instead feels like you snagged a wet rag. SET the HOOK! You just got bit. It wasn’t dramatic, but when a bass spies food dangling in its face, it can’t help but open its mouth and sip the dying prey into its gullet. If it didn’t like the taste, a second later it would just spit it back out, without having moved an inch.

By keeping your boat directly over your bait so that your lure is straight below you, you will have the best chance to feel those sluggish bites. If the boat moves around, or the wind blows a bend in your line, how will you feel a bite that barely moves your lure as little as a few inches?

Just as bass are unwilling to move far to eat your lure, they also prefer that it be moving as slow as everything else in nature at this time. Deadsticking (keeping your bait still), or barely moving your lure while keeping it in one spot, is your best bet to convince Mama Pesce your Flash-Trix is a live minnow.

So now that winter is approaching, remember to fish “straight-up”, and fish slow. Fizzing Bass. Whenever you rapidly bring a bass from deep water to the surface, you will run the risk of causing its swim bladder to inflate like a balloon. Some fish can be returned immediately if their bladder hasn't inflated, however, if it is too late the bass will be swimming on the surface with its belly to the sky. You cannot safely return this bass, unless you know how to use a needle to deflate its swim bladder. If you don't know the procedure for "fizzing bass", as it is commonly referred, don't even fish for bass in deep water. To learn the proper technique, log onto the Internet at, or your club can schedule me to teach the technique at a meeting. I can be reached at: