As you venture out onto your favorite spotted bass lake this time of the year the reaction baits you normally get out such as the Bomber Fat Free Shad, Osprey Top Hook Talon swimbaits or your rip baits like the Smithwick Rouge or Bomber Long A can be good search baits to start with to see if there are any aggressive spots roaming about. If you don’t find any of those big cruisers looking for a big meal then it may be time to downsize your offering.
The metabolism of the bass has slowed and if we go smaller with our offering and slow down to match the bass, we can still have a great day on the water. I use my Lowrance LCX 26HD and focus my attention on the water column to locate the bait. I normally start in the feeder creeks and pockets off the main channel. Start deep, even 50 or 60 feet if you have water that deep and search shallower until you find them. When the bait is found locate the “arches” that indicate that bass are following the bait. These are suspended fish that most fishermen find hard to catch. Pay close attention to your electronics all year and you may find like I have that spotted bass spend more time suspended than they do on the bank.
With the quality of today’s electronics we can not only locate these fish but present a bait vertically and suspend it right in front of their noses. I like to start with a 3” Keeper Custom worm in a baitfish color like the purple ghost, rig a drop shot with a # 2 or a #4 drop shot hook and just nose hook the worm. Get a Dobyns Rods 702 SXF spinning rod for this presentation because you want the most sensitive and perfectly balanced rod available so you can feel the subtle pick up of the worm and the correct action to get the fish to the boat. Position your boat directly over the arches you found and drop this rig straight down. You can follow it on your meter’s screen and when it is at the same depth as the bass stop the bait and gently quiver it right in front of them. This is a great presentation that replicates a baitfish really well. Since the bait is suspended over the weight the fish is looking right at the worm and your line, so small line that the fish don’t see very well is preferable. Try either Silver Thread fluorocarbon line or the Silver Thread AN 40 in the silver color. I use either 6 or 8 pound test for this presentation on a high quality medium light spinning rod.
If you find bass and bait relating to the bottom this is even better. I find that bass near a steep bank or point with the bait pushed up against the structure will be more aggressive and is more likely to eat your offering. I like to use the Excalibur Tg drop shot weights because their shape along with the hardness of the tungsten will let you know if you are on the bottom or not with a distinct tap. The weight has a slip clip that allows you to attach it to your line without a knot. This can be handy when your hands are so cold that all you want to do is pick up your thermos of coffee and but you can hardly get the lid off to get a warm drink.
Another method of catching these feisty spotted bass is to throw a Booyah spinnerbait on those cold days when the sun does shine. Look for rocky banks and you may be surprised as to the size of the fish that will hold on these rocks looking for some heat in the midst of winter although contrary to that, windy banks with waves crashing into them will attract big spots too. Get a Dobyns Rods 734C casting rod, tie on a 1/2 oz. Booyah Blade spinnerbait and slow roll it along the shoreline especially where there is a little point of rock protruding out creating an ambush point. Some of the largest spotted bass of the year will be caught in the cold winter months using this presentation. These big spots seem to take charge of an area and there may only be one fish along a stretch of bank or in a cove. The bites may be few and far between but the “kicker” we all like to catch can be caught this way.
Take the time to learn how to catch those suspended fish and you will still catch the numbers of fish in winter with some big fish mixed in. Look for those big boys on the rocks and you may get the biggest spotted bass of your life.
Always practice CPR, catch, photograph and release
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