As fall turns to winter, fishing can either be excellent or a real challenge as the bass transition along with the seasons. Major League Fishing pro Bryan Thrift has a simplistic approach to finding and catching bass this time of year and it all has to do with finding baitfish and matching the hatch.
Find the Bait
Locating what the bass are eating is always an excellent way to catch bass, but Thrift says that it is the number one thing to look for this time of year.
"The first cold weather of the year is a transition for bass and the number one thing to remember is to follow the bait," he says. "I spend a lot of time looking at my Humminbird units to see baitfish and determine if the bass are relating to pods of baitfish or if they are using the structure and waiting for baitfish to come by."
The easiest way to figure this out is by merely fishing around likely areas or schools of baitfish.
"," he says. "That will determine what lure I use, but this time of year, the baitfish are usually tiny and the water is the clearest it will be all year long. That typically leads to tougher fishing and I am always using downsized lures that are a comparable size to what the fish are eating."
Match the Hatch
As Thrift mentioned, he likes smaller baitfish imitating lures and uses a host of different lures. Metal baits like spoons, blade baits, underspins, and tail spinners are some of his go-to's, but he'll also mix in a "Damiki Rig" for fishing vertically.
One of Thrift's first picks this time of year is an underspin with a small swimbait. He opts for the 3/8-ounce Damiki Rig Underspin Head with a 3" Damiki Armor Shad Paddle Tail Swimbait most of the time and adds that his line selection is critical.
"I like to use 10-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon because it has very low stretch," he says. "It is also virtually invisible underwater and that is so important for suspended fish. Bass typically only suspend in clear water and they can be pretty line shy at times."
Thrift likes the underspin because it allows him to control his depth and stay right in front of the fish.
"I'll use a countdown method and try to keep the bait right at the depth I see the most activity on my electronics," he says. "Fluorocarbon is the best to do this because braid or mono float and will raise the bait more and make it harder to use that slow and steady retrieve and keep it in the same depth zone."
The Damiki Rig
This technique has gained popularity over the past few years and Thrift uses it as a vertical way to catch bass he sees on his electronics.
"The great thing about it is the bait does it all and you simply drop it to fish," he says. "You don't have to do much because the slight twist in your line and any current in the water will get the bait to move around and that is all you need to get one to bite."
He uses the 3" Damiki Armor Shad Soft Jerkbait in a shad imitating colors like Tennessee Shad or White with Silver Flake and pairs it with a ¼-ounce Damiki Rig jighead.
"For this technique, spinning gear is your best option," he says. "You can do it with baitcast gear but will have to pull the line out to get it to drop and it is much easier just to flip your bail and let it fall."
Thrift fishes his Damiki Rig on 10-pound P-Line TCB 8 braid with a leader of 8-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon.
"Less is more when fishing the Damiki Rig," Thrift adds. "Just drop it down to any fish you see suspended on the graph and let it do its thing."
Besides the underspin and Damiki Rig, Thrift likes to mix in a Damiki Vault Blade Bait, Axe Blade Tail Spinner, and Back Drop Jigging Spoon.
"The spoon is a great way to reach schooling fish," he says. "With 12-pound P-Line Tactical, I can cast it out of sight to reach them. I'll let it hit the water and then start reeling and it shimmies about a foot under the surface and looks just like a little shad. I can also drop it over brushpiles and let it hover above the cover."
The Vault blade bait and tail spinner are his other choices.
"The blade bait is a great fall bait and I fish it with a lift and drop retrieve," he says. "The tail spinner is another great choice when the fish are suspended."
As fall turns to winter, bass are feeding up and that often means chasing schools of shad. Finding the bait is the number one key, followed closely by matching the hatch.