When I think of my top-three winter baits for bass fishing, I automatically go to baits that are small, compact and can be fished slow and or with no movement at all.
A few perfect examples are football head jigs, the traditional shaky head with a straight tail worm, and the new Ned rig. Each of these execute in the winter and get the job done!
We all know that the fishing gets tougher in the colder conditions when bass aren't as active. As a result, lures have to be presented in a way that grabs a bass’ attention and also goes slow enough for them to strike, without using a lot of energy.
FOOTBALL HEAD JIG FOR WINTER BASS
Although the football head jig is a year-round bait, one of the best times to use it is in the winter, when the water temperatures drop and the shad start to die off.
One snack bass really like is crawfish. There’s no better way to imitate a crawfish than to use a jig. I use a Canopy Grenade 3/8-ounce football head jig paired with an Eco Lure Cali Creature Craw Trailer. I like to stick with traditional colors like brown and purple, black and blue, and green pumpkin.
When fishing the football head jig, I target areas on the water that crawfish will most likely be such as rocky banks, rock clusters, or riprap walls. Casting and dragging the jig along the bottom is key. Drag the jig slowly along the bottom and pause, then drag it again.
I alternate the speed and tempo of the retrieve to figure out what the fish are reacting to that day. To help determine this, I start out by sweeping the rod nice and slow and pausing for a few seconds and then sweeping the rod again.
I'm not hopping or swimming the jig. It's constantly on the bottom dragging. Sometimes I will bump into a rock and let it sit. Then, I twitch the jig a little bit without going over the rock. After a few seconds, I hop it over the rock, which creates noise and can sometimes initiate a strike.
I fish smaller football jigs on a medium/medium-heavy, fast-action 7'3" Omen Black Casting Rod with a Concept A 7.3:1 reel and 10- to 15-pound fluorocarbon line.
SHAKY HEAD JIG FOR WINTER BASS
The second presentation that I love for the winter months is the shaky head with straight tail worm. I use a 1/16- to ¼-ounce shaky head jig head with a shad-colored or Morning Dawn, five-inch straight tail Roboworm or Trick worm. On stained or dirty water, I use a darker color like brown or purple.
The shaky head can be fished almost anywhere, even around wood or cover, if it is rigged weedless.
The jig is designed to stand “tail up” while the nose of the worm is pointed toward the bottom. When fishing this lure, the key is to erratically shake the jig head, without moving it too much along the bottom; hence the name, Shaky Head.
This bait doesn't take much to move, so light, erratic twitches work best. This movement drives the bass crazy and their natural instinct is to strike. The shaky head is great; because, it stays in the strike zone for a long time and really gives the bass the best opportunity to strike.
I throw my shaky heads on a 7'1" Omen Black extra-fast, medium spinning rod with a Creed Gt 2000 spinning reel and 6- to 10-lb fluorocarbon line.
NED RIG FOR WINTER BASS
This new bait has become really popular and is super effective for ultra-finesse bass fishing. The unique shape of the mushroom head jig, paired with the ultra-thin finesse hook, is perfect for using a small 2¾-inch stickbait like the TRD finesse worm.
This worm is unique; because the tail-end of the worm will float and stick up, while the mushroom head jig keeps the nose of the worm pointed down.
There are a few strategies for retrieval and best ways to fish this bait. One strategy is to hop the bait with slow, small hops and pauses along the bottom. Another way to go, if the fish are active, is to slowly swim the bait along the bottom.
My favorite technique is to dead stick the bait, barely moving it, a few inches at a time. Minor light twitching of the rod is okay; but, for the most part, let it sit and allow the bait to work itself in the water.
Some of the biggest spotted bass caught this last year in Northern California have been caught using this technique, which is why it’s become so popular. I like to throw the Ned rig on a 7'1" Omen Black medium-light, spinning rod and pair that with a Creed GT 2000 spinning reel with 4- to 8-pound fluorocarbon line.
Even though winter fishing can be rough and, at times, will be slow, if you try out these three baits, you are going to get more fish in the boat and have a lot more fun fishing in the winter!