surface is more than enough slack to prevent feeling a typical winter bite. Get into the habit of keeping your rod tip low to the surface of the water at all times during the winter. This little detail makes a big difference in your winter results.
When using a horizontal approach in deep water, by necessity you will have a lot of line out between your rod tip and your lure on the bottom. The invention of braided superlines has improved the ability to detect strikes when winter bass fishing in two distinct ways. The first way is the obvious advantage of low stretch. If a bass stops your lure when the boat is moving horizontally, or you are retrieving horizontally, the no-stretch quality of the braid provides instant feedback to set the hook.
The second advantage of superlines (like the McCoy braid I prefer) is the smaller diameter of the line. Thin diameter line provides less resistance when pulled through the water column. McCoy Spectra Super Braid in 15-pound test is the diameter of 4-pound mono, and the 10lb Spectra is the diameter of 3-pound test monofilament. Braided line is not abrasion resistant when dragged over rocks, and it floats, so it is important to top the braid with a fluorocarbon leader. McCoy Fluoro 100 sinks and is very abrasion resistant, making it great in horizontal winter applications. I will top my 10-pound Hi-Vis Yellow braid with 8-pound Fluoro 100, and when using 15-pound braid I use 10-pound Fluoro 100. The combination of thin non-stretch floating braid and sinking fluorocarbon leader, with a low rod tip allows you to reach depths of 40- to 70-feet deep while maintaining a straight line for better sensitivity.
Hands down my most effective lure to use with the horizontal approach is a Yamamoto Single Tail Grub in either 4- or 5-inch length, impaled on a one-quarter ounce football head jig. I pour my own football jigs so I can use a Gamakatsu Jig 90 hook (model 11114) in a 4/0 size. This incredibly sharp hook has the added advantage of using the traditional O’Shaugnessy bend that results in better hook-ups and more landed bass.
If a one-quarter ounce jig seems too light to fish winter depths, let me assure you it is perfect when used with the lines referenced above. The thin diameter means less water resistance, and greater depths achieved. The result is a jig that bounces easily over the rocks with fewer snags and presents a small profile that is preferred by bass with a slower metabolism.
Favorite colors of Yamamoto grubs for the
winter include Cinnamon Brown with Large Black Flake #176, Green Pumpkin with Large Black Flake #297, Fading Watermelon with Large Black Flake #194J, and Watermelon with Large Black and Small Red Flake #208.
For the horizontal approach I prefer to cast well behind the boat and let the grub sink on a tight line (to reduce slack), and then slowly drift over ridges and humps in 40- to 70- feet deep water. I make small corrections in my drift with my Lowrance Ghost trolling motor.
You know your drift speed is correct when you feel the grub bouncing slowly but distinctly over rocks. Remember to keep your rod tip low to the water at all times to feel light bites and make quick hook sets.
Another sometimes effective winter bass technique is a hybrid of the vertical and horizontal approach. This is accomplished with a Blade Bait like a Silver Buddy, or with a Road Runner jigging spoon.
Make a cast and allow the lure to sink on a tight line to eliminate slack, and once it hits bottom lift your rod quickly to feel the lure flutter, then allow it to sink back to the bottom and repeat all the way back to the boat.
Braided line is important due to less water resistance, and a heavy mono or fluorocarbon leader helps prevent the lure from fouling with the braid.
All hooksets when fishing deep-water winter bass are best done by rapidly reeling until the rod loads up, and then lift the rod to finish setting the hook. When using ultra sharp premium Gamakatsu hooks, deeply caught winter bass rarely escape during the fight.
Please remember to immediately release winter bass so
they can return to the depths. If you keep them out of the
water for photographs or for later release from your
livewell, you will need to vent their air bladder
with a hypodermic needle.
Survival is well-documented when
properly done as evidenced by my catching
the same WDFW-tagged smallmouth bass
from the same spot three consecutive
years in Lake
bass fishing to
the next level and
start casting out
the ‘wrong’ side
of your boat this
the tips in this
from more than
allow you to enjoy
your passion year-
round. Ciao. •