How to Vertical Jig for Winter Bass
Day 1: Locate Schools of Baitfish to Find Wintertime Bass and Deep Drops on Points with Paul Elias
Editor’s Note: Wintertime bassing can be some of the best bassing of the year, if the outdoorsman knows three-important ingredients for successful bass fishing – where the bass are holding during the cold months, how to locate these bass with a depth finder, and how to catch them.
To begin our search for wintertime bass, we won’t look for bass, but instead will try to locate schools of shad. When the water’s cold, none of the bass in the lake tend to be extremely active. A bass’s body metabolism slows-down, and bass don’t travel as much as they do during the spring and the fall. Baitfish generally will school and hold on particular types of bottom structure or in certain depths of water. Even though the bass’s body metabolism is slower, and you rarely will see a bass chasing schools of baitfish in the winter, bass will be holding in or near where those schools are concentrated. During the winter months, you’ll more than likely discover concentrations of bass where you find large groups of baitfish. In the winter months, bass, as well as baitfish, generally will be holding in or near the thermocline and/or close to some type of deep-water structure. In highland lakes, this structure may be a ledge, a drop-off or an outcropping of rocks located close to or on the thermocline. In lowland lakes, most often some type of bottom break like an old creek channel, a rocky point drop-off or the junction of a river and a creek channel may be the best place to search for baitfish and bass. In a midland lake that may have standing timber in deep water, you may find bass suspended in the tops of sunken timber – perhaps 20- to 40-feet down. But locating where the thermocline intersects some type of bottom break or bottom structure that has a concentration of baitfish is the key to finding winter bass.
Bass professional Paul Elias of Laurel, Mississippi, suggests fishing way out on the deep drops on long points to locate wintertime bass. He explains that, “These deep drops will occur where a point meets a channel or a river channel. I also will look for a deep slough adjacent to a deep flat. If I can find a 20-foot-deep flat that drops from 20 to 35 feet, I’ll search for bass along the bottom break. Too, I’ll look for bass along the main river channel. During the cold months, the bass will be in the deep water along the vertical drop. The deeper water provides a more-comfortable temperature for bass during the winter months. If there are dramatic changes in the weather, the bass easily can rise or fall in the water along that vertical drop to maintain a comfortable body temperature in these areas. Bass also may be found along these bottom breaks in heavy cover, such as standing trees along the river or creek channel breaks. The best way to catch the bass in the winter is to jig a spoon. The jigging spoon is one of the most-deadly wintertime baits an angler can fish, but it must be fished in conjunction with the depth finder to be effective.”