Fishing Tips


Posted 3/21/2012

Tournament angler Bill Lowen’s most recent fishing trip, during which he caught and released 25 healthy largemouths while fishing in 39-degree water on a cold, drizzly day, surprised everyone except Lowen himself. Afterall, the Yamaha Pro frequently fishes under such conditions in lakes near his Indiana home.

Lowen’s secret is downsizing to a 1/8-ounce finesse jig and sliding it over the top of last summer’s vegetation. What surprises everyone is that Lowen seldom fishes deeper than 10 feet to catch his bass.

“It’s not only one of the most productive cold water techniques I know for bass, it’s also one of the easiest to use,” explains Lowen, a regular competitor in Bassmaster® Elite Series competition and a three-time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic.® “If there is one key that’s absolutely essential, it’s finding vegetation very close to deeper water but even that isn’t hard to do.

“On most lakes, the vegetation tends to grow in the same places year after year. During the winter, the vegetation dies so when you fish it this time of year, it’s only three or four inches tall, but the bass still use it.”

With fine-tuned electronics, short greenery like this can be identified, but even without a depthfinder, anglers can simply return to the same places they may have fished months earlier when the vegetation may have been visible on or near the surface.

“The important part of this technique is concentrating where that vegetation grows near the edge of a ditch or creek channel,” continues the Yamaha Pro. “That deeper water provides security as well as comfort to the fish. I like to look in the backs of bays and large pockets where a creek channel may flow in, because in normal water conditions, vegetation grows out to depths of about 10 feet due to water clarity. All I do is look for the edge of a creek channel at that depth.”

Lowen uses the light, 1/8-ounce jig because he can slide or finesse it right over the top of this vegetation. He doesn’t crawl it along the bottom or through the vegetation, but rather, retrieves it very slowly and steadily, only stopping occasionally to shake the jig in place.

He adds a small plastic trailer to help slow the jig’s fall and to add bulk to the lure’s profile; the only jig and trailer colors he uses in cold water are green pumpkin and black/blue combinations. He matches the jig and trailer with eight to 12 pound fluorocarbon line and a medium action 7’3” limber-tipped baitcasting rod.

“Very rarely do I change anything about this combination,” notes Lowen. “If I’m fishing in windy conditions, I might use a slightly heavier 3/16-ounce jig, but I won’t use anything heavier, even a ¼-ounce jig, because it tends to sink into the vegetation. This forces you to retrieve faster to keep them above the vegetation, but bass don’t like fast retrieves in cold water. 

“At the same time, I don’t use anything lighter than 1/8-ounce because I have trouble feeling such a light lure. I prefer baitcasting rather than spinning tackle, but spinning rods and reels can certainly be used.

“All I do is keep my boat out in 12-to-15 feet of water and cast the jig into about six feet, then just start finessing it out toward the edge of the breakline by moving the lure with my rod tip, not the reel. I’ll stop the jig, shake it a moment, reel in slack, and start sliding it again. 

“When bass hit it, you know you’ve had a strike, too. Most of the fish I catch this way actually swallow the jig.”

Overall, concludes the Yamaha Pro, fishing smaller jigs and concentrating on last year’s vegetation probably ranks as one of the most reliable techniques to try for cold water bass. The vegetation will still be in the same places it grew during the summer, and as long as the bass have deeper water nearby, they’ll be close to that vegetation as well.