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WINTER'S BEST BASS CHOICE? CONSIDER SMALL CRANKBAITS

Posted 1/3/2013

Colder weather seldom stops Mark Davis from going bass fishing. All the Yamaha Pro does to adjust is tie on a smaller crankbait and use lighter tackle. 

Davis, winner of the 1995 Bassmaster Classic® as well as three Angler of the Year titles, is well-known for his expertise using diving lures, so his lure choice comes as no surprise. He fishes water less than 15 feet deep, and often uses spinning rods and eight pound fluorocarbon line.

“What I’m searching for this time of year is slightly off-color or dingy water,” emphasizes Davis, “because bass always move shallow in those conditions, regardless of the time of year. Often, a winter rain will create a dingy water situation in tributary creeks, too, so those are some of the best times and places to fish during the winter. 

“Dingy water is not muddy water. If the water temperature is below 50 degrees, I want to have two to three feet of visibility, and if the temperature is above 50 degrees, I’ll fish it with just one foot of visibility. If I don’t have that type of visibility, I won’t fish that water. Bass fishing in cold, muddy water with little or no visibility is extremely difficult.” 

 

 

This is one of the few times of the year the Yamaha Pro does not look for baitfish to help him locate bass. Rather, he concentrates on structure and depth changes. Some of his favorite places to fish include points, channel bends, and ledges. He’ll usually keep his boat in deeper water and make casts along the edges of these breaklines and across points so he covers a variety of depths on each cast.

“This what makes a one of the best lures to use now,” he explains. “I’ll use both spinning and baitcasting tackle, depending on the size of the fish and amount of cover, but I try to make long casts so I can get the lure to the bottom quickly. That’s because bass are usually feeding a lot on crawfish during the winter, so once my crankbait hits the bottom, I really work it with my rod. 

“I’ll stop and start it, bump rocks and logs, even sweep my rod to move the lure one or two feet at a time. I don’t do this at full speed, however. I slow everything down because I know the bass aren’t as active. The crawfish aren’t moving very fast, so I don’t reel the crankbait fast, either.”

 

 

 

Another reason Davis prefers crankbaits in the winter is simply because they’re easier and more comfortable to use than jigs, another popular lure associated with cold weather bass. Fishing a crankbait requires him to stay active by reeling and working his rod and making more casts. Typically, on bright but cold days, fishing like this is usually better in the afternoons, because bass may be in shallower depths and slightly more active.

“I think the real key that makes this technique so effective is understanding the water conditions and how they move bass into shallow water, even when it’s cold,” continues Davis. “You’ll find different visibility conditions as you motor up a tributary, especially if you fish right after a rain, and you may actually motor through muddy water before you find the right conditions.

“Normally, the upper end of any lake, as well as the very backs of tributaries will muddy first, but they’ll also be the first to clear. Thus, you might find a section or an area of a tributary that offers dingy water conditions even though water may be clear both above and below it. Really, the more you fish this pattern, the easier it becomes to recognize the right water situation.”

Still another reason Davis enjoys this type of winter fishing is because when he catches one bass, it frequently means he’s found a school of fish and he’ll be able to catch several more without moving his boat. These schools are usually tightly bunched, which makes accurate casting important, but this is when some of the heaviest bass of the winter can be caught. 

“Winter crankbaiting is something I started doing years ago as a guide on Lake Ouachita,” says the Yamaha Pro, “ and I’ve been able to do it on lakes all across the country. It’s a different way to fish in cold weather, but it can really be fun because it’s so effective.”