Cold Water Bassing with Mark Menendez

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11/21/2011 – story by Mark Menendez – images courtesy of Mark Menendez

Outdoor enthusiasts may be changing focus with hunting season at this time of the year. However, the hardcore angler realizes that late fall means less boats and more fish! Bass can still be caught power fishing in colder water. The key to cold water angling is water clarity. Bass in cleaner cold water will readily strike, while dirty water bass in cold water are very hard to catch. Anglers just have to make a few adjustments in their techniques to be successful.

MarkMenendezColdWaterCrankEarly winter angling revolves around the shad population. Cold water temperatures are most stressful environmental factor the baitfish has to endure. The colder the water temperatures, then the stresses on the shad are exponentially increased. Mother Nature will let the winter become very cold on occasion. This is her way of making some room in the lake. The carrying capacity of a body of water will only hold a finite amount of fish at any time. Extended cold water periods will kill off a quantity of the shad population to make room in the lake or river. Bass will make an easy meal with these struggling baitfish.

Bass in the winter months tend to feed up and down in the water column. This translates in to areas that the late calendar fish tend to inhabit until spring. Anglers need to find main lake or primary major embayment points. These points need to be open to the elements. Bass always bite better on exposed windy structure. These points require two characteristics; the point needs a shallower flat or flat spot on the point, which will serve as the ambush or feeding station. Additionally, rocky areas will up the opportunities for bass to feed. The second factor is deep water adjacent to the feeding station. When conditions become favorable to feed, the bass will move up to the feeding station; then, after feeding, the bass will retreat to the sanctuary of the depths.

Falling water temperatures can provoke a topwater bite. Water temperatures in the middle fifties can make a buzzbait a target for a big bass. A Strike King Tour Grade Buzzbait is a fantastic choice for cold water buzzing. The absolute key for this technique is to slow down. The cold blooded bass is the same temperature as the water. Fifty something degree bass will chase a bait; they just move slower. A slower gear ratio reel, like a Lew’s Tournament MG casting reel with 5.4:1 gear ratio has the ability to retrieve the buzzbait with a plop, plop, and plop sound of a barely turning blade. The Lew’s Tournament MG has a deeper spool for holding 17-20 line needed to slow the bait more on the retrieve. A seven foot PG144 Power Tackle Casting rod has a limber tip for accuracy as well as the backbone to fight a top water lunker.

When the water temperatures reach the middle forties, crankbaits can be the ticket. In cleaner water a Strike King Strike Shad has a narrow, tight wiggle that bass love. Parallel casting along the edge of the feeding flat can result in major dividends. A long casting spinning outfit helps this five to seven foot diving bait reach its potential. Choose a light action six to seven foot spinning rod with a large diameter spool reel. The Lew’s Speed Spin has the large spool. This will help the eight-pound-test line behave in the colder conditions for longer casts. The action that is provided by a spinning reel pulling the crankbait is preferred by the bass during this season.

SAMSUNGWhen cranking rocky areas, a Strike King Series 3 will deflect off of the rocks creating a reaction from the bass. Shad like colors are needed with this technique. Sexy Shad, Chartreuse Shad, and Gizzard Shad patterns match the forage. If water clarity darkens, then color combinations like Chartreuse Sexy Shad, Ghost, and Watermelon Shad add visibility for the bass.
Water temperatures below 42 degrees indicate winter has arrived. The buzzbait window is over. The crankbait still is an option. Cold clean water is a major factor at this time. Traditional vertical techniques are productive. A vertically dropped Sexy Spoon can lead to very fast winter time action. Look for schools on flat spots with deep water access.

The trick here is to look deeper in the water column than the crankbait areas. The ends of points, bluffs, and creek channel swings are prime areas. A Lowrance HDS 8 will give the angler the clear view of the structure. The Down Scan Imaging allows the angler to find groups of fish that are relating to the structure or to baitfish. In the colder depths, bass tend to relate to the structure (bottom contours) stronger than cover. A great winter spot may be void of cover. Hard bottoms are preferred by winter bass. This type of fishing will involve looking more with the depth finder than actual casting. Once the school is located, then the fish can be as productive as any time of the year.

Always take precautions when fishing in the late season. Carry a spare set of warm dry clothes, gloves, and hats. Let loved ones know the general area that is intended for fishing. A thermos of warm soup or drink can really help to beat the cold. Winter angling is a lonely man’s sport. The fishing can be as hot as a summer day!

Mark Menendez is a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Markmenendez.com
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