Fishing the Fall/Winter Transition
article by Kenny Covington
Of all the months of the year that seem to perplex fisherman the most, I would have to rank December at the top of the list. If our fall season has been quite mild, the fish can still be caught in a variety of ways on several bodies of water. The idea is that bass will move from the active feeding mode that comes with the fall season to moving to deeper areas to prepare for winter. But remember, they still have to eat.
The fall/winter transition for bass fishing in Louisiana has always been a year to year experience. I have caught bass on topwaters in December and turn around a few days later hoping it would warm up so I could get back on the water. Weather has always been an important variable when it comes to fishing, but it is by adjusting to the weather and keeping things simple that make late fall and early winter fishing trips successful.
The first thing you want to try and do is keep your lure selection as basic as possible. This time of year only a handful of lures are needed, and I rarely change while out on the water. I know from experience that I will need a few lures that I can cover water with, and I will also need a lure or two I can slowly drag along the bottom.
As I mentioned earlier, I will still throw a topwater, even though it is “winter time.” The only two I will throw are a buzzbait and a spook. A few years ago I did a video fishing on Caney Lake the day after Thanksgiving and caught fish on a buzzbait while most fishermen were fishing the break lines out deep. A spook is also an excellent choice this time of year, because you can vary the cadence to match the water conditions. Both lures are excellent for big bass this time of year, and I will use them until the water hits the 50 degree mark.
The next set of lures that I will choose to throw have always been fall/winter standards for me. One is a ½ ounce Rat L Trap or a Strike King KVD Red Eye Shad in either a chrome/blue color scheme or a sexy shad pattern. My other choice is a shad patterned shallow crankbait in either a 200 series Bandit or a Luck E Strike RC2 Squarebill. These lures allow me to effectively cover the four to eight foot water column and in the process present lures that I can control the action and retrieve rate which can vary due to water temperatures or weather conditions.
The last set of lures I like to throw when fishing a fall/winter transition is a Carolina rig and a Football jig. Both are bottom contact lures, so you have to be in areas that are conducive to their usage. The C rig and Football jig are better suited to hard bottom terrain, but both can be altered to be used in situations where there is grass, such as coontail or Asian milfoil, on the bottom. By simply going to a lighter weight or lure on both set ups, I can effectively fish most grass situations.
When using the C rig, I like to use the Zoom centipede for my choice of soft plastic. I think the size of the bait better resembles the size forage the bass are feeding on. As far as a trailer for my football jig I like to use a twin tailed grub that will match the base color of the jig I am throwing.
Another lure that I find extremely effective this time of year is a spinnerbait. I can use it close to the surface, slow roll it or even use it as a drop bait similar to fishing a worm or a jig. To keep things simple, I use a 3/8 ounce chartreuse/white Colorado-willow leaf combination but it tends to work best in fisheries with a good water stain.
When it comes to specific areas for fall/winter fishing, the first thing I look for is grass. If it is submerged, I will focus on both working lures such as the Trap or spinnerbait through it or on the outside edges of it. Or maybe throwing the topwater over the top of it might be the ticket. From my experience, the water never gets too cold to catch fish in grass.
Docks, steeper banks near channel swings, rocky banks and deeper flats are other good choices when searching for bass traveling from their fall feeding areas to their winter homes. Like I mentioned earlier if the weather will stay consistent and the water temperature stays above 48 degrees, some of the biggest bass of the year can still be caught in less than six feet of water.
I sure hope these tips will help you while you are on the water during this holiday season. Please be careful and catch one for me! Merry Christmas everybody! I will see you next month.