Getting Ready for Wintertime Fishing

By Steve Graf

 It’s that time again, another fishing season is upon us. Now begins the preparation for bass tournament competitions. Almost 95% of all tournament trails crank up in the month of January. With January comes one of two things, very cold days or sometimes we get what is called an Indian Summer. Don’t ask me why it’s called that, because I have not done any research with regard to this topic.

But usually, it means some very cold weather conditions that can bring not only low temperatures but sleet and snow on rare occasions. Today we’ll look at how we not only prepare for these types of conditions but also what goes into getting ready to fish.

Cold temperatures dipping into the upper 20s and low 30s are fairly common in both January and February. The most important part of being able to fish in these conditions means dressing properly. We’ve all heard how you’re supposed to dress in layers and this is exactly what you better do. In order to focus and concentrate on fishing you better be comfortable and warm. Nothing is worse than trying fish and your entire focus is on how cold it is and that you can’t wait for this event to be over so you can get back to your truck and thaw out.

The only other thing worse than being cold; is being wet and cold. This is why you never pinch pennies when it comes to good rain gear or outerwear. Both Bass Pro Shop’s 100 MPH suit and SIMMS outerwear make some of the best rain gear money can buy. For me, this was the first lesson learned while fishing as a co-angler on the FLW Tour back in 2004. Nothing is more valuable than good rain gear made from Gortex. Some anglers can fish with gloves and some cannot. Fishing with gloves is not for me because of my inability to feel the line coming off the spool when casting. But it is highly recommended that you have a good pair of gloves with handshake warmers inside them while making those cold boat runs. Another thing that’s a must-have during cold weather fishing, is good socks. This is sometimes the most overlooked item when it comes to staying warm. There are a ton of options from a wool/cotton blend to electric; you just have to try different kinds and see what works for you. 

Now let’s talk tackle and what baits will be my primary go-to for this time of year. First and foremost, no good angler will hit the cold waters of January and February without a Rat-L-Trap style bait tied on. For me, there are actually two that I totally rely on; the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap and the SPRO Aruku Shad in two colors, Toledo Gold and Texas Craw both of which are primarily orange-colored baits. If you’re only given one bait to fish this time of year, make sure it’s a rattling-style bait like the Trap or the Aruku Shad.

 Next, an A-Rig, this umbrella-style rig is a go-to when the bass is feeding on shad and is a great way to locate schools of bass. Another bait that will be tied on is a Chatter Bait. No other bait has probably been more productive at catching bass in the last 15 years than the Chatter Bait. This is basically nothing more than a skirted bass jig with a small blade attached to the head of the bait that creates a fish-attracting side-to-side vibrating action that bass cannot resist.

There was a time when the number one bait of choice for wintertime fishing was a jig. A lot of money has been won over the years with what anglers call a jig and pig. This is a combination of a skirted jig paired with a crawfish imitator in either soft plastic or actual pork rind. Pork rind is used mainly during cold temperatures when you’re looking for a more subtle presentation. While there are other baits that are good choices, the ones talked about today are the ones most anglers will have tied on this time of year.

Here’s a tip that might save you the headache of trying to pry open those frozen shut rods and storage compartments on your boat.  A cold rain followed by freezing temperatures will literally seal each compartment shut on your boat, but if you will leave each storage lid partially open and not completely closed, it will save you the hassle of having to use hot water to get them open.

Wintertime fishing can be really productive and it’s also a good time to catch lunker bass. But you just have to make sure you are prepared for the conditions you’re likely to face when fishing with an old man in winter. Having the right tackle and the right clothing will make your cold-weather fishing much more enjoyable.    

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