If you want to get the "big bite" during winter you'll have to slow things down to a snails pace. This is particularly true when fishing bottom dragging baits like, hair jigs, paddle tails, tubes, and small crawfish imitations. Here are five quick tips for presenting those baits right!
Take the high road - Keep a high angle moving the rod tip slowly from 10:00 to 12:00. The high angle will help reduce snags and allow for maximum feel. Move the bait with your rod tip, not the reel. Reel up the slack slowly after each drag.
Hit the pause button - Drag the bait slow and make a long pause before the next drag. The cold blooded winter smallmouth bass is in an almost "catatonic" state. It's senses are dulled and reaction times are slowed significantly. Give them a chance to see the bait and decide to eat the bait.
Play Hard Ball - Use exposed lead rigging options when possible like football or ball head jigs. This will allow you to feel the bait grinding over rocks, gravel and other structure. When you don't feel the grind, you've dragged into some kind of soft plant matter or bottom... or you got a bite so set the hook!!
Get Connected - Use braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. The braided line will increase your feel significantly allowing you to detect even the lightest bite. The fluorocarbon leader is useful because winter water tends to be fairly clear. I have found over the years that I get more bites in clear water when I use a floro leader.
What’s That?- If you feel something "different" set the hook. What do I mean by "different"? Here are a few examples. Set the hook when you feel a "tap", a "thump", a "mushy feeling", "absence of weight" or ANYTHING that doesn't feel like your bait dragging on bottom.
These five simple “core tips” have contributed greatly over the years to my winter fishing success. Yes there are other nuances to the cold water fishing game but non as central to getting the job done. So when the air temperature drop into the single digits and the water temperatures are in the 30’s remember, winter fishing is a drag… a slow drag!
Juan Veruete is an American Canoe Association certified kayak instructor and a licensed fishing guide in Pennsylvania. He conducts kayak fishing classes and guided trips on the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers through his business Kayak Fish PA, LLC.