Wintertime Bass fishing can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. You don’t usually go out and catch fifty fish a day, but when you finally get bit it’s usually a good one. When the water gets cold the fish tend to spread out and suspend. They can literally be almost anywhere. There is, however, one place you might not have considered looking.
In the fall, the bait moves to the creeks and the fish follow. When water temps drop the fish don’t leave those places, they just get deeper. What is found in every creek arm is a creek channel, or what is referred to as a ditch. It is basically just a depression, or deep channel, that runs down the center of a pocket. On shallower lakes, the ditch won’t be as obvious. Deeper lakes you can actually often times see it on your map.
What makes a ditch such an attractive spot for bass is that over time any debris that falls into the lake eventually ends up in it. Any sticks, logs, brush, or trash finds its way there. So the fish have plenty of cover to hide in, allowing them to feed effectively. If they need to move deeper, it also gives them a path to follow to deeper water. A fish might spend the whole season in a singular ditch. The best part is that when you find one holding a group of fish, they usually don’t move very far away from it.
This has been a pretty cold season here in Georgia. The lows have been in the upper 20s and the highs have been in the low 50s. My buddies up north are probably rolling their eyes about that being cold. The cold weather has the water temps on Lake Lanier all the way down into the 40s; forcing the magnum spotted bass Lanier is famous for really deep. The positive part is the ditches have been on fire all winter long.
When you enter a cove with a ditch I like to stop the boat at the deepest place I think fish might be holding, and slowly move in. On Lanier, I have been starting in about 40 feet, and working my way up to around 20. Some days they are deeper, some days they are shallower. On a lake that doesn’t get much deeper than 20 feet, start fishing around 10 or 15 feet.
Often times you will catch a fish on your first cast in an area. The bigger the ditch is, the more fish you can pull from it before they spook. Narrower spots tend to only produce one or two before they shut down. Don’t waste your time in one spot for too long. If the bite shuts down, move on and go back to it later.
There are a few effective baits for fishing ditches. Deep Diving crankbaits are a great way to get big bit in these spots. Choose one that just barely hits the bottom of the depression. Underspins, like a Fish Head Spin, and spinnerbaits slow rolled near the bottom can be very successful also. Dragging a shaky head or dropping a drop shot usually can put a few in the boat as well.
My main weapon of choice though has been a homemade 7/16oz finesse jig. I have been fishing it between 30 and 40 feet deep around submerged trees and brush. When I hit the cover I slow down and work the jig through. When it comes off the other side, and falls back to the bottom, I usually when I get bit.
The most productive color has been a darker green pumpkin with some strands of orange mixed in. I don’t feel jig color has been nearly as important as my choice of trailer. I have been exclusively using a 5 inch Yamamoto twin tail grub in cinnamon black flake. The twin tail does two things. First off it makes the jig fall slower. This is important because the fish aren’t willing to move very far to get it. If it falls too fast past them they lose interest in it. The second reason it is important is that even at the slowest speeds the tails move. They are much more subtle than a normal chunk, but that’s a good thing too.
Rod and Reel
I have been throwing the jig on a Dobyns Champion 735C with a Daiwa Zillion 6.3:1 gear ratio. Having a sensitive rod, like the Dobyns, is important because the bites are often very light. I am using 17 pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon aids in sensitivity and has less stretch. InvizX is tough to beat too. It is some of the strongest line I have ever used.
Go Get Em
Putting your boat out in the middle takes some confidence, but once you have figure this bite out you’ll understand why it’s so good. Pick a lake, find a ditch, and whack on them. It’s a great way to have some of the best winter time fishing you have ever had.
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