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Cold Water Bass With Ice Jigs


When cold winds sweep across Table Rock Lake and gray clouds spit snow, you won’t find FLW pro Jeremy Lawyer at home on the couch. Instead, he’s bundled up in heavy clothing, staring at his fish finder and “video gaming” deep, timber-dwelling bass on his electronics with a Turnback Shad, an example of the type of small, minnow-shaped jigging bait that previously was reserved for ice fishermen. “These are definitely dead-of-the-winter types of baits,” says Lawyer, 39, of Sarcoxie, Mo. “In these deep Ozarks reservoirs, the bass will suspend in the treetops of timber that might be in as much as 100 feet of water. These ice-fishing baits are perfect for that type of fishing. They’re heavy, so they drop quickly. And they dart around and glide just like a baitfish. A lot of times, bass will just smash them.” The technique once was a guarded secret in the Ozarks. Guides would go out in the dead of winter and catch keeper bass on Rapala Jigging Raps – regarded as the original ice-jigging bait – on reservoirs such as Table Rock, Lake of the Ozarks, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Beaver. But the word is out. Today, bass fishermen such as Lawyer consider the jigging baits to be among their “go-to” lures in the winter.


Jigging baits are rapidly growing in popularity in regions such as the Ozarks, where clear, deep-water reservoirs provide an ideal setting for fishing them. “I’ll go into a creek, idle through there and look for the deep flooded timber,” Lawyer says. “If you don’t have at least 25 feet from the bottom of your boat to the top of the timber, it’s not worth fishing. The bass will be in those treetops, waiting to ambush shad. And a lot of times, they’ll be grouped up in the winter.” Still, Lawyer doesn’t wait for his locator to light up like a pinball machine. “I want to see bait there but not an overwhelming amount,” he says. “I’m looking for a pod of baitfish, and maybe 10 to 15 fish around those baitfish. That’s when I know I can get their attention.”

Lure Presentation:

For vertical fishing with jigging baits, the same is true whether on open water or the ice: An angler has to read the fish on electronics and “work” them with the lure. Most bass anglers call it video game fishing. “I can drop that bait right in front of his nose and just dart it around,” says Lawyer, who gets a better view of the situation with a giant Lowrance HDS-16 Carbon depth finder. He fishes a jigging bait by snapping it up 12 to 24 inches, then allowing it to fall on a slack line. “When the bait doesn’t fall after I’ve hopped it, it’s usually a fish and I’ll set the hook,” he says. The technique is designed to get reaction strikes. Bass often bite on the initial drop or the first two or three snaps. If he hasn’t gotten a strike after roughly 10 snaps, Lawyer will reel up and try a different part of the treetop. “Sometimes, all it takes is that bait hitting a limb and kicking up some algae or something for them to react and hit,” he adds. “When I can watch on my screen and see bass streak up to my bait, I know they’re in the right mood to bite.” It’s also important not to cling to just one presentation. The snap method that Lawyer uses works when bass seem to be feeding actively, or when they are competing for food with several other fish in the same area. But he also has days when it takes a series of subtle twitches to get neutral bass to bite.

Rappin’ Winter Bass November/December 2017 FLW Bass Fishing (Brent Frazee pg. 59 – 62)
Re-published with permission.

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