The small game hunters are still out there on the prowl and enjoying the last few weeks of hunting season but if you are a fisherman at heart and have been yearning for the feel of a largemouth bass on the end of your reel, take heart. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are plenty of bass to be caught in these cold weather months at your favorite local farm ponds if you pick the right times and lures. Obviously there are days when it’s just no fun fighting the extreme cold and most of us don’t enjoy fishing when there are icicles hanging off the rod but in our neck of the woods there are periods during January and February when you can land some of your best fish of the year without suffering from hypothermia.
First let’s take a look at weather patterns that might be favorable. During January and February it’s typically cold and often windy but we also have periodical warm-ups and these are what I’m looking for. If the weather man starts calling for three days in a row of temperatures between fifty and sixty and overnight lows that don’t get much below forty I start clearing my calendar to make sure I can go on that third day. Even if the warming trend lasts only a day or two there is still a great chance to catch some fish.
Windy conditions can also enhance your possibilities. Many of my best catches during January and February have come when the wind was blowing ten to twenty miles per hour. It seems that the best fishing occurs if the wind is out of the south or west and the worst is an east wind but I’m not going to stay home simply because of wind direction. Past experience tells me that if the temperatures are right and the wind is blowing, I’m going to concentrate on the banks and corners of the lake that the wind is blowing into. Now I know what you are thinking: running a john boat in that kind of wind is not much fun. The truth of the matter is that with the conditions I’ve described fishing from the bank is the most effective method to use.
My favorite lures for this winter pattern are blue and chrome Rattle Traps and number four Mepps Spinners (these are in-line spinners). I’ve also had excellent success with a small Shad Rap and even plastic worms. Those would be my top four picks and the Mepps is at the top of my list. A Mepps with a silver blade and no skirt is my personal preference.
Another reason I like the Mepps is that the blade is easier to get turning and keep turning than other similar lures like Rooster Tails. One other thing about the Mepps is to make sure you tie a barrel swivel about a foot and a half above the lure to prevent it from twisting your line. Regardless of which one you choose it’s best to work them as slow as possible.
I like to use a spinning reel when fishing the in-line spinner bait because it’s easier to work the bait more slowly and still get a good turn on the blade. A good bait casting reel, however is nearly its equal. As long as your line is in good shape and you have your drag set properly it really doesn’t matter what you use as long as you are comfortable with it.
Here are a couple of ideas on winter fishing if the weather just won’t get warm. I like to use a crankbait that will dive to about eight or ten feet. Red crawdad seems to be a good color.
You might also consider a black headed crappie jig with a black or yellow skirt. Let it sink to the bottom and use a very slow retrieve when the air and water temperature are still cold”.
In order to give you a few examples of the results of some of my winter trips I consulted my fishing journal. I’ve kept this journal since about 1995 and it was kind of fun to reminisce. Here are a few of the entries.
— Jan. 25, 1996 — Caught fifteen bass the biggest three weighing seven, five and three pounds. The temperature was in the low fifties and the wind was blowing about twenty miles an hour. Most caught on a Rattle Trap.
— Jan. 28, 1997 — Caught ten bass the largest weighing seven, five, five, and four pounds. Temperature was in the high fifties, wind was blowing about fifteen miles an hour and fish were caught on a Rattle Trap.
— Jan. 30, 1999 — Caught fifteen bass in about an hour on a Mepps Spinner. Temperature was in the low sixties.
— Feb. 12, 2000 — Caught thirty bass the three largest weighing in at six, six and five pounds. Temperature was mid-fifties and fish were caught on Mepps Spinner.
Jan. 27, 2002 — Caught forty bass the largest weighing eight pounds and two others weighing five pounds. There was very little wind and the temperature was in the high fifties. Many of the fish caught on a Shad Rap.
That list and pattern carries on to this day. There are plenty of fish to be caught before the spring warm up begins and these simple little tidbits of knowledge are all you will need to land your share of them. Our local ponds are one of the best sources of fishing during the winter and you don’t even have to get in a boat. Just get out there and enjoy the day.
Articles and columns by Alvin Richardson about hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports appear each Wednesday in the Statesboro Herald. Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.