We’re headed into the tail end of winter, so if you’ve been suffering from cabin fever, ANGLR Expert Jef Nelson is here to yank you out of your recliner and get you out on the water. It’s time to welcome the upcoming sunshine and get ready to chase down some bass with some late winter jig fishing!
Late Winter Jig Fishing: Take Advantage of the “Warmer” Days
I’ll take any chance I get to shake off cabin fever. One of those days in early to late March when you can get out on the lake here in Pennsylvania, providing there is no ice, or only a thin coating of it- there’s nothing like it!
Since it’s still rather chilly around here in March, I’m usually not in too much of a hurry to be out on the water at the crack of dawn. I’ll usually get to the lake around 9:00 a.m. because I know the higher the sun gets, the warmer the fish are becoming, and they’ll move with the bait.
Late Winter Jig Fishing: Finding the Bass
I launch my Skeeter ZX200 with three graphs mounted on it. I have my Humminbird electronics all set to look for different things by using 2D sonar, side imaging, and HD downscan. I think of them as lie detectors, checking myself to make sure that what I think I’m seeing is exactly what I’m looking at.
I start out idling because the no wake zones are so large here, searching for baitfish. Here in PA, they can be difficult to find this time of year. I look around out in the middle of coves and creek arms to begin with. Sometimes you get lucky, but most times you don’t. I next move on to idling around secondary points in those coves and creek arms. Most of the time that’s to no avail, as well, because the water surface temperature is still hanging around that 37-43℉ mark.
When I reach the end of the no wake zone, I ask myself if I should stay the course, or head out to the main lake. Heading out deeper is usually not a good idea here unless we have some seriously freakish weather patterns with temperatures in the 50’s and a lot of sun for days on end. That rarely ever happens around here.
I usually decide to stay the course and start looking at secondary points in the 15-30 foot range with shallow water access readily available.
I’m focusing on a little cut in the bank or a long-extending underwater point. Somewhere in there you’ll find the bait suspended off the ends of those points or over a small point with shallow water access in that water column. Once you find them, GAME ON!
Late Winter Jig Fishing: Putting the Bass in the Boat
I always use a scent on my jigs. My preference is Liquid Mayhem in any of the crawfish scents they offer, just because I feel that, at this time of year, crawfish add more calories to the bass’ diets, helping preserve the fat content they need to come out of their winter rigamortis.
I start out trying to entice the bass on the shallower side of the bait by dragging a ½-ounce Jewel Football Jig with blue and black flash skirt with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr in green pumpkin threaded onto the jig to keep it as compact as possible out to about 15-foot. Sometimes you can catch some hefty bass sunning themselves on the shallower side of the bait, so try to set your boat right on top of the bait, keeping track of them with your electronics. Usually you’ll catch those fish in those little cuts in the bank or up on the shallow side of the flat underwater point.
If you don’t get a bite there, don’t worry, your trip isn’t over.
Move your boat off of the bait a little deeper, say at about 35-50 foot. You won’t see the bait anymore, but don’t worry, you’ll still usually be in contact with them. They’re pretty thick this time of the year.
Late Winter Jig Fishing: Bumping up the Jig Size
I bump my jig size up to a ¾ ounce, because now I’m looking for a reaction; I want something that moves a lot of water. I’ll still use the same colors, but I also bump my trailer up to the larger size Zoom Super Chunk or a four inch Berkley Chigger Craw in green pumpkin or black and blue.
When you cast that bait out to where you know the baitfish are, you’ll feel the jig bump up against them as it falls down through the school. It’s very crucial to watch your line during this cast for any indication of it jumping or wandering off to one side or the other.
I believe that when it contacts the bait, it panics them a little bit and gets the bass excited and in a mood to feed.
In addition, that ¾ ounce bait makes a large thud on the bottom, which gets the bass’ curiosity peaked so they come over to investigate. When you get a bite off of the bottom, it usually feels like dead weight, as opposed to the shallower bites that feel like they want to rip the rod out of your hands. Once you find this type of scenario, you can duplicate it up and down the entire lake most of the time, depending on water clarity. Here, we’re not usually impacted by cold rains and flooding, so the lake is a little more stable when it comes to water clarity. By now, it’s also settled from being calm through the winter, or covered with icy protection.
Late Winter Jig Fishing: Use the Right Gear
For bringing these fish into the boat, my tools of choice are Duckett Micro Magic Pro with the new Kigan Guides on them. The Kigan guides are just a smidge larger than the original Micro guides, but are still very small and virtually indestructible because of the way they are designed. I like the 7’3” for the ½ ounce jig for the shallower side of the bait paired with a 16-pound FC Sniper fluorocarbon line from Sunline. For the shallower depths, I like the same Duckett rod, only in a 7’6” medium-heavy action with 17-lb fluorocarbon from Sunline.
I pair both rods with Lew’s Super Duty reels in the 7-1.1 gear ratio to pick up the slack as fast as possible, while still leaving enough gearing to handle bigger fish. I used to operate under the assumption that having an 8-1.1 reel would be awesome, but I’ve found that anything over a 7-1.1 causes you to lose a lot of winching power.
Pay attention to your electronics closely, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. Once you catch that first fish, you won’t be cold any longer! Always use your ANGLR Bullseye to keep a record of when and where you’re finding these fish from year to year. Life is always a little easier and more enjoyable when you have such a great tool only one click away.
Quit wishin’ and let’s get fishin’!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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