The Shutdown

By Scott Norton

Wintertime can be a time of feast or famine when it comes to catches. It is a lot like the summer shutdown with the downsizing and upsizing of baits just to get a bite. I do know that conventional baits that most people use all year will eventually not work at all. If you want to be successful, you have to use some good planning to put all the odds in your favor.

Let us talk about downsizing your baits and when to use them. Baits like the A-Rig, the jig, and the jerk bait will eventually start letting you down and that bite will taper off as the metabolism of bass comes to a halt. Downsizing will provide a better chance to just get something. “Why not just stop fishing in the winter?”, some will say. Winter can be that time of year when you get the chance at a new personal best. Baits, like the Ned Rig, finesse jig, and the finesse swim baits are a few baits that land that quality bite you strive for.

When is a good time to upsize your baits? If you have tried downsizing and it will not work, then go to your big swim baits and you can try for those giant bass. When you catch a bass in the winter, they will be at their highest body mass this time of the year, after all that feeding up in the fall. Your giant bass still must maintain their calorie intake just to survive. These large bass will not chaise down any small baits because they must conserve energy. They will, in fact, go for a large easy meal. Back a few years ago, you only had a few choices on large baits to use but today, you have so much to choose from. You now have burrito baits, which are big rubber swim baits you pull on the bottom slowly to get those big bites. A big flutter spoon can fit into upsizing as well when they go deep.

When you see water temperature starting to dip below the 50s is when this shutdown starts to rear its ugly head. You will notice the water getting gin clear so you will need to downsize your line as well. You will not be able to do this with your big baits; just make sure you use a good fluorocarbon line. In some cases, mono may be the way to go since fluorocarbon will shatter if the temperatures are too cold and over stressed. There are anglers on both sides of that fence, and both have their own process to use each type of line. Just know if you downsize your fluorocarbon line, you must have a rod that is more forgiving to absorb all that load. Bass this time of year really won’t fight that hard so it will be like dragging in a wet log.

The places to fish will be the backs of creeks or the main lake points where you will find rock and wood. It is all about getting warm for the fish. Start on the shorelines where the sun hits the water first in the morning. Running water in the backs of creeks will also be warmer than the rest of the water in the lake and is also a good place to try fishing. Hopefully, this will help a few people this winter that are looking to catch some winter bass this year. Good luck!

Scott Norton is a Western North Carolina native. Born in Asheville, N.C., he is a long-time hunter, angler and weekend warrior.

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