Winter Time Fishing On The Big ‘O’

We are always looking for excuses for why we didn’t catch fish and this time of year the cold water is at the top of the list. I think this is the best topic for me to talk about because both of my FLW tour wins involved air temperatures below or near the 32 degrees freezing point. Here is what you hear from most anglers, slow down and use smaller baits. This is the opposite of what I’ve learned over the years.

Let me go back in time to a mega bass tournament on the Harris Chain of Lakes many years ago. The weather was warm the first three days of the event with highs in the 80s. I was fishing a Bagley DB3 crank bait in the deep pads and was catching big bass and I was in second place going into the last two days at Little Lake Harris. Well what happened with the weather was a real shock to me. The lows the night before the finals dropped into the mid-20s. Water temperatures dropped 15 degrees in one night and we were fishing in snowmobile suits, far from the shorts and t-shirts the day before.

I guess you are wondering how I did, well I didn’t catch a single bass the last two days and out of the top 10 anglers that made the finals I was 10th. The lessons I learned from that event made me one of the best anglers in the world when it came to fishing in very cold weather. It’s also the reason I won those two FLW events on Lake Okeechobee when the weather was so cold. Jim Bitter won that mega bass event by fishing a Bomber Long A jerk bait. I used the jerk bait to win both of the FLW events here on the Big ‘O’.

Now why will a bass hit a big bait fished very fast when the water is very cold and they are not feeding? The answer is simple, a bass is a cold blooded predator and it’s the nature of all predators, even cold blooded ones, to clean up any injured prey. It‘s how nature works. Nothing in your tackle box looks more injured than a jerk bait fished properly. There are a couple of things you still need to make them strike the jerk bait. You need clear water so they can see the bait. If you’re fishing in dingy water the bass can’t see the bait so they have less reaction to it. You also need to present it properly, just cranking it in will not work. You need to finesse the bait to make it appear injured. Now I’m not saying you’ll go out and use this technique during a cold front and catch 100 bass, but you will catch some and in cold weather conditions you usually don’t need a heavy bag to win. I think when I won the FLW event here in Okeechobee in 2000 I had only 13lbs a day, but it was more than anyone else in the event and I got a lot of bites when some of the best anglers in the world couldn’t even catch one 12 inch bass. This lesson learned many years ago turned me into an angler that is not afraid of cold water and even though Florida bass don’t like it, when it’s cold you can still make some of them hit your lures.

Here are a couple of tips that are working on the Big ‘O’ right now. When you are fishing around the spawning areas on these cold days, use a jerk bait that will float up when you stop it so you can work it around the submerged grass. A suspending bait might work better but it stays hung up in the grass and is not very efficient. Keep the floating jerk bait up where you can see it and hang on, you will get some bites.