Jerkbaits and jigs are so good in the winter. They can be fished slowly to catch cold, sluggish bass. They both work well on lowland and highland reservoirs and in rocky and grassy areas. They work well for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The two best food sources for bass in winter are minnows and crawfish. Jerkbaits catch bass that are feeding on minnows and jigs catch bass that are feeding on crawfish.
Suspending jerkbaits target tough-to-catch bass that are suspended in the water column. A suspended jerkbait gets down to the target depth where bass are and will stay at that depth throughout the retrieve. Suspending jerkbaits mimic minnows in 4-8 feet of water. Since minnows are inactive in winter, it is important to employ a slow retrieve when fishing a jerkbait. Sometimes, I’ll let one sit still for 3-5 seconds in between jerks. The best areas for this technique are rocky banks, bluff, points and docks. These are all likely places where bass suspend and feed on minnows.
My favorite suspending jerkbait is a Megabass Vision 110. I prefer the translucent colors in clear water and shad colors in stained water. This jerkbait is very lifelike with a great erratic action. It also has a weight transfer chamber that shifts weight from the head to the tail during a cast that helps with castability during windy situations. When bass suspend deeper and the Vision 110 isn’t drawing bites, I switch to a Spro McStick. This jerkbait dives 2 or 3 feet deeper than the Megabass, and its action is more subtle. Sometimes this difference in depth and action is the trick to catching lethargic bass.
Using the right equipment is essential to being successful with a jerkbait. I use 8-10 pound test Trilene 100 percent fluorocarbon on an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel and an Abu Garcia Veritas 6’6” medium action rod. I use 8-10 pound test line because I feel that it gives the jerkbait more action and makes it look more natural in the water.
Jigs are great baits all year long because they resemble crawfish so well. If bass aren’t feeding on minnows in the winter, they will hunker down close to the bottom and feed on crawfish. Similar to minnows, crawfish are very lethargic in cold water and they move slowly along the bottom. I use a subtle drag-and-pause retrieve when I am jig fishing in cold water because it resembles a sluggish crawfish. Jigs work anywhere where a crawfish can hide like rocks or wood. Rocky shorelines with laydowns, points and creeks with sand and rock are great places to use a jig in the winter.
Water clarity dictates the color and size of jigs that I use. In muddy water, I prefer dark colors and in clear water I prefer natural colors like green pumpkin. I like a jig that has a slow sink rate in the winter, so I normally use 1/4-3/8 ounce jigs. I use a football jig most of the time but if I am fishing around wood, I will switch to a flipping jig.
A jig trailer is just as important as the jig itself. It’s what brings the jig to life, as it resembles crawfish pinchers. In the winter, I choose pork trailers over plastic trailers. Uncle Josh pork trailers have a better action and scent in cold water than plastic trailers. If I’m targeting largemouth, I use a jig with a larger profile, so a 3.5” Meat Craw trailer. When fishing for spotted and smallmouth bass, a smaller profile jig is necessary, like an Uncle Josh 2.75” Little Crawdad trailer.
Some of the biggest bass that I have ever caught came in the winter, and fishing slow with jerkbaits and jigs are my two favorite ways of catching cold water bass. Most guys quit when it gets cold, but for those of us that endure the elements, we know the potential that winter has to offer.