Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Late November Bass

A few of my late fall bass trips have come up empty. But that is to be expected when you fish a species so far out of its optimum conditions. A hardore basser does not shirk away from a challenge so when I saw the forecast calling for near 70 degree temps…the pontooner was loaded up and hauled out to a Front Range Pond.

The one thing I brought today in multitude was patience. Slowly I began picking, prodding and searching for buckets. The sky was clear and the sun started beating down early. It felt like more like a summer day than a late Fall morning in November.

Just by looking at the lake and the angle of the sun it was easy to see what areas were basking in the warm sun and what areas were shaded and still sporting patches of snow. You had the Alaska Tundra or the Bahamas it seems with the contrast in ground temperature. Bass prefer the Bahamas so any island structure facing south was first on the list. After an hour of the slow-n-go my diligence was rewarded.

(Above: Stocky looking November bass. Even though the post is in December. There is a huge difference in my eyes between bass caught in December and January as opposed to those caught in November and even February. Late November bass are still pretty sweet.)

Sluggish bite, sluggish fight. No surface breaks or screaming drag. It was like pulling in a twitching log in the 2.5-pound range. It was a good way to set the pace for the rest of the day.

A long day. I will summarize as to spare you the laborious details. Covered the entire lake. Saw three more bass and spooked one of the three. Most of the time I would fish ahead of me and drift in a slow line under a breeze that you could barely feel. Sometimes the tooner would drift right over the structure and the fish would be right below me. Cast, sink, drop…wait…wait…bump…wait…bump…wait. Lift, reel, cast and repeat.

The lure selection was the same stuff I usually throw just fished a lot slower.

Fishing location makes a huge difference when chasing bass in late fall/early winter. Ponds and lakes with a healthy population of bass will put the odds and numbers in your favor. Cold water bassin’ is not the easiest thing to do so I tend to focus on my best producing lakes or ponds during the cold season. These are also places that I know fairly well meaning that I have a good idea where the best structure points are and have some seasonal/historic reference. Most fish tend to transition location throughout the year so knowing those transition patterns will help you fish the wintering grounds.

(Above: This illustration crudely represents how temperature range may look for any given body of water. Typically you assume the south side will be warmer. But trees and natural elements shade those areas and make them far cooler than the north that may receive a daily dose of direct sunlight. The red section is intended to be relatively shallow and not a vertical drop or ledge.)

Finding the most active areas for winter bass during a warm spell is simply a matter of knowing what to look for. Areas of water will vary in temperature if even only a few degrees depending on where you are. This difference in temperature will have a huge impact on the aggressiveness of warmwater fish like largemouth bass.

The shallow areas will heat up quickly and generate activity even in winter months. This area is generally on the north side that receives the most direct sunlight. The deeper water close this area is a prime target area for lurking bass. Vertical drop off areas on the north side can be pure gold. All lakes are different but these are general rules that help me find tough winter fish. Note: Some fish are stubborn and will hold to certain areas unless driven off by some force. Hence why you still may find one or two fish in shallow water as well as the colder areas.

Primary target areas are areas in the warmer water that have structure. The structure will congregate fish of all sizes. These may be the same areas that I pull fish from in the summer months. However the fish will be tucked much tighter to that structure and moving much slower.

Secondary target areas are areas that may be outside of the prime zone but still worth hitting. Some areas are so good that fish will winter in them regardless of the subtle drop in temps. More patience and more persistence may be needed to get these frigid jaws unlocked. And really therein lies the real frustration with winter bass fishing. You can locate the fish and even see them on the sonar. You practically hit the fish in the mouth with live bait and it still doesn’t bite. The fish just lumbers off a few feet like some magic floating rock. Cast. Cast…move on.

There is a ton of stuff that I am leaving out. The real keys are patience, fishing slow and hitting warm trends. Mattsabasser’s huge ass disclaimer: The best I can do is lay out general trends and guidelines that have worked for me overall. There are many exceptions to these rules in regards to winter bass fishing.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic

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