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The water temperature was 39.3 degrees and the air was 35 degrees when I left the ramp in my Jackson Cuda. A strong cold front was forecasted to move in, so I hoped the fish would be feeding before its’ arrival. I started my day with my favorite cold water lure, a suspending jerkbait. On the second cast it was nailed by a nice fish that shook the hook. I quickly cast back to the spot and on the third twitch my rod loaded up on a big fish. Once I got it close to the yak I realized it was a BIG pickerel. Once I landed it and put it on my Hawg Trough I saw its tail over the magical 24in mark, which is the minimum length for a Virginia State Trophy citation. Stoked about landing my first citation of 2014, I snapped a few pictures and released her. I kept throwing the jerkbait and after a couple more cast I connected with another big fish. The fish rolled and it was clear that this pickerel was even bigger than the first one! I carefully played the huge pickerel to the yak and was amazed by the size of this fish. When I put this one on the trough its tail was at 24.75, my second citation of the day! Not only was this fish longer, but it was really thick. After releasing the fish I threw my jerkbait for a couple more hours with no more luck. I called it a day and went back to the ramp.

For this type of fishing, I like to use a light action rod with a good bait casting reel. My favorite reel is the Daiwa Tatula. I can cast anything with this reel. On the Tatula I have 15lbs braid with a 6 foot piece of 8lbs fluorocarbon. As for colors, I like to match the bait to the natural baitfish in the lake. If the water is murky, however, I will use a brighter color like chartreuse. When I work a jerkbait in cold water I start by making a long cast. Then I give the reel 4 or 5 cranks to get the bait down to the same depth as the fish. (A depth finder is very helpful for this type of fishing.) Then I let the bait sit for anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds and then I start to twitch the bait, varying my retrieve. I repeat this all the way back to the boat.

Safety is always a concern when fishing in cold conditions. Remember to dress for the water temperature and always fish with a partner. Make sure you have good communications with a phone or VHF radio and it is always a good idea to leave a float plan with someone and make sure they know your plan for the day.