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With winter lingering in the not so distant future, and cabin fever being a real thing, I would like to share one of my favorite ways to get out of the house during the colder months and still enjoy the sport of kayak fishing we all know and love.

First and foremost when the water and air temperature drops, safety becomes the utmost priority. Having a change of clothes in the car, wearing your PFD and dry suit, and fishing with someone close by to help in case of an emergency is HIGHLY recommended. Cold water is a killer and any exposure to it in extreme conditions can be fatal without the proper gear. So keep this in mind when going fishing during the winter months. Have a plan in place just in case the worst would happen.

Now to the fishing part! A few winters back someone introduced me to the hair jig and my life has since forever been changed. I used to stay at home and focus on other things during the winter or distract myself organizing gear or buying new tackle (that I don’t need). Now after effectively learning how to fish a hair jig I have become a winter time angler and a relatively successful one at that.

When I first learned of the technique I scoured the internet looking for articles written, videos posted, literally anything I could get my hands on about winter time smallmouth fishing in creeks and small rivers and I came up relatively empty handed. Most articles referenced the spawn and how fish moved up into these types of systems in the spring and instead really held over in the winter months down in the larger system that some of these creeks and rivers are flowed in to. Why this might be the case in some areas and some fish certainly do move up from them in the spring I found that my local creeks and rivers in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia held plenty of fish in them throughout the winter.

One key to being successful with a hair jig is to fish slow and make contact with the bottom. If you think you’re fishing slow, slow down even more. Let the current do the work and allow the bait to move on its own. The bite is subtle and sometimes you will just see your line stop and not actually feel the take. So always be watching and prepared because sometimes bites can be few and far between on those 30 degree days!

Another tip is to target large deep eddies next to swifter water. Usually the bigger the eddy the more fish that will hold in that particular area or at least that has been the case for me.

Finally don’t be afraid to experiment with trailers. Some days fish just want the jig itself, others they want a stick bait type trailer, and others they want a trailer with claws. Don’t be afraid to keep changing until you find what is working for you on a particular day. Remember bites can be few and far between but some of my absolute heaviest fish have been caught in the months of December, January, and February.

Always wear your PFD, have fun, and happy fishing.