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Depending on your geographic location takes on a different meaning and feel. In Tennessee we are blessed with four seasons. You learn, if you want to catch fish consistently, how to deal with a large variety of water and weather conditions. You can’t will winter gone so cold, clear water is your companion for several weeks. Laying out the clothes that shield you from the harsh reality of the three months, is the first step. I consider winter, despite what the calendar says, as late December, January, February and early March all qualify. Next I take inventory of the baits that I believe are the cold water cure for catching bass. Jigs, always jigs, my year round go to bait, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, curlytail grubs and finesse worms. Light or neutral colors dominate my choices now unless winter rain stains the water, then I go up in darker shades of each offering. As insurance I carry a small assortment of smaller soft plastics, downsized tubes and curlytail grubs. When the bass bite is off generally bluegill and crappie are willing to oblige. Because the panfish are often found around submerged wood I use the LOL system, lots of lead.

Highly likely that you snap off several leadheads and need an ample amount of little plastic critters to toss at your targets. Thrown on open faced spinning outfits, I’ve learned through experience that light line, four to six pound test out performs anything heavier. Back to the bass, I found myself launching into a body of water notoriously clear, the surface water temperature was 55 degrees and there was a north wind. These are less than ideal conditions for kayaking and chasing bass. I like to check the shallow bite first because “thin” water fish are more likely to be ready to eat. A normal sequential use of lures for me are the silent variety first. The finesse worms, jigs, spinners, crankbaits and then whatever the day tells me to toss. I spent my first hour learning what NOT to do. Decision time, I paddle my Big Rig toward the deeper water on the wind-blown side of the lake. Some submerged wood and steeper rock bluffs might be the missing piece to the puzzle I thought. I made a cast to clear some line and then set the rod to down to make a small directional adjustment with my Bending Branches Anger Pro Carbon

A couple of small strokes and set the paddle down and retrieved my rod from the deck, as I lifted it I felt a mild resistance. A slight lift of the rod gave me the evidence that there was likely a bass it the business end. I snapped the rod back and a “cookie cutter” bass had indeed inhaled my jig. I had a Strike King finesse ¼ ounce jig tipped with a Rage Tail baby craw firmly affixed to 20 pound braided line. Curses, they’re in deep water and want a slow, almost motionless presentation, not my favorite. I began an agonizingly slow search of twenty plus feet of water and had repeated success in hooking up with bass in a small pocket. Off shore and long casts, a slow, methodical retrieve, small twitch, swim, rest, twitch keeping full contact with the bait at all times and feeling for anything different was the key to the catch. As I circled the area and faced the prospect of paddling back into the wind, I made the decision to go back through one more time. Another turn through the small bay produced a similar results. I never leave fish to find other fish. The hits were subtle, sometimes almost imperceptible but happened at a frequency that made me stick around an hour longer than I had planned.

Another plus, I got to teach my fishing partner for the day how to fish the versatile jig. She learned to recognize the feeling of the “pick-up” on the crawfish imitating lure. Casting, retrieving and hook sets are a work in progress but after a few misses she brought her first fish aboard the kayak. A feisty 15 inch bass. Another jig fishing fan is born!
The lesson, it’s OK to have a game plan but being flexible and following your fishing instinct is vital to fooling at least few fish. Minus electronics I figured it out. OK from a tech standpoint I had my cell phone and my watch, but a big dose of common sense was my biggest ally.
So long winter, hello spring. You’ll find me up a creek WITH a paddle.