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Cold Water Catches

A big challenge for anglers that live in the four seasons environment is consistently catching fish in cold water. For those inhabiting the far north there’s ice fishing. The deep south fishing folks think 60 degree water is cold. For purposes of this discussion I would characterize cold water as less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To be successful at catching em in the cold it all starts with understanding the reaction of your target species. With much of the focus on bass other species are affected in different ways. “Skinned” fresh water fish, catfish, trout, pike and others are less affected by the lower temperatures and in some cases actually remain very active in chilly conditions.

If you’re after bass, crappie or bluegill (my favorites) there will be a few adjustments that might be beneficial. The biggest impact on many gamefish is the slowdown of their metabolism. They move less, expend less energy, digest slower and therefore feed less often. The most critical aspect of this scenario is in the form of presentation by the kayak angler.

With a smaller strike zone it becomes imperative to use either live bait that gives no clue as to being anything but a natural food source or an artificial bait that has the ability to stay for an extended period of time in the shrunken “strike zone.” A large live shiner, shad or creek minnow is a great choice when they’re available. Drifted, trolled or gently dropped in the immediate area of the winter fish, the natural forage will be readily eaten.

If you go the bogus bait route, artificial lure you might find it more effective to downsize the lures you use. Because a large variety of fish depend on shad and a wide variety minnows to get throw the cold water, cold weather period anything that imitates these food sources can be the best choice. Lightly colored crankbaits, minnow imitating plugs, swim jigs, soft plastics and spinnerbaits are all sitting in the trays of my cold weather tackle box. Throughout the year I adjust my tackle box contents. I go with species specific and water temperature focused lures. Going to ultralight is fun and productive. In the cold weather months (November through March in Tennessee) there is always a spinning outfit along my kayak seat. The open face reel a Lew’s is spooled with four pound test line and usually has a small tube tied to the end of the line. I thread the tube onto a lightweight leadhead. On calm days and clear water that’s a 1/16th ounce leadhead in a little wind and slightly stained water I go with 1/8th ounce lead. This setup works well for just about every type of fish. Crappie come alive when you cast, use a slow retrieve interrupted by an occasional twitch.

On a baitcasting rod, medium /heavy action there’s finesse jig, a natural crawfish color trailed by a Rage Tail baby craw in watermelon red flake both are offered by Strike King . The jig is worked slowly around cover like rock, submerged trees, bridge pilings and boat docks. Strikes can be subtle so it’s important to concentrate be aware of everything the bait is doing. Spinnerbaits allow for a slow steady retrieve and the single Colorado bladed, white skirted models seem the most desirable for the winter water bass. The spinnerbait can be cast around cover or in open water around secondary cover, bottom contours, creek channels and points. The best spinner for me has bema single silver Colorado blade and a shad colored skirt best described as white with a bit of blue included. A top producer in cold clear water is the jerkbait. This lure requires patience. Cast out and ripped down with several rod snaps and then wait for a count of seven to eight seconds and repeat. This bait will suspend in the strike zone and allow the fish to come and get it with minimal energy used. With three sets of trebles and rubberized landing net is desirable for landing bass that fight all the way to the kayak. The net and a good set of pliers keeps you from getting the hooks in your hand. The color known as “clown” silver, gold and a splash of red is deadly.

My rod choice for the crankbait, spinnerbait and jerkbait are all the same, a medium action rod seven feet long, with a baitcasting reel attached and spooled with 12 pound test monofilament line all works together to allow the fish to take the bait and almost hook itself.
My Jackson Big Rig is perfect for winter fishing. The Big Rig is stable and comfortable whether you are standing or sitting and paddles well pushed by my Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon. I recommend wool clothes, a pair of NRS boundary boots and a warm hat. Life jackets 100% of the time.

Winter seem shorter when you are catching a few fish and getting some paddling time. Weather or not, this is “outdoor to the core!”

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