Classic options include vertically jigging bass suspended over structural irregularities on bluff banks, in deep “hollows” and around flooded timber lining old creek channels. Crawling beefy swimbaits on steep breaks is also hot for triggering big bites.
NAFC members Keith Tuma and Jim Smith—recently crowned the 2011 North American Bass Circuit’s Team of the Year—favor shallow thinking whenever possible.
“I look for clumps of green, healthy weeds close to deep water that other anglers overlook,” says Tuma. “Some of the best beds like in four to 12 feet of water, but deeper weeds can be good, too.” (Note to reservoir fans: In lakes lacking weedgrowth, warm tributary inflows and main-lake mudlines can be shallow-water standouts.)
Slow and steady with big baits is a common mantra come winter, but whenever conditions allow (say, water temps in the 50s or higher, and aggressive bass) Tuma and Smith turn to lipless rattlebaits like Rapala Rippin’ Rap.
“They’re fantastic along the perimeters of weed clumps, and on top of short weed flats,” he says. “Nothing triggers strikes like ripping a Rap off a weed stalk.”
When bites come hard, 3/8-ounce wide-gapped jigs tipped with scented soft trailers like Trigger X or Berkley Gulp! get the nod for probing clump interiors.
“Count your jig down,” Tuma warns. “If it doesn’t hit bottom when it’s supposed to, either a bass has grabbed it or you landed on a leaf.” Once the jig lands, experiment with dragging, shaking and deadsticking.
The latter approach also shines with X-Raps and other jerk-style baits in cold water, he notes. Here, patience is really a key virtue, as pauses may extend well beyond a minute.