Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 14, 2014

Gone fishing with Jerry Miller

Big Bass Are Staging Near Spawning Flats

Jerry Miller
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —

Winter isn’t the easiest month to catch bass, but there are certain techniques and baits that will help you to catch more bass.

One lure that seems to catch a lot of bass during winter conditions is a suspending jerk bait. There are other baits that catch bass in the winter, like a jig and a lipless crank bait, but a jerk bait that suspends at the correct depth will entice some of your largest, pre-spawn bass into striking.

February is a transitional month. Big bass begin moving out of their winter haunts towards spawning areas. They then settle into staging area just outside or on the edge of their annual nesting grounds.

Fishermen who can locate these staging areas are privy to catching early spawners before they move up to their spawning sites. These bass will bite even when the surface temperatures are in the mid 40’s.

If you watched the Bass Master Classic held last winter in Oklahoma, you would have witnessed professional bass fishermen catching a lot of big bass under extremely cold weather. Normally, the bites are few and far in between, but most of the bass are big.

One key factor in winter is timing. In winter, bass normally don’t feed very often like they do in warmer water. So being in the right place at the right time is absolutely critical. Also be prepared to get fewer bites. Some of the baits utilized in Oklahoma were these: a Jackall Soul shad jerk bait, a DD Cherry crank bait, a MegaBass Vision 110 jerk bait and a Lucky Craft Stay See deep running jerk bait. Most of these baits I’ve never fished.

Knowing what area of the lake to target in the winter is critical. Last week on Lake Jacksonville I began to explore some of these areas. The first place I stopped was outside of a small deep cove that had a point and a spawning flat nearby. I positioned my boat on the outside of the point in 20 feet.

The bait I used was a gold Colorado, Lucky Craft, Stay See, deep running jerk bait. I fished this bait with a 10-pound Fluorocarbon line on a spinning reel. I didn’t know what depth the fish were in or even if they were in this area. I simply was experimenting with the knowledge gleaned from the pros.

I began casting the Stay See towards the bank. The bait was landing in about 10 feet of water. I quickly cranked the bait down to about 8 feet and stopped allowing the bait to suspend and stay in one spot motionless for about 7 seconds. Then I gave the lure a sharp snap on slack line. Always leave slack in your line so when you snap your rod the bait will only move a short distance. Then pause again allowing the bait to suspend without moving. Keep repeating this retrieve back to the boat. Strikes usually come while the bait is motionless.

The first bass I caught was 4 pounds. I only got one strike at this spot at 11:30 a.m. I moved to a small 9-foot hump nearby and caught a 3-pound bass. These bass were in 12 to 14 feet of water. Again I only got one strike, so I moved to the mouth of Cat Creek to fish outside another deep pocket. I fished for about 15 minutes and then got one bite. When I landed this 4-pound bass I knew I was on to a good winter pattern.

For the next hour or so I fished a half dozen other similar spots including three major points and a big flat but only landed one more bass.

The day I fished Lake Jacksonville the surface temperature was 45 degrees F. Big bass can be caught in cold water if you use the right kind of baits. Jigs will also catch big bass, but I prefer using faster moving baits.

Frank Lusk and mike Smith targeted the deep water bass that week with mostly umbrella rigs in 40 feet and caught about 20 bass. They were fishing near a big main lake flat. But most of their bass were small.

I believe that the big bass have just started migrating to the shallows. Early spawning begins when surface temperatures hit the low 60s. Right now is the best time to catch the larger bass that are just beginning to stage up.

These early bass are a lot more susceptible to being caught. Once they move shallow they are spooky and a lot harder to catch.

If you target the main lake fishing adjacent to spawning areas with suspended baits during the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. you should have a good chance of landing a trophy bass.

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Jerry Miller can be contacted at: gonefishing2@suddenlink.net