When bass go deep in late fall and early winter, long casts are usually unnecessary because most of the action will be right below the boat. So break out the light line and spinning tackle and drop your lure straight down to reach bass hugging bottom or suspended over deep structure. It’s time for some vertical jigging.
By fine tuning your electronics, you can see all the action below when vertical jigging your lures. Vertical jigging for wintertime bass requires a heavy enough lure for probing deep and one that mimics the available forage. Here are five baits that produce best for this tactic.
1. Minnow Imitators
A 2 1/2-inch soft plastic minnow-style bait such as the Berkley Gulp Alive Minnow (smelt color) attached to a number 2 or 4 hook with a drop shot rig works great for vertical jigging bottom-hugging smallmouth bass. The drop shot rig should include a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce cylindrical weight set 2 to 10 inches below your minnow bait.
Drop the rig all the way to the bottom in depths of 20 feet or more and shake it on a tight line to trigger strikes.
2. Vertical Jigging Tube Baits
When vertical jigging for early winter smallmouth bass, slide a 1/8-ounce football jig into a 4-inch tube bait to give the lure a bulky head similar to a goby (a smallmouth’s favorite forage).
The mood of the fish determines whether you should shake the tube vigorously or let it sit for long spells.
3. Plastic Grubs
The twisting tail action and full-body look of a plastic grub makes this lure ideal for vertical jigging. Try a 3 1/2-inch grub on a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce ball jighead to reach wintertime bass on steep drop-offs.
When vertical jigging this lure, you don’t have to impart any action at all because boat movement from wind and waves is enough to make the grub’s tail twirl.
4. Jigging Spoons
Drop a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce chrome slab spoon to the bottom and start vertical jigging with your rod held at the 10 o’clock position. Jerk it to 12 o’clock a couple of times before slowly lowering it to follow the fall of the spoon.
5. Ice Fishing Baits
A favorite vertical jigging bait of Table Rock Lake guides is the Rapala Jigging Rap, which is normally used for ice fishing. You can vertical jig this bait by raising your rod 2 to 3 feet and then slowly dropping it.
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