Bass anglers should consider two key factors when picking out lures for wintertime fishing in Florida.
Gainesville, Fla., touring pro Bernie Schultz suggests visiting anglers should take along lures that work well in shallow water and aquatic vegetation. They should also choose lures that can be used effectively around docks and cypress trees. Schultz lists the following lures as his favorites for catching Florida bass from top to bottom in the wintertime.
“It could potentially be a really good topwater bite in the wintertime depending on if you catch the water warming in between fronts,” Schultz says.
His favorite wintertime topwaters are buzz baits or walk-the-dogs like the Rapala Skitter Walk and Rapala X-Rap Pop, both in silver, gold or olive gold hues. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro runs the buzz bait either fast or slow depending on the mood of the fish and walks the Skitter Walk at a steady medium pace. The X-Rap Pop produces best for him when he twitches it a couple of times to move the bait 6 to 8 inches and then lets it sit.
On days when bass are reluctant to hit topwaters, Schultz opts for a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with tandem willowleaf blades. He favors spinnerbaits with alewife or silver shiner skirts and leading silver blades and trailing gold blades when bass are foraging on shiners. “If the fish are feeding on shad or minnows than I usually go to both silver blades,” Schultz says. Slow-rolling the blade bait works best for Schultz in cold water, but he reels the lure steadily at a faster pace in clear warmer water around grass.
“Lipless baits are really good in Florida,” Schultz suggests. “A Rat-L-Trap is a staple here.” His favorite lipless crankbait is a Rapala Rippin’ Rap in gold or silver colors. The eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier runs the Rap at high speed and rips it through the grass to trigger reaction strikes.
Shallow-diving Rapala jerkbaits (in olive gold, gold or silver hues) are also productive for Florida wintertime bass. Schultz likes to jerk these lures below the surface with a couple of snaps of the rod and then lets the lures float back to the surface.
Schultz switches to soft plastics in green pumpkin, June bug or watermelon red tints during cold front conditions when Florida bass are in thick cover or hugging the bottom. He relies on a creature bait for flipping in sparse cover and a craw for punching through thick vegetation. “When I am punching grass or mats I usually let the bait break through the top layer of vegetation and fall at its own rate of speed,” he says. “I will let it sit on the bottom for a second and then I will hop it slightly.”
Dead-sticking a worm coaxes bites from sluggish bass holding around sparse grass, lily pads, boat docks or cypress trees.
Updated February 7th, 2022 at 7:33 AM CT