Bass in the vast open water of lakes and reservoirs could be swimming anywhere in the wintertime. Unless you are on a lake filled with standing timber, visual clues are unavailable when searching for offshore bass in the winter. Good electronics will help you find open water bass by scanning for two underwater clues: baitfish schools and bottom structure. Finding at least one of these clues will eliminate a lot of dead water and pinpoint the largest concentrations of wintertime bass.
Find The Baitfish And Find The Winter Bass
Baitfish schools will roam in the open water searching for the warmest water possible on the main lake or in large coves. Bass will follow the forage and hold below the baitfish pods ready to pick off any dying baitfish that flutters down to them. On warm sunny days the baitfish will move up closer to the surface along points and edges of flats but will drop into the middle of a channel or the gut of a cove when the winter weather turns cold and cloudy.
Finding bottom structure will help you eliminate vast sections of open water and pinpoint winter bass hangouts. Prime winter hangouts for bass in open water include river or creek channel swings, point drop-offs, offshore ledges, humps and mouths of coves and bays. You can easily find these spots with the mapping feature of your electronics and then scan the spot with your 3-D sonar, side-imaging, down-imaging or front-viewing features to find sweet spots on the bottom structure. The sweet spots will usually be any irregularities in the bottom such as rock piles, shell beds or brush piles.
Locating Winter Bass Hangouts
The winter hangouts will usually hold large schools of bass. These fish will suspend at mid-depths on sunny high-pressure days and will drop to the bottom when the winter weather turns nasty. Rather than roam around with the baitfish schools, bass residing in their winter sanctuaries wait for the forage to come to them. Bottom-hugging bass will forage on crayfish or dying shad while suspending bass dine on any baitfish venturing into their territory.
You have hit the jackpot if you find baitfish schools roaming around the bass’ wintertime hangouts. Then it becomes a matter of pinpointing the depth of the baitfish along the structure to determine the best lure presentation. If you see baitfish and bass suspended at the mid-depth level then your best bet is to throw a suspending jerkbait or an Alabama rig. Try jigging spoons, drop-shot rigs, plastic grubs, jigs or spinnerbaits if you see baitfish near the bottom.
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