10 SA BASS

SA Bass - - Contents - *Martin de Kock has been the SABAA na­tional cham­pion twice and mem­ber of the na­tional Protea team.

“Win­ter Pat­terns” Look­ing at the an­nual na­tional tour­na­ment cal­en­dar it is ev­i­dent that win­ter is no longer con­sid­ered a time of year when bass can­not be ef­fi­ciently caught. Dur­ing win­ter there are a few ad­van­tages the an­gler can arm him­self or her­self with for more con­sis­tent re­sults – Martin de Kock

Look­ing at the an­nual na­tional tour­na­ment cal­en­dar it is ev­i­dent that win­ter is no longer consi-dered a time of year when bass can­not be ef­fi­ciently caught. Dur­ing win­ter there are a few ad­van­tages the an­gler can arm him­self or her­self with for more con­sis­tent re­sults.

Gen­er­ally South Africa has a very moder­ate cli­mate, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the USA where of course bass orig­i­nate from. In cer­tain parts of the coun­try the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture does not dip below the 60 de­gree Fahren­heit level. Dur­ing Jan­uary 2007, when I fished the Fed­er­a­tion Na­tion Cham­pi­onship in Alabama, the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture was 49 de­grees and the bass were still bust­ing bait­fish on the sur­face! There­fore my con­clu­sion is that in bass fish­ing cold wa­ter be­comes a rel­a­tive term. Ob­vi­ously fish ac­cli­ma­tize to lo­cal con­di­tions, but be­ing a cold blooded crea­ture their me­tab­o­lism still runs in close con­junc­tion with wa­ter tem­per­a­ture.

Dur­ing the last decade we have be­come more ex­pe­ri­enced in tar­get­ing cold wa­ter bass. Read­ily avail­able bass fish­ing lit­er­a­ture and the in­ter­net has made knowl­edge re­gard­ing the topic more ac­ces­si­ble. Lures and ter­mi­nal tackle are con­tin­u­ously de­vel­oped and re­fined for spe­cial­ist cir­cum­stances such as cold wa­ter fish­ing. Fish find­ers have de­vel­oped con­sid­er­ably in the

last few years, mak­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of struc­ture and pin­point­ing fish much more ac­cu­rate, while GPS sys­tems (of­ten in com­bi­na­tion with fish find­ers) have made re-lo­ca­tion of off­shore hotspots much quicker and ef­fi­cient. If you are not us­ing it by now you must be liv­ing in a cave!

In ad­di­tion by watch­ing bass tour­na­ments in the USA on ca­ble TV an­glers can learn and copy new tech­niques lo­cally.

Due to wa­ter tem­per­a­ture be­ing colder in win­ter bass’ me­tab­o­lism does slow down and they are more lethar­gic than dur­ing other times of the year. De­lib­er­ate and well pre­sented baits will how­ever en­tice a bite from these fish.

Lures

Some of my favourite lures and win­ter tech­niques are as fol­lows:

Carolina Rig

Dur­ing win­ter I try and fish with the long­est leader I can; I also use the small­est hook I can get away with to make the bait re­act more nat­u­rally. Ad­just­ing the sinker size to the re­lated cir­cum­stances is also ad­vis­able. A gen­eral rule of thumb is to use a lighter sinker in the 1/4oz range in heavy cover, and a heav­ier weight up to 3/4oz on more bar­ren ar­eas.

The lighter sinker will re­duce hangups and on the other hand the heav­ier model will as­sist in sen­si­tiv­ity and mak­ing pin­point­ing iso­lated struc­ture more ef­fec­tive. Of late it has be­come pop­u­lar to use tung­sten weights for Carolina rig­ging. The heav­ier, more com­pact com­pos­ite of the tung­sten im­proves the sen­si­tiv­ity of rig to the an­gler. If used with the com­bi­na­tion of fluoro­car­bon with ex­pe­ri­ence you should be able to de­ter­mine even sub­tle changes in bot­tom com­po­si­tion. Con­sid­er­ing that bites are gen­er­ally lighter dur­ing win­ter ex­tra sen­si­tiv­ity does help in plac­ing more fish in the live well. Per­son­ally I be­lieve plas­tics with less ac­tion draw more strikes dur­ing cold wa­ter, with the only ex­cep­tion be­ing the plas­tic lizard. Other Carolina win­ter favourites in my tackle box are fluke type baits, 4” senko’s and 4” fi­nesse worms. Colours can be your same favourites as dur­ing warmer months.

Mojo Rig

This is an ef­fec­tive tool in “mop­ping up” a few more fish out of an area after lo­cat­ing fish and struc­ture with the Carolina rig. My bait choices are the same as with the Carolina rig. Gen­er­ally the W2 to W0 weight range work well de­pend­ing on depth and struc­ture type. Down­siz­ing line will also get more bites, and 10lb fluoro­car­bon has served me well.

Texas Rig

This old, of­ten ig­nored tech­nique can be deadly in the colder months. Dur­ing win­ter bass can be very tight to cover and the Texas rig pro­vides pen­e­tra­tion into their hide­outs. Yoy­oing a Texas rigged plas­tic in off­shore trees and brush­piles has caught me buck­ets full of bass in win­ter.

Jigs

Of late jigs have made a very strong ap­pear­ance on the SA bass tour­na­ment scene. They can be dragged like the Carolina rig or fished the same as a Texas rigged plas­tic. Foot­ball jigs in par­tic­u­lar have be­come very pop­u­lar tools in fool­ing win­ter bass, with the 1/2oz size be­ing the most favourite choice. It is sen­si­ble to add a plas­tic trailer like a dou­ble tail grub or a chunk.

Shaky Head Worms

Fished on light line this is a fi­nesse al­ter­na­tive to the Texas rig. It will draw strikes when other al­ter­na­tives fail. The thin line can how­ever cause trauma around heavy cover win­ter bass hang­outs.

Drop Shot

This is an­other fi­nesse tech­nique that is good in catch­ing some fish dur­ing tough con­di­tions when other stand­bys fail. A fi­nesse worm does well on this rig.

Deep Run­ning Crankbaits

Mak­ing re­peated casts and de­flect­ing crankbaits of off­shore struc­ture has been very ef­fec­tive for me dur­ing win­ter. Sus­pend­ing mod­els give lethar­gic fish more time to zone into the bait. The Ra­pala DT range of­fers nat­u­ral “slow” buoy­ancy due to them be­ing made from balsa wood and is my favourite. The Bluegill pat­tern in par­tic­u­lar has caught some of my largest win­ter bass.

Sus­pend­ing Jerk­baits

Slowly fish­ing these on cliff faces dur­ing late win­ter can be deadly. At Inanda Dam in KZN this is very ef­fi­cient dur­ing July.

Lo­cat­ing the bass

Lo­cat­ing the bass dur­ing win­ter can be te­dious, but when you pin­point them you can be re­warded with some of the best catches of the year. As men­tioned ear­lier us­ing your sonar (fishfinder) and GPS to their full ca­pac­ity will make life much eas­ier.

Bluff banks and cliff faces are good ar­eas to find bass dur­ing win­ter es­pe­cially if a river chan­nel passes close to it. It is easy for bass to move from deep wa­ter to shal­low ar­eas to feed on steep banks.

Off­shore humps close to drop offs also re­main one of the most re­li­able ar­eas to find bass dur­ing the colder parts of the year. If it con­tains some tim­ber or rock it will make it even more at­trac­tive for bass.

Old sub­merged riverbeds in the 12 – 20ft depth range also hold win­ter bass, es­pe­cially where there is a

swing in the chan­nel.

Wa­ter clar­ity is im­por­tant in win­ter as cold dirty wa­ter is some of the tough­est bass fish­ing con­di­tions you will ever find. Gen­er­ally slightly stained to clear wa­ter will pro­vide more con­sis­tent fish­ing ac­tion than stained wa­ter.

Us­ing fish at­trac­tants dur­ing win­ter makes a lot of sense as fish tend to look longer at baits be­fore com­mit­ting to eat it. Ra­pala VMC pro­vided me with some pro­to­type spray called Trig­ger X. It con­tains pheromones that en­cour­age fish to feed ac­tively. It def­i­nitely ap­pears to draw strikes dur­ing tough con­di­tions and this win­ter I ill be us­ing it.

As an aside, the 2009 SABAA na­tion­als are be­ing staged dur­ing the first week of Au­gust at Al­bert Falls, and this should be in­ter­est­ing as at that time of year the fish at Alberts are def­i­nitely still re­lat­ing to win­ter fish­ing pat­terns.

Fig­ur­ing out win­ter bass is an ex­cit­ing part of the sport, sim­ply be­cause one of the chal­lenges is to make them bite dur­ing the cold­est part of the year.

Carolina Rig

Jerk­baits

Texas Rig

Crankbaits

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