Have you ever had a morning on the water so bad, where you think you may as well stop, turn the boat around and put it back on the trailer?
A while back, I was on the Cooper River with my buddy Mark Hodge Jr., and we found ourselves in this very scenario. We were literally up a creek at the time, where we’d been following bass up into the shallows for the previous few weeks. On this particular day, for no particular reason, all the bass disappeared.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re the type who really gets excited thinking about shallow water fishing. Not much gets me more motivated than having a flipping stick in my hand looking for big aggressive bass. When I have to do something else, I can get agitated rather easily.
Although the weather had steadily been getting colder, there was never anything that would’ve suggested it was time to make a change in tactics. As we cranked up the engine and headed for a different branch of the Cooper, two things occurred to me. First, it was nearly noon, so going back to bed was not an option. Second, we might actually have to try something drastically different.
Where I live in South Carolina, we’ve reached the time of year where the days are getting longer and shallow waters are starting to warm up. However, overnight air temps and cold spells tend to keep things in check. On any given day the water temperature is averaging somewhere between 48-55 degrees. It’s not quite warm enough to bring the bass all the way shallow, but let’s just say love is in the air.
What’s really exciting about this time is that the bass have to eat. In a few weeks, the females will start filling with eggs and begin their migration to spawn. So as we hit a fork in the river, I suggested to Mark that we should try fishing the channel swings near spawning areas. They’re about 20 feet deep close to the banks and provide a variety of ways to present our lures.
I reached into my rod locker and pulled out a brand new One3 Fate Chrome rod. I quickly tied a jerkbait to the bass end of the 6’7” pole and sent the line screaming off my Inception reel. I really like the Fate Chrome for this application because of its light weight and durability. The soft grips are also a nice touch when you’ve got a tight grasp, covering water all day.
Because I’m the one telling this story, I’m going to insist to you it was on the first cast, and it went something like tick, tick, BOOM! But in all actuality, it was something very similar within a few minutes of pulling up. Doing something different really helped salvage our day.
I’ve found that now is the time of year when this bait, and a few others really shine. Throughout the day we found a few other complimentary patterns that depended on the water temperature and the tide.
As the water started warming we were able to cover water faster with a combination of crankbaits and vibrating jigs.
My crankbait of choice during the winter is a Bandit 300, which I throw in a few different crawfish designs. I recently made the switch to the new Defy Black as my cranking stick and I couldn’t be happier. It’s made using a proprietary carbon glass elastomer construction. In fisherman’s terms, 13 Fishing has combined E glass with 24 ton graphite to make a rod with a great parabolic bend and lightness of graphite. I dare you to find a better value out there; this rod is amazing.
In addition to thecrankbiats, we landeda number of fish on vibrating jigs. We rigged these lures on the 7’3” version of the Defy. The moderate action of this rod allows the fish to really load up before you set the hook, while the length allows for long casts and plenty of power to fight big fish.
This system of catching fish has helped us land consistent bags of bass as we make the transition from winter to spring. As the lakes near you start to heat up, remember that it’s important to be versatile to changing conditions and have a positive attitude.