Photo: Mike Ernst
A kayak angler reels in his fishing line on a misty morning.

The reason a largemouth bass has a large mouth is because it likes to eat a large amount of food. His big mouth doesn’t freeze shut in winter. Three keys to finding a cold water bucketmouth are to fish any remaining structure, use larger lures and cover a lot of water. I combine finesse fishing and reaction lures to completely cover an area. Only work a spot for 15 minutes before moving on.

BLADE BAIT 

Even the coldest largemouth bass can’t resist a blade bait shimmering and twitching over a grass bed or rock pile. I keep one medium-light spinning combo spooled with eight-pound monofilament and rigged with a Binsky blade bait. It is critical to drop the blade bait directly below the kayak and jig vertically and then let it sink slowly. On a trip last winter, I dropped my blade bait and immediately hooked up with a small bass. A couple more small bass and I switched to a chatterbait to look for bigger fish.

CHATTERBAIT 

While winter bass might be lethargic, you can still make them angry. To really piss off a cold bass, throw a chatterbait at him. A chatterbait jig or soft-plastic tail with a metal blade on the jighead. I can use a steady retrieve like a crankbait, buzz it it on the surface like a spinnerbait or bounce the chatterbait off the bottom like a jig. This is great for quickly and efficiently covering the water column. I like to cast the lure out and sink to the bottom then jig it back to the kayak. This alerts bass on the bottom that a meal is in the area and suspended bass can still see it.

FINESSE WORM

Everything is cold in winter. Bass and bait both take on slower, more subtle moves. Nothing imitates a frost-bitten bait better than a soft­ plastic on a small jig head. I look for a jig tail that floats so it sticks up when the jighead is resting on the bottom. I make very slight bounces with the rod tip to twitch the tail like a baitfish calling in a bass for a bite. When the fish strikes, it is important to set the hook immediately. Cold weather makes bass fishermen slow, too.

SUSPENDING JERKBAIT

Every winter angler should have a selection of jerkbaits in his arsenal. This hard-plastic baitfish imitation is designed to hover in the water column and give a spastic twitch when the angler yanks the rod tip. The key is to work the lure slowly. I put five to 1 5 seconds between each twitch. Alternate the length of the pause to find where the fish are responding.

Get more winter kayak fishing tactics in the Winter Issue of Kayak Angler.

Get more winter kayak fishing tactics in the Winter Issue of Kayak Angler.

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