Cold weather seldom keeps bass tournament champion Alton Jones from spending a day on the water, but when he does go bass fishing this time of year, the Yamaha Pro makes certain he takes a box of football head jigs with him.
“This type of jig has a rounded head that actually resembles a football so it slides through rocks and other cover very well,” explains Jones, who used jigs to win the 2008 Bassmaster® Classic during frigid conditions on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell. “Rocks and gravel are good places to look for cold weather bass if vegetation isn’t available, and jigs are probably the best all-around lures to use because they can be fished slowly right through those rocks.”
Because winter bass often move to deeper water where temperatures are more stable, Jones prefers a ¾ ounce jig that falls quickly to the bottom. Once the lure does reach bottom, he crawls it by slowly moving his rod tip to the side.
“Jigs generally have a bulky profile like a crawfish so bass notice them,” continues the Yamaha angler, “and I add a plastic trailer that does create a little action, but the real key is moving the jig slowly along the bottom because the fish normally don’t chase it. Both their metabolism and their feeding have slowed so I feel like I really have to tempt them into striking.
“Their actual strike zone is quite small so I want to keep my lure in that zone as long as I can. I may even move my jig just a few inches, stop it, and then move it again.”
Good cold weather jig fishing areas often include gravel and rocky points extending out into deeper water. Creek channels are also excellent places to fish, particularly bends where the channel abruptly changes direction. Cover, like brush or logs, makes anyplace more attractive to bass.
If there is a bright side to winter bass fishing, notes Jones, it is the fact winter bass often congregate in large schools, so when you do catch one, it’s important to stay in that spot and fish the area very carefully.
“Jigs are good exploratory lures because you can keep them crawling on the bottom to learn the type of cover and depth changes you’re fishing,” Jones explains, “and this can be critical in winter fishing when bass aren’t very aggressive.
“There will often be a ‘sweet spot,’ on the structure you’re fishing, such as a single large rock or stump, a change in the channel direction, or some small feature that attracts and holds bass in that particular place,” concludes the Yamaha angler, “and a jig can tell what it is and where it is.
“When I catch my first bass of the day, I always cast right back to the same spot and use the same retrieve in case other fish are present.”