By Shannon Mallette
Fall is here! Which means colder water, and some big bass action. First you have to find them, but once you do, jigs are a great way to catch them. When the water cools off, usually into the 40s, bass will head to deeper water where they will find better conditions for survival through the winter. Deep is a relative term here, each body of water will have its own depths that the fish will be conditioned to. Daytime as well as nighttime temperatures need to drop before you can expect bass to activate the cold water pattern. You will need to look for cover and structure, like weed lines, stump rows, tapering points, or creek channels. These will be their road to that cold winter spot. The spots: In rivers, find a deep hole that will protect bass from the current. In natural lakes, find a fast breaking rock bank or a depression on the edge of a flat. Use a map to locate these spots. Then start at the spawning flats where you know the bass will be in Spring, and follow cover and structure, working your way towards the spot you located on the map. This is a great technique to use for the majority of the year to figure out where the bass travel.
Bass jigs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights. Football heads are a great choice for deep water jigging. Their rounded shape gives you a crankbait like wobble when you drag it across the bottom. Another popular style bass jig is arkie. It has a flat underside and slightly rounded face, which puts most of its weight towards the front and bottom of the head. This helps it sink straight and stay pinned to the bottom. Yet another good choice would be Strike King’s jig designed by Denny Brauer. The weight is positioned in the middle of the head and it has a slightly pointed nose to easily hook a bass. Jigs shaped like a bullet weight are designed for soft plastics to be reeled through heavy grass.
Whatever style jig you choose, go with at least 1/2 ounce of weight. In water deeper than 15 feet it will be easier to control your jig and know when you hit bottom if your jig is 3/4 to 1 ounce in weight.
Choose a trailer with small appendages that offer less water resistance. A craw is always a great go to, as is a spider grub. Scent and flavor attractants and/or rattles are also a great addition when fishing cold water. Try to match the colors of your trailer with the prey in your body of water, or go with the tried and true method of dark colors for dark water and light colors for clear water. Add a little bit of a bright or flashy color to your jig, whether it be the head or some strands of the skirt.
Pick a fast action rod, medium to heavy power, 7 foot or longer to help you cast farther and pick up line on a hook set. Casting rods are preferred for jigging, but a spinning rod will work as well.
Pick a reel with faster speed, at least 6.3:1 for a gear ratio. This will help with your presentations and will also keep the line tight. Many bass will race to the surface when hooked so you’ll want the abilities of a faster reel. Fluorocarbon is your best line choice, use 14-17 pound test. It has little stretch and is highly sensitive. If going with braid you’ll want to use 50 pound test so it will sink easily and effectively.
When casting, you want to make sure your jig sinks straight. Keep your reel open and your line smooth until you hit bottom. You will know when your jig hits bottom because the line will go slack. You want your jig to land at the edge of a weed line, right where the rocks and grass meet.
If you’re fishing a flat from a boat you’ll have to find a spot where you can cover the most structure and cover. If you’re fishing a ledge, you want to be as close as possible, but be careful not to spook the bass. If the water is dark or murky you might be able to position the boat right over the bass and vertically drop your jigs.
Bass have a slow metabolism in cold water so the best retrieves need to make your jig look natural, and look like an easy target. Slide the jig across the bottom, or make it do small hops by using your rod tip. Keep the jig in place and shake it to trigger strikes. With your longer rod, it will not take much effort to move line using the tip.