Winter can be a challenging time for a freshwater angler with cold, clear water and increased inactivity of fish making for tough days on the water.
For impoundment bass anglers it wasn't that long ago where we saw the onset of winter as a time to put the bass tackle away and focus on other species.
Experience and the evolution of techniques and our understanding of bass as a stocked species in our lakes have seen our thinking change and our approach to catching bass become far more diverse. Now when the chill of winter sets in we're armed and ready with a bunch of techniques, and there's perhaps none more suited than jerkbaiting.
Sure you can catch bass on jerkbaits all year round but there are certain attributes of winter and the technique itself that make it best suited to the colder months. Winter generally brings with it clearer water in our lakes, and it's the increased visibility that comes with it that plays into the hands of jerkbaiting.
Using a jerkbait for most part is a visual technique with the fish seeing the lure rather than feeling the lure. A darting, twitching, brightly coloured lure that's moving then stopping, moving then stopping, as it moves along the edge of a shallow weed edge can be seen from a long distance when the water is clear. Another reason a jerkbait works well in the situation is because of its level of finesse.
A finesse approach is often the best form of attack when chasing reserved cool water fish, as they are perhaps a little gun-shy in clear water. In this scenario a subtly worked jerkbait can be the trigger to getting a shutdown bass sitting in a weedbed to pop its head out and eat a bait.
Bass aren't always shutdown during winter though and there are often times when you find them actively feeding - again, often in the clear water. A jerkbait becomes a go-to because the bass can see the lure from a distance. Ripping and pausing a jerkbait along a bank occupied by feeding bass early in the morning can be an effective, and an insanely fun way to catch bass on a cold winter's morning.
While the time of the year and water clarity are important factors there are some other variables that signicantly influence a jerkbait bite. Just like they do with a topwater bite, overcast conditions can help keep bass keyed in on a jerkbait bite. One of the best ways to catch bass in the shallows, a jerkbait bite will often die as the sun rises and the light increases driving fish to deeper water. The longer the light stays away, the longer the fish can stay on the edge and in the shallows, and the longer you can catch them on a jerkbait.
The second element - wind -has the same effect in many ways. A windblown bank can provide protection from the light in the same way that overcast skies do, with the ruffled surface and increased turbidity in the water helping to hold fish shallow. I often find that if the wind blows for too long and the water gets too discoloured, the jerkbait bite can wane. If the fish are still there, try a technique that's less visual-based, and more feel and sound-based, like a spinnerbait or lipless.
The wind approach I find works best on those clear-watered, weed-edged lakes that have plenty of points and bays. Lake St Clair in the Hunter and Maroon Dam in South East Queensland are two prime examples.
WHY YOU'RE HERE
If you're hitting a winter lake with a jerkbait tied on, where do you fish? Let's run you through the places to start. Weed edges, whether they're hard weed edges or an area punctuated by clumps of weed, are prime places for bass to hold and feed on.
More often than not, the water is clear and as result it's the ideal jerkbait water. Clearer pockets in the weed, standing and laydown timber and of course shade further enhance the location and provide perfect ambush locations for fish. Some of these features, such as clear weed pockets, are so small that you can't fish a fast moving bait through them, so a twitch-pause lure that you can keep in the spot is one of the best ways to go.
Shallow edges are my favourite, especially clear flooded edges that have active feed fish on them. Early mornings and overcast rainy days are the peak time for these skinny water locations.
While jerkbaits excel in the shallows they're also a go-to in water up to 15ft deep. Mid-depth flats and flooded points are two locations that fit this deep water range perfectly. Larger sized baits and lures that can worked deeper and harder are preferred over small subtle twitch baits. Pre the raising of the dam wall and the flooding of all the timber, Hinze Dam was very much a point and gully type bass fishery and it was the long, gentle slopping points that you gravitated towards when it came to jerkbaits.
The bass would hold along these points; from the shallow start of the point to deep apex, they would regularly take up residence on it. The flooded timber in about 12-15ft of water was the happy hunting ground. Make long casts across and along it, work the lure hard then a pause would draw the fish up to hit the lure suspended 5-10ft down. It's a fun, searching way to catch fish, and loaded with anticipation. Ripping a lure across a point then waiting expectantly for a bass to hit it while it sits motionless down deep is hard to beat.
Bass love timber and vegetation as we know and when it comes to fishing flooded green trees and bushes in clear water a jerkbait is hard to beat.