Whether you fish for striped bass or largemouth bass during the winter, most guides and experienced anglers suggest downsizing your fishing lures for more strikes.
Cold water translates into sluggish fish that are unwilling to chase larger baits. In clear waters, fish may be spooked by large baits. Smaller baits can be fished slower than most large baits, and their thin profiles won’t scare off fish.
Winter forage at most lakes tends to be small in size, so smaller offerings imitate what the fish are eating.
Strikes in cold water can be subtle. A largemouth bass hitting a lure feels more akin to a crappie gently taking a jig. Stripers may bump a bait rather than strike it. Overeager fishermen often take the lure away from light-hitting fish. Smaller baits with tiny needle-sharp hooks are more likely to nab those reluctant strikers.
Lexington guides Jerry Hill of Triad Fishing and Guide Service and Maynard Edwards of Yadkin Lakes Guide Service both recommend smaller baits for winter stripers.
Hill pulls 3/8- or ¼-ounce bucktails and 3/8-ounce leadhead jigs holding 3-inch Sassy Shad plastics. Edwards uses small bucktails and ½-ounce leadhead jigs in conjunction with 3-inch plastic grubs or Sassy Shads.
Many bass fishermen favor tiny crankbaits that can be retrieved at a snail’s pace: WEC Zoom Mutts, Speed Traps, Shad Raps, RC 1.5s, Norman Baby Ns and shallow-running Strike Kings.
Don’t be fooled into thinking small baits catch only small fish. Gerald Beck and Orlando Giles, both from Lexington, won the last two Carolina Angler Team Fall Trail tournaments at High Rock in late November with five-fish catches of 20.75 pounds, anchored with a 7.45-pound bass, and 16.55 pounds, anchored with a 5.05-pound bass. Most of their fish were caught with Shad Raps and Norman Baby N lures.
If you want to upgrade your catches this winter, try downsizing your baits.