Many bass fishermen lead double lives, torn between their bass boats and tree stands. But as the door slams shut on deer season, the choice for cold-water bass fishing becomes clear. According to bass pro Dave Wolak of Wake Forest, the key to success is locating deeper fish and using just a handful of lures.

“Winter fish will retract from areas they spent a good deal of the year, while seeking deeper-water highways like ditches and channels, deep points and vertical cover with deep water nearby,” said Wolak, co-host of the “Know Fishing” television series on World Fishing Network. “Rocky areas are generally better because they hold a good deal of residual heat from when the sun pops out.”

Riprap banks are the best of both worlds, as they are generally constructed adjacent to deep water.

Wolak sticks with these five basic baits for most of his winter fishing.

·        Jig-soft plastic combo. “Any jig combination works in winter, but they work best when fine tuned to the environment,” said Wolak.  Football jigs are especially good when dragged around rocky bottoms and riprap, as the head design makes the bait stand up and it’s less likely to become snagged. Green pumpkin jigs with a crawfish trailer are a good winter combo, and a ½- to ¾-ounce head gets the bait down fast. 

·        Jigging spoon. “Vertical jigging smaller spoons will catch deep, suspended bass that may otherwise be considered untouchable,” Wolak said. After finding a school of bass on sonar, a ¼-ounce spoon is simply dropped into them. Using upward jerks of 1 to 2 feet, the lure is then allowed to flutter down on a slack line, but followed closely with the rod tip to detect strikes.

·        Rattling lipless bait. “In cold water, its tough to beat this lure's ability to get a reaction strike,” said Wolack, who recommends pumping this bait around old grass and deeper shoreline cover.  These sinking baits can be fished with a yo-yo style. After the lure falls to the bottom, the rod is lifted so the bait vibrates and rattles, followed by another fall and lift.

·        Flat-sided crankbait- “These baits have a subtle and tight wobble, making them perfect for bass that retreat to ditches in shallower dingy water,” Wolack said. The tight wobble makes for a high-frequency vibration easily detected by winter bass, especially when this diving lure grinds along the bottom, kicking up gravel like a deranged crawfish.

·        Shad-shaped baits- “The ever-popular Shad Rap is the best example. These baits have an even more subtle and tighter action, making them a great crank for clear to dingy medium depth ranges,” said Wolak. This lightweight balsa wood lure can be difficult to cast, but is deadly when bass are shadowing schools of shad.