Winter can be a great time of year to fish for bass. It can also be highly frustrating, since locating bass during these next few months will get tricky. It will be even more difficult if you pin yourself down to just one fishing technique.
I spent this past Sunday down on Lake Okeechobee, and the weather was beautiful. I had not been down to the south end of the lake in quite some time, but considering the nice day, I headed that way to check it out. I knew there was a big tournament going on down there, and I thought it would be interesting to see how some of the anglers were doing while also doing a bit of scouting myself.
I got out on the water before the tournament started and started working the outside edges of the grass and reeds in the Uncle Joe’s area. Before long I heard engines running north and decided to sit back and watch as many of the anglers competing blew past me. I went back to my fishing and after about 30 minutes of not raising any bass, I got back behind the grass and started to work my way north, but on the inside portion of the lake.
Soon I came to a spot that must have had 20 boats already in it. I decided to see what all these guys were doing back here and if they were catching anything, and try casting a bit as well. In almost every boat, both guys had flipping rods in their hands. I talked to about six different boats as I worked my way through this area, and only one said that they had caught a small keeper.
While I was working my way around area, I was alternating between a chatterbait, a swimbait, a worm, a frog, and doing some flipping myself. Before long, a nice 5-pound largemouth absolutely destroyed the chatterbait — not at all what I was expecting.
I was shocked to not catch a bass on the swimbait or the frog. I found some good cover in the way of eelgrass and dollar pads that I thought would hold a few bass. But none were there — at least none that were ready to eat. Fishing over that kind of cover usually puts a few in the boat this time of year.
What I found funny was that all these tournament anglers were doing nothing but flipping or casting a worm. They were all do-or-die with that one technique. Now, I’m not saying that flipping doesn’t work; we all know it does. But the fact that I caught bass on a moving bait suggests to me that those fish might have been moving and feeding a little, and flipping is not the best way to catch fish that are doing that.
It’s a fine line to walk when deciding what method will catch bass. Do you stay with something tried and true, and do it all day no matter what? Or, if you have no early success, do you try something else?
Lately, I have preferred to cover water and look for signs of bass in an area. If I don’t see those signs, I keep the trolling motor on and keep the boat moving. I will alternate throwing over and into vegetation, as well as working points of grass and reeds with moving baits. If I manage to catch a bass or two around the weeds, then I reach for that worm rod or flipping rig and go to work.
It seems like a bad idea to have zero success simply because you don’t think to change up your presentation. Lord knows I have done this to myself more than once. It’s easy to get so caught up in one technique that has worked in the past that you stick with that technique even though the situation may be completely different. It doesn’t hurt to get into your tackle boxes and pull out something a little different. I have been doing more of that lately and it has paid off well.
Now, if you really want one technique that is an absolute in almost any conditions, let me suggest live bait fishing. You can put a big shiner on a hook and let it swim out there until it gets eaten. More often than not, it’s just a matter of time.
But if you would rather challenge yourself by using artificial baits and your bite has gone stale, pick up something different and give it a throw. Changing up that mojo can be a really good thing.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.