Largemouth active in the cold
By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise
“The water’s brown.” Those words are an uncommon statement while fishing the numerous lakes surrounding Park Rapids.
The majority of our lakes have crystal clear water. Judging water depth with the naked eye is somewhat deceptive. Eight-feet looks like three-feet because the lakes are so clear.
One week ago, a certain, small bass heavy lake had that crystal clear water. This week, it looked like chocolate milk.
Turnover? Certainly. Turnover is commonly noted as the period where water temperatures mix together in their stratified environment, causing weeds and sediment to combine with the clear water.
Turnover is a very long process, one that started months ago. Anglers often identify turnover once the water turns brown. Angling success is often poor during the few days after the muddy, brown water appears. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go fishing.
When I launched the boat this week, while huge snowflakes crept beneath my coat collar and reel handles turned into ice cubes, I initially thought the worst. How could a fish even find my lure?
After the first fifteen minutes, confidence grew. Our target was largemouth bass. Muddy water was only one issue. The second was the fact that water temperatures had dipped into the 40’s. Many anglers believe that bass won’t bite after the surface temperatures descend below 50-degrees.
Most ice anglers don’t believe that. People who fish for crappie, bluegill, perch and even those who put out tip-ups for northern pike speak of encounters with largemouth, otherwise known as black bass.
Bass will bite throughout fall and winter. Though their growth stagnates below the ice, they don’t hibernate. Bass feed all year.
The presentation we used to catch our dozen, cold, muddy water bass was pretty basic. A 3/8-ounce Northland Tackle Jungle Jig with a plastic trailer was all we needed.
Trailers can look like claws of a crayfish, traditional straight legs, twister tail grubs or minnow-type swimbaits. And even though there’s only a couple weeks of open water left, that jig-n-pig (the name the jig and trailer combo is often called by bass anglers) will tempt largemouth right up until the ice forms.
You’d think the bass become sluggish once the water temperatures fall. It’s odd because the number of fish you land in a trip falters slightly, but the size of fish you catch on average is often higher compared to summer season fishing.
And the largemouth are anything but sluggish. After pitching the jig out and not getting a bite in the first several seconds, I cranked the Jungle Jig back quickly, to cast again. On three different occasions, a bass followed the jig back to the boat, within eyesight, and a fish hit the jig and came board right next to the boat.
Keep in mind that fishing a jig-n-pig requires heavy line and a stout rod. Spinning equipment will rarely suffice. A baitscasting reel situated on a heavy or extra-heavy rod paired with monofilament or fluorocarbon 17=pound test or more or with braided line will get you big largemouth, even in cold water.