West Virginia Bass Federation - FISHTAILS
 FishTails: Jan. 2000

Yamaha Fishing Pro Jay Yelas

Let's go fishin'! with Yamaha Fishing Pro Jay Yelas
'Fishing shallow during the winter months'

In clear water lakes, when most bass anglers think about catching fish in the fall and winter, they're thinking about a deep worm or jig bite. Typically in clear water, the baitfish are very deep this time of year. As a result, most of the bass in these deep lakes are in 30 to 60' of water, and that's usually where the most consistent action is.

Few people look to water less than 15' deep, but this shallow water can produce some of the biggest stringers of the year in late fall and early winter. If you want to fish shallow this time of year, don't expect many bites but look for some big fish.

My records indicate that the best shallow bite this time of year usually occurs around the full moon and is in the upper third of the reservoir. Usually when you find one up shallow, there are more nearby. They come out to feed, and that's the only reason they are up on the bank cruising around. These schools of big fish don't come up shallow every day, but if you find them, you can catch a really nice stringer.

Covering a big lake is hard enough when you are fishing the shore and shallow structure; it can be a real challenge fishing the middle of the lake where you are susceptible to wind and bigger waves. Staying in one spot often requires more power than you'll get from a trolling motor. A Yamaha VMAX outboard starting at 150hp and going to 225hp offers all the power you'll need plus it'll get you from one spot to the next as the fishing slows down.

Most of my cold-water success has come on river rock or chunk rock banks out towards the main river channel. Because they are on these rock banks, I believe they are primarily looking for crawdads. Female bass need to eat crawdads now as their egg sacks start developing for the coming spawn.

I throw crawdad-colored crankbaits and jigs this time of year. Concentrate working on river rock points or on the sides of the points.

Deep-diving crawdad crankbaits also work great. One of my favorites is a 3/8-oz. lure in a crayfish or brown crayfish pattern. This is an awesome color in clear water.

Work the crankbait at a slow to medium retrieve on the rock banks. Crankbaits are probably your best bet for this shallow water, but keep the jig handy for thoroughly dissecting areas where you caught a couple cranking.

Another good bet is a suspending jerkbait. These baits can really be effective if the water is fairly clear (2 to 5' visibility), and the bass are lethargic. You can really slow these baits down, and they are usually good for milking another fish or two out of a spot where you've just caught one on a crankbait. Suspending jerkbaits in a shad or trout pattern, or just black and silver, are usually best.

These fish aren't living shallow; they're there to feed. It's very common this time of year to fish a spot in the morning and get nothing, then try it again midday and find fish. Bass move up on these banks for an hour or two each day to feed, then they quit. So, don't get discouraged if you crank for a couple hours and don't catch anything. The same banks could be good later in the day.

Give these ideas a try next time you are on the water. Hopefully, they will open the door to some big fish for you this winter.

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