Bass Angler Magazine

Fishing Winter Brush Piles

Well it’s not exactly prime bass fishing time for most of us but that’s not to say you still can’t get out and catch a few. As the water gets colder and the bass get more lethargic they simply do not have to eat as much as the warmer months. Given the right conditions however you can have some killer days on the water and it’s all about being in the right place at the right time and focusing on simple to use baits and presentations. The good thing about a winter bite is generally the fish stay put and do not move too much but rather relocate in the water column. This makes brush piles a prime place for winter bass. Brush piles are among some of the most popular types of bass fishing cover throughout the year but the winter time might just be one the best times to find and catch cold water bass. Brush piles, whether shallow or deep offer cover and protection for forage and also the bass that are attracted to them. They provide perfect ambush points for bass looking to get an easy meal and in the winter time when everything is moving a bit slower this is especially important.
Early Winter:Early winter is a time when the fall is clearly over but we are not quite in the grips of winter. Frosty mornings and chilly but bearable days persist. This is the time of year when I will target brush piles in the 6-10 foot range and even some shallower or visible if a favorable weather pattern exists. I start my search on channel swings leading out of a major creek or pocket. Bass that have left the shallows in the backs of these places will generally be attracted to brush piles as they are migrating to main lake or main creek deeper water areas. Finding these areas can be as easy as visibly locating some shallow brush piles sticking out of the water especially on lakes that experience a winter drawdown.

Typically if you can visibly see some brush then more are usually located in deeper water. I also take advantage of my Lowrance Structure Scan and idle around scanning the banks for brush piles, it’s an invaluable tool that will save a ton of time. Generally in the winter I fish small offerings, however early winter is a time when I am going to take advantage of things before the really cold weather sinks in and fish a slightly larger bait. I keep my choices simple covering different depth zones by slow rolling either a half or three quarter ounce Terminator spinnerbait in the hot olive color with a silver/gold Colorado/willow blade combination. When I start to catch a few fish I will then slow down and throw a Yamamoto 7GL 7 3/4 Kut Tail worm in black blue flake or green pumpkin matched with a 1/4 slip sinker, 4/0 VMC hook and 14 pound test Sufix fluorocarbon. Both presentations are fairly slow allowing the bait to come in contact with the brush.

Deep Winter:

As winter starts to really set in there is one clear choice of baits and almost the only one on my deck. Assuming that many of the lakes that can even be considered fishable during this time will be in the southern half of the country, shad will be the prominent food source. When deep winter sets in and the water cools to about 40 degrees shad start to struggle with their ability to swim right and often times will suspend over brush piles in 12 to 18 feet of water. The bait of choice to perfectly mimic these suspended shad is a jerk bait. I like the Shadow Rap from Rapala due to its almost 180 degree left to right kick allowing you to fish the bait with very little forward movement. This is the most important part of fishing and triggering strikes when the baitfish suspend in cold water. You simply need to keep the bait in front of the fish for as long as possible to get bit.

Depending upon the depth of the brush and bass I select either the standard Shadow Rap or deep Shadow Rap to get the bait lower in the water column using a twitch, twitch, pause cadence with both. The length of the pause is really determined by willingness of the bass to strike. The general rule is the colder the water the longer the pause, sometimes as long as 10-15 seconds. Location areas can vary from brush piles in major cheeks, main lake points and main lake bays. The best brush pile would be one with access to deep water and presence of forage. Typically the ideal depth is 12-18 feet but depths up to 25 or even 30 feet can hold deep winter time bass. If I can locate brush pile on some type of channel swing or drop, it’s money.

Late Winter:

As you start to see signs of winter coming to an end weather conditions improve where I revert back to shallower brush piles – the ones where the early winter fishing occurred in 6-10 foot of water. As the days get slightly longer and sun a bit stronger the bass slowly migrate to brush in these depth zones. My bait choices are different now. I have become a big fan of fishing a 1/2 ounce VMC Swingin’ Rugby head paired with a Yamamoto green pumpkin Kreature bait. Using this combination fished on a Duckett Micro Magic Pro 7’3” medium action rod, Duckett 360 7.1:1 ratio reel and 14 pound Sufix fluorocarbon is perfect for brush piles this time of year.

I can fish the Kreature right through these brush piles with a steady retrieve with minimal hang ups. It generates a lot of strikes from early staging bass showing them a little something different. Another great bait for this time of year is the Storm Arashi series 5 square bill crank. I fish the bait with a stop and go retrieve and hitting the structure from many angles as possible working to generate strikes. I’m using a 7-foot medium action Duckett Micro Magic rod and 360 casting reel with a 7.1:1 ratio for the square bill. This is also the same outfit used for the spinnerbait during the early winter season.

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