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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Cool, Clear Day Great for Winter Fishing

Cool and clear is not the best weather report for a Sunday morning fishing trip, but a lot better in winter than in summer.

In warmer weather, I try to fish on cloudy days. And some of the reasons hold true in winter as well as summer. Fish tend to move away from cover when the sky is dull gray and stick tight to cover when the sun is bright.

But, after weeks of extreme cold, I am grateful for the sunshine and willing to work tight to cover to catch a bass. Besides, shadows on south shores are long in winter, providing a fairly large area for the fish to hide in.

Black bass, of course, are more likely to move shallow on the north shore of reservoirs this time of year, forsaking good cover for water warmed by the sunshine. That means shallow fishing can be good in the sunniest areas on warm winter days.

While many experts like to spend their winter days fishing deep with spoons and jigs, I seek out the spots where the bass move shallow and use crank baits and spinner baits. Undeniably, a jig and pork-rind combination can be the best lure even when the bass move shallow in late winter. But I love to fish a lure designed to move fast, even though such lures have to be worked slowly when the water is cold.

The secret to success with crank baits and spinner baits can be using a stiff rod, boron or graphite. Bass seem to mouth slow-moving lures gently in winter. A sensitive rod offers a special advantage.

Rods that bend easily are great for working crank baits when the water begins to warm, because bass hit aggressively and fight powerfully then. But now is the time to use the stiff worming rod for cranking.

Color selection is absurdly easy in winter. Crawdad brown with orange trim seems always to be best in clear water, while shad-gray is perfect for dingy water. The secret, of course, is finding warm water that holds bass. Any color crank bait is likely to work where big bass are concentrated.

The main thing is not to miss a day of late winter bass fishing. The action can be the best of the year.

Crappie fishing, of course, is always likely to be great this time of year. Crappie, like bass, may be absurdly shallow, even though spawning time may be weeks away in most parts of Arkansas. Look for the best crappie fishing over deep water, however. The slabs aren't likely to get far from deep cover until they are ready to move to the shore to spawn.

Stumps along the edges of old creek channels are my favorite casting targets when working jigs for crappie this time of year. I refuse to use a float to keep my jig near the surface, so I usually catch fewer crappie than anglers who use bobbers to control the depth their jigs fall. But when I hook up with a nice crappie in winter, I feel extra proud, since it usually means I have concentrated well and kept my lure working just slowly enough to attract strikes but fast enough to stay at the right depth. Sometimes the challenge is too great and I give up and use a float. It is stupid to persist in resisting a proven method when those all around you are catching 10 fish to your one.

But succeeding by a method slightly different from the one that most other people are using is always an extra pleasure enjoyed only by mavericks.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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