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The Shotem' and Caughtem' Blog is the place to find the latest reviews and commentary on gear, destinations, conditions, events, and general knowledge to inform our readers and give our opinions to anyone listening.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013 18:54

Striped Bass Fishing in Cold Conditions

With most of the Midwest getting covered in snow and hunting season coming to a close we thought we would focus on cold weather fishing.  Though we recently wrote about ice fishing, we in the Midwest have not had many days when ice has covered the waters.  So what fish likes cold water should we want to venture out to grab some good bragging photos.  After a little research we learned that the Striped Bass still thrive even when the water is cold.  There are many lakes throughout the Midwest that have Striped Bass populations such as Lake Texoma, Grand Lake, Table Rock, Beaver Lake, Lake Hamilton and the Colorado river to name a few.  Here are three potential methods that will help you land a fish.


Casting: Look for fish near points, flats, drop-offs, submerged islands and bridge pilings when using this technique. Also watch for stripers boiling water on the surface as they tear into hapless baitfish. You can use a variety of lures, including lipless crankbaits, deep-diving minnow plugs and Sassy Shads. But none can compare with the plain white bucktail jig, preferably with a single saddle hackle tied along each flank. The best weight is ¼-3/8 ounce. You can add a plastic twister tail to this if the water is stainy, but usually the jig by itself is best.

Cast this lure out to the structure described above and reel in slowly and steadily. It may seem boring. But it won't be when a 10-or 15-pound striper nails the lure. If strikes are slow in coming, try pausing halfway back during the retrieve and letting the lure sink down, like a wounded shad running out of gas. This often draws jarring strikes.

Trolling: This is another good tactic for winter stripers in the state. This method puts your lure down in the 15-30 foot range where stripers often hang out during cold weather. And it keeps it there constantly as you slowly motor over likely holding areas. Good places to troll include the mouths of tributaries, river and creek channel edges, humps, steep bluffs and near bridges.

Downriggers will allow you to troll any lure for stripers. If you don't want to fool with them, use large deep-plunging plugs such as the Storm Big Mac, Hellbender, Mann's Stretch and Deep-diving Rapalas. These lures dive 12-25 feet when trolled and often tempt jumbo stripers.

To make them even more effective, tie an 18-36 inch leader to the center hook of the front treble and then attach a ¼-ounce white jig or grub to this trailer. The stripers often are attracted to the large wobbling plug, but actually strike the smaller trailing jig.

Live Bait: Nothing can tempt a lethargic winter striper like a live baitfish. Shad are best, but if you can't catch them with a throw net, jumbo shiners sold at bait shops will work almost as well. Use 10-20 pound line and a size two hook. Attach a leader of two-to-four feet and the hook after threading a one-half to one-ounce egg sinker above it on the main line. Alternately, you can simply squeeze a few large split shot onto the line.

Hook the baitfish through the lips or lightly through the back and lower the offering down to the level where you find stripers on the depth finder or suspect they are holding. Drifting is a good tactic if there is a light wind or you can anchor out over a particularly inviting piece of structure.

Drop a buoy on the spot if you hook up, since there might be a whole school of stripers there. And if you do find a pack of voracious stripers, I'll bet you probably won't even remember how cold the air is!  As always post photos of your big or small catch to the Caughtem Bragging wall and tell us your story. 

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