Lake Casitas Fishing Guide 12/14/2017 – It’s Winter and Here is Your Approach
Winter is upon us. Without question this is the most difficult time of the season for all of us in the bass fishing world. Most bass anglers just electe not to fish in the winter. The number of boats you see on Lake Casitas or any given reservoir drop off significantly at this time of year. Your chances of having any success take a nose dive at this time of the year. This is the season that I get the most calls and emails from anglers asking what am I doing wrong? What can I do to improve my production? It’s pretty simple. For those of you that are diehard and love the sport like I do and I want to fish every day you just have to focus your efforts on very small areas and and keep your bait movement to a minimum. The areas where you can consistently catch fish in the wintertime become very finite and it’s so important for you to focus your efforts in the right area if you’re going to achieve success during the winter. Winter fishing is all about patience and timing. Here in the western United States the main food source that’s consistent for our fish is threadfin shad. Western fish love to gorge themselves on large mature threadfin shad all through the fall of the season. By the time it gets to winter these fish are fat and choked with a abundance of threadfin shad. The fish are healthy and fat as they prepare to relax for the most part through the winter season. As the water cools the fishes metabolism decreases and for the most part fish do not need to feed that often during the winter months. You’re dealing with very short windows of time that the fish are actually active. With this being said you need to concentrate your efforts in areas that you believed to have a good populations of bass and keep working the area in an attempt to be there when the timing is right and the fish decide to bite. Whether you’re going to fish in a tournament or you’re going fun fishing for the weekend try to focus your efforts on two or three particular areas that you really like. Give them a good amount of time and be patient and work the area thoroughly. This is not the time of year to fish 10 or 12 different spots during the course of the day. This is when an angler focuses on two or three areas that he or she really likes and works those areas with confidence in an attempt to be in the right place at the right time. The majority of the success that is celebrated by Western anglers in the winter is being had by being focused and having the confidence and patience to stay in the area you know the fish live in. The same goes for your lure choices. Keep your lure selections down to a minimum and try to focus your efforts on proven baits that always produce each and every winter. My personal choice is to limit my winter fishing arsenal to a Hopkins Shorty 75 jigging spoon, a Rapala Ice jig, Senko, some version of the plastic worm, and a football head jig. Keep your color choices very simple. Keep your jigging spoons in some type of a threadfin shad color pattern. I like a plastic worm in the natural ox blood or nightcrawler like tones. Just something very natural don’t be flamboyant at this time of year. Keep your jig very simple and try to resemble the colors of the crayfish at this time of year. I’ve always liked something in a brown and purple color and there are many anglers that love watermelon colors during the winter also. Once again decide on a jig that you’re going to fish and don’t overthink it. The most important thing about all of these fishing techniques is to really slow down the movement on your bait and really try to minimize the amount of tip action that you use on your bait in the winter. Without question I can tell you the biggest mistake that anglers make in the winter is they move their rod tip too much because they had so much success doing that during the spring and summer of the year. When the water temperature is warm a bait that has a lots of movement in it and works erratically looks very natural to a fish. In the winter it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Remember the water is now getting cold. Everything in the water is slowing down. It just does not look natural to the fish when they see something moving in a quick erratic fashion at this time of year. It’s a dead giveaway to fish that this is not the the real thing. Anglers are so used to throwing out there plastic worm and jiggling their rod tip as they have in the summer and I see them all the time doing this during the winter of the year. This is the biggest mistake that you can make. Try to fish your bait as slowly and evenly as possible. Let me give you a small example of what I’m talking about. In the winter time of the year I much preferred to fish the split shot technique with a plastic worm. Without question the split shot technique has faraway been the most productive plastic worm technique for me in the winter. The simple reason is that by having a split shot on your line in front of the worm kills or deadens all the erotic movement that an angler imparts with there rod tip. If you insist on using the drop shot technique when you plastic worm fish don’t move your rod tip. Move that drop shot worm with little to no movement! A really great tip my anglers on the RTF Bass tour taught me is to fish a super short drop shot leader. There is little to no grass or vegetation in the water so try a 3-5” distance from your drop shot worm and drop shot weight. This is a great technique that I apply all winter at Lake Casitas in Ventura California. This short distance “kills” a lot of the action and better resembles a crawfish. When fishing a split shot just drag your split shot with very very slow movements during the winter. You’ll see a marked difference in your success if you move your bait slow and impart little to no action into your bait during this time of the year. Another great example of that is fishing with the Senko in the winter. One of my favorite ways to fish it is to throw it out a long distance on a spinning rod with 8 pound test line. I actually don’t move the bait for the first two minutes that it’s in the water. I let the bait sink all the way to the bottom and let it rest on the bottom for at least 30 to 40 seconds before I even move it. Generically this is called “dead sticking”. It’s absolutely one of the most productive Western techniques for catching bass in the winter. The problem is most anglers just don’t have the patience to throw a Senko out with absolutely no weight on it and not do anything for over two minutes. It’s just so difficult for people to comprehend. You’ll throw your Senko out and you will not have touched it for two minutes and then all of a sudden you’ll see your line moving away. The fish see the bait slowly undulating on the bottom and they just simply come up and inhaled the bait right off the bottom. Once again this is an example of not moving your bait and keeping your focus in small areas and being patient. Even when you fishing with the jigging spoon whether it be the Hopkins Shorty 75 or the Rapala Ice Jig you don’t half to move the bait so radically with your rod tip. Try moving your jigging spoon with subtle movements. Small hops. Or slow lifts with gentle falls. These all can change your results dramatically in the winter. Now remember that were speaking about largemouth bass in this column. When you’re speaking about fishing smallmouth and Kentucky spotted bass they absolutely love cold water. When you’re fishing for Kentucky spotted bass and smallmouth bass in the winter you can throw all these rules out the window. There’s lots of stuff that you can work at high-speed and have great success on smallmouth bass and Kentucky spotted bass. But when you’re fishing for northern strain largemouth bass and Florida strain largemouth bass in the west boy you better slow your bait down because it can really change the course of your day.