(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Plenty of anglers who experience success on clear, grassy lakes during the warmer months tend to struggle when the temperatures drop. The fish don’t go away, nor do they stop feeding, but it takes a more targeted approach to catch them, said Connecticut pro Paul Mueller. “I feel like the strike zone gets smaller and smaller,” he explained.
Despite that shrinking strike zone, he believes that it’s still possible to catch fish on a variety of lures, so long as you adjust to differing reactions and positioning.
First, you’ll need to find healthy grass, the type that a jig will come through cleanly. He noted that deeper grass tends to be less affected by the early cold fronts than shallower vegetation. When there’s a lot of the good green stuff left, he’ll look for contour changes. No matter what, it’s all about deep-water access and depth changes, he added, explaining that even on extensive flats you’ll want to look for irregularities like humps or larger clumps of grass.
He uses several moving baits to trigger bites from aggressive fish, but also wants a “clean-up bait.” In his day-to-day game plan that’s usually a jig, because “it gets stronger the colder the water.” One favorite is the Tackle Supply Depot Tungsten Flip N Swim Grass Jig, which has a forward line tie that comes through the grass cleanly. He’ll most often put a twin-tail grub like the Reins G-Tail on the back because it provides “movement, but not crazy movement.” Color choices matter less than profile and rate of fall, so he’ll almost always tie on something brown or green. Bites come on the fall, so fall rate is critical.
He fishes his jig on a Dobyns Champion Extreme DX746C, paired with a Team Lew’s Lite reel (7.5:1) and 16-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.
When fish are willing to hit a moving bait and the grass is not up to the surface, typically when it’s windy, he’ll start with a jerkbait, but not the ones he starts with in the early spring. At that time he likes smaller baits, but now he wants a bigger lure, like a Deps 130. It allows him to cover water in a way that the jig doesn’t, and when it’s windy it’s tough to see the spots where the jig would work best. “With a jig, you’re looking to put it right on their head,” he explained.
The jerkbait has drawing power, so “you can fish it aggressively, but you can kill it, too.” He’ll fish it on a Dobyns Champion 706CB paired with a Lew’s BB1 Pro (7:1) and 12-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.
The third most-used weapon in his arsenal is a heavy spinnerbait like the Dobyns D-Blade Advantage, usually a 3/4-ounce double-willow model. He often puts a 4-inch Reins Rockvibe Shad on the back for a little bit of extra action and to change the profile. The weight of the spinnerbait “allows me to fish it deeper if I have to.” It also comes through the grass more easily than the jerkbait. Sometimes that little extra bit of flash and speed triggers bites better than a slower presentation, even as the mercury dips.
If you want to learn some of the other keys to Mueller’s strategies for catching bass in cold, clear water over vegetation, including other jerkbaits that sometimes get the call and why he uses Spike-It dipping dye, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.