5 Finesse Techniques for Wintertime Fishing
For some of you reading this, your water is still frozen solid. The heart of this Alabama boy goes out to you. And fortunately for those of you on ice, we have several anglers in the MonsterBass community that are pumping out great content to help you catch more fish. But as for the rest of us, the ice isn’t there but the fish can still be a little cold natured at times.
Finesse techniques are great this time of year. They’re extremely effective at unlocking the jaw of a cold, lethargic bass and this will typically increase the number of bites you’ll get in a day. So today, we’re going to look at five great finesse techniques to try this winter, as we attempt to patiently await the spring and the spawn that are just around the corner.
The Ned rig is perhaps the greatest finesse technique to blowup the fishing scene in the last decade. Having thought we already had all we needed in the extremely effective shaky head, bass anglers throughout the world suddenly realized it could be cut in half and be made that much more productive. To be fair, a Ned rig is a little more than a pint-sized shaky head. It actually differs in a couple of ways.
A Ned rig jighead, or Ned-head, has a flat surface intended to help it standup on the bottom where most shaky heads have rounded heads. And the hook is left exposed with a Ned rig, where the hook point is rigged weedless using a shaky head. But this little nugget really does work extremely well, especially in cold water. I’ve actually swapped back and forth between a Ned rig and a shaky head on a cold winter trip once and the Ned rig out performed a shaky head 5 to 1. It really is that much better, at times. A great technique to be used around rocky, sandy and clay banks.
A dropshot works well in a couple areas in particular where a Ned rig comes up short. Though there are weedless Ned-heads available with weedguards, they’re still not super efficient in heavy brush or other cover, especially when fishing vertically. This is the main reason I’ll still fish a dropshot at times in the winter. A dropshot is a great technique to use year-round, but especially in the hot summer months and cold winter months when fish relate to deeper cover.
A dropshot is very weedless and can be casted, pitched or dropped vertically into brush and other cover. With the weight sitting on the bottom, you’re able to let a soft plastic suspended in place. You can work the bait along, barely shake it with your rod tip or even try to hold it perfectly still. But even when holding it still, the bait will inevitably move a little as the wind and water swirl around. This is a great way to get bit in the winter, as the bait’s persistent presence eventually pesters a bass into biting.
Small little boot or paddle tail swimbaits are also great finesse baits in the wintertime. There are several different jigheads available to fish these on. Though there are dozens of swimbait specific heads out there, a simple shaky head will also work. Just run the bait up onto the hook, leaving the hook exposed. These are great little baits to throw in ponds, creeks or from the bank on a big lake too.
If you’re in a boat, look for 45-degree banks, humps or long points where bass will suspend in hopes that baitfish will pass by. Insert your swimbait into the equation and you can often trick those bass into biting. This is a super slow technique in the wintertime though, as the cold-blooded bass won’t likely be willing to chase something very fast. So just remember to slow your retrieve to a crawl.
If you find suspended fish that won’t bite your swimbait, you can try jigging a spoon. Prior to the rise in popularity of the dropshot, jigging a spoon was a staple for wintertime fishing. Now, its a bit of a sleeper since so many anglers have gone to the dropshot. This has actually made it even more effective than it was years ago.
Simply drop the spoon down to the depth of the fish and then jig it up and down by popping your rod tip up and then letting it back down. As you do this, it will appear as though a shad is struggling to swim. This is actually something the fish are looking for, as the cold winter waters prove too much at times for the shad to survive. You can do this in open water or around brush and boulders as well. But if the fish are really close to the brush, or even down in it, you’re going to want to swap back over to the dropshot.
Another great wintertime finesse technique that doesn’t get a lot of attention anymore, the Carolina rig is great for getting a stubborn bass to bite. Similar to a dropshot in some ways, a Carolina rig is comprised of a hook, weight, leader and soft plastic bait. But the order of the components is completely different and Carolina rigs are meant more for long casting where dropshots are primarily fished more vertically.
To setup a Carolina rig, first run a weight and bead up your line and then tie on a swivel. On the other end of the swivel you’ll attach what is known as a leader. Take 2- to 3- feet of monofilament or fluorocarbon line and tie that to the swivel. Then tie a worm hook to the end of this piece of line and rig your favorite soft plastic on the hook weedless. Now you have a finesse presentation that you can slowly drag across points and flats, or even toss out into the middle of a pond.
These are all proven producers during the winter months when the bass become a little more close-lipped and hard to catch. So hopefully these five finesse techniques will give you something to try with confidence the next time you hit the water this winter.