(By James Watson) When the heat of August starts to fade and the memories of warm summer nights begin to be forgotten, water temperatures start to slowly dip down the mercury gauge. The world of a fish, in its underwater habitat, is changing.
The majority of fish are moving from their summer locations, usually deeper water, to flatter, shallower banks in search of food in preparation for the upcoming winter. As temperatures continue to drop into late fall, those fish will eventually make their way back to deeper water and start associating with steeper banks throughout the winter.
This process is a never-ending, circular cycle and the time frame when it happens depends on the weather patterns. Polar vortexes dropping in from Canada can cause this transition to happen quickly. Or a mild, more gradual, cool-down can draw the process out. The fish’s timetable is set by length of day and water temperature.
A spinnerbait is one of my favorite ways to catch large bass when water temperatures begin to drop, to the point when temperatures get below 55 degrees. I like to burn or wake a spinnerbait in late summer and early fall. As the days move closer to the New Year and those temps keep dropping, I will slow down my presentation. When the water temps reach 55 degrees or cooler, your best bet for big fish is to slow roll that spinnerbait.
My spinnerbait of choice is the War Eagle Screaming Eagle in white and chartreuse. I’ll throw a ½ ounce double willow blade with one of the blades always being gold. As the water temps get closer to 55 degrees, I’ll change to a yellow and green spinnerbait with a large Colorado blade on the back and a small Colorado blade in front or a larger bladed double willow leaf.
As with any specific technique, the foundation of throwing a spinnerbait and having success in landing fish on it is based on the total set up. The incorrect line choice can break fish off or not get a good hook set. The gear ratio on your reel can also be a determining factor in the proper presentation of the spinnerbait. Too stiff of a rod or too light of a rod can mean trouble. I’m not saying you can’t catch fish with some random set up but you are going to be more consistent if you have the right set up. In a tournament situation, consistency is the number one factor.
I might be a little different with my line choice compared to other fisherman. I prefer to use monofilament line for my spinnerbaits in cold water. For slow rolling, Maxima 20-pound Ultragreen gives me excellent abrasion resistance with just the right amount of stretch. I’m throwing the bait around rocks on steeper banks as the temperatures fall, so it is important to have an abrasion- resistant line. Maxima Fishing Line is the best on the market.
I use a Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier reel with a 5.2:1gear ratio. This is a great mid-range priced reel tough enough to put up with the demands of fishing for a living. That gear ratio allows me to really slow my presentation down, which is critical in cold water.
I throw my spinnerbaits on a seven-foot medium-heavy Waft Outlaw Rod. It gives me the stiffness for a good hook set on a long cast, but the flexibility to fight the fish without worry of losing it.
Since a spinnerbait only has one hook, (or two if you’re using a trailer hook), your rod and line choice is important. With only one hook, the hook set is crucial and a stiffer rod gives you the power for a solid hook up. Monofilament line provides just a little stretch you don’t break off. It is a balance that I’ve found consistently gets large fish in the boat on cold days.
So as the current Polar Vortex crosses the country, bust out the spinnerbaits on your home water, if it isn’t iced up. Commit to a spinnerbait with the right set up and you can still have some fun catching big late fall largemouths. Good fishing J.W.
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