CLIFF PACE: Wintertime Simplicity Will Set You Free - Major League Fishing
CLIFF PACE: Wintertime Simplicity Will Set You Free
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CLIFF PACE: Wintertime Simplicity Will Set You Free

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Cliff Pace writes about his game plan when he heads into the winter months. Photo by Phoenix Moore
December 15, 2020 • Cliff Pace • Angler Columns

Wintertime, to me, is a time of keeping things simple. The reason that I say that is during the winter, fish seem to get bunched up more so than during any other time of the year. The fish really move out to the main lake and main creek arms, and you don’t really need to pull out all the stops to catch some fish.

Think simple. When we’re in the winter, I focus on just a couple of key baits to try and get the job done. A handful of baits are all you really need, and for me, those three are a crankbait, a jerkbait and a jig. I can slowly fish all three of these baits in high-percentage areas that offer a very easy meal for a lethargic fish.

Classic Cold-Water Crankbait

During the winter months, you’ll find that a lot of the fish pull out to deeper water and cling to isolated pieces of structure. Those fish are very susceptible to not a fast-retrieved crankbait, but a slower one.

My wintertime crankbait is a Jackall MC60 MR. Jackall just brought this bait back and it’s my favorite crankbait to use when it starts getting cold.

I like to go with a TFO Tactical Elite 7-foot cranking rod paired with a Savage Gear finesse reel. When it comes to line, that often varies depending on the depth I’m trying to reach. I often switch between 12-, 10- or even 8-pound HI-SEAS fluorocarbon. That line is so important because those fish aren’t going to chase your bait as far as they would when it’s warmer. Getting your bait down to their exact depth is going to be huge.

Just a Jerkbait

When you have the baitfish dying off in the winter, nothing imitates a dying shad better than a jerkbait. My go-to jerkbait is a Jackall DD Squirrel. It’s small, dives deep and has a great profile that’s very tempting to a lethargic bass. Other jerkbaits kind of dart from left to right, but the DD Squirrel offers a better rolling action. I think that rolling action better imitates a less-active baitfish, which is what the bass see this time of the year.

I use the same rod, reel and line for the jerkbait that I do for the crankbait to, like I said earlier, keep it simple.

A Couple Different Jigs

A jig is just a simple, easy meal that’s near impossible for a fish to pass up in the winter. It’s not going to take a lot of energy for a fish to catch up to that jig, and the bass knows that. That’s why it’s so effective.

I usually go with something in my V&M family of jigs. I like a Pacemaker Series Flatline Football head jig, the Adrenaline Flipping jig, but I normally stay away from the swim jigs in the winter due to their increased action.

My trailer isn’t going to have a lot of vibration. I use a V&M Cherry Chunk because it doesn’t have a lot of kicking and flapping. It’s more of a crawfish paddle-style trailer which has less action.

I use a 7-foot-6 TFO Tactical Elite rod for flipping and the 7-foot-4 version for casting. If I’m casting, I prefer 15-pound HI-SEAS fluorocarbon with my jigs. If I’m flipping, I adjust to 20-pound fluorocarbon or braid if the water color enables me to do so.

Take Time to Find the Right Spot

It’s so important to find that specific spot on a spot. It’s more important in the winter than during any other time of the year. Instead of fishing the entire length of a creek channel, you need to find that one turn in that creek channel that has the most vertical break. It offers the angler the opportunity to catch really high numbers of fish if they can find that needle-in-a-haystack location where those fish are grouped up.

Covering a bunch of water can work wonders in the spring and summer, but you really need to get spot specific when winter comes around. When you find them in the winter, I think it gets a lot easier than any other time of the year. Good luck out there.

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