JAMES WATSON: How I Get Bit When Winter Rolls Through the Ozarks - Major League Fishing

JAMES WATSON: How I Get Bit When Winter Rolls Through the Ozarks

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James Watson calls Table Rock Lake home, and the Missouri pro has some tips to get bit in the Ozarks this winter. Photo by Josh Gassmann
December 16, 2020 • James Watson • Angler Columns

You can definitely feel the chill in there air here in the Ozarks. Winter has made its way to southwest Missouri, and that means turning my attention to some wintertime tactics.

Other people prefer to fish offshore and find the bass hanging out in deeper water, but that’s never been my kind of fishing. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not how I like to fish. Even in the winter, you can find me near the banks of Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake or Lake of the Ozarks using a few different baits.

Winter Wiggle Wart

The first bait I like to use in the winter is a Storm Wiggle Wart. This is an old-school bait that’s really a staple item for me. One of the best colors they make of this bait is called Phantom Green.

You can use all three of the bait’s I’m going to talk about on a good, 45-degree rock and gravel mixed bank. Look for banks that are sliding out from pockets onto the main lake.

For this crankbait, I like 8-pound Maxima Ultragreen when the water is really clear. In the Ozarks, the water is going to be pretty clear in the winter, so I think this is a great option for line. I get the best action and depth when I’m throwing it on Maxima Ultragreen monofilament.

A Couple Different Jerkbaits

I’m a big fan of a jerkbait, like a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue or a Luck-E-Strike RC STX. Both of those baits are already suspended so they work really well for me.

Another thing that’s important: You should never pass up a good cedar tree in the Ozarks. If you ever see an isolated little clump or even a single cedar tree down a bank by itself, you should always make some casts toward that target with your jerkbait.

It’s not uncommon to catch multiple bass off of one cedar tree, but I can tell you this— it’s where you’re going to catch your biggest fish. I always throw at the shaded side of the tree first, but make sure you’re making multiple casts on both sides of the tree.

I also like to use the same 8-pound Maxima Ultragreen monofilament for my jerkbaits as well in the winter.

An Old, Reliable Spinnerbait

It’s really hard to beat slow rolling a spinnerbait in the Ozarks. I love the jerkbait for targeting cedar trees, but my spinnerbait is a close second. Working a spinnerbait slow by those trees can really make a difference and give the fish a little different look if they aren’t biting a jerkbait.

Chasing the Wind is Key

You’ve got to have the wind, folks. The wind has to blow to make this technique effective. Moving that water around and getting those fish active is a big key for this shallow-water technique to work.

Sometimes the wind is blowing a certain direction and an identical bank across the lake might not have any wind on it at all. Given that option, always chase the wind and the bank that’s getting it.  

I’m not necessarily targeting any specific species when I do this, but more often than not, I’m finding more largemouth than anything. Over the years, I’ve experienced that the largemouth tend to hang out more shallow in the winter than the spotted bass in the Ozarks do.

Try out these baits and focus on these targets next time you’re in the Ozarks and I promise that you’ll have a great winter day on the water.