With the 2019 Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour opener on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga only weeks away, David Walker is nonetheless happy to welcome winter.
“It’s a time of year I can fish just for me,” says Walker, noting the abundance of open-water opportunity near his home in Sevierville, Tenn. “We have highland and hillland reservoirs and a mix of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass: Fort Loudoun, Douglas, Norris and Cherokee lakes. (Plus) Tennessee River headwaters, including the Holston, French Broad, Clinch, Powell and Little Tennessee rivers.”
Walker unabashedly confesses to doing “a lot of crappie fishing in winter.”
“For me, crappie fishing is fun, and it is good structure fishing exercise at this time of year,” says Walker, a self-described “bank burner,” known for flipping and pitching hefty jigs during his B.A.S.S. days. “You fish for crappie almost like you would use your electronics and structure fish for bass. Tight-lining grubs (for crappie) is reminiscent of fishing a swimbait on a ledge for bass. The technique is almost identical, but the bait is two inches long.”
Winter is also prime time to add to his mastery of jig technique.
“A jig is hard to beat year-round, especially in winter,” says Walker. “The water is clear, and lake levels are usually stable. I can just cast and fish it slow. I know I’ll catch some fish when I have that sucker tied on.”
His winter workhorse is a 3/8-ounce finesse-style jig. He will drop down to a 1/4-ounce jig if the fish demand a lighter, subtler offering and a slower drop rate. His jig of choice is the CrossEyeZ Power Finesse Jig, a golf-ball headed jig that he helped design for Z-Man. The 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes and with a light but powerful 2/0 Mustad hook that enables effective hooksets even with long casts and downsized tackle.
For jig trailers, he prefers Z-Man’s TRD and Finesse TRD Crawz.
“My ultra-finesse combination would be the 1/4-ounce CrossEyeZ Power Finesse Jig with the TRD trailer,” says Walker. “But lately the TRD Crawz has become my favorite jig trailer.”
“I cast right to the bank, and you’d be surprised how often I catch fish shallow in winter,” says Walker. “But you can still be 4- to 6-feet deep working this kind of bluff. If you pull your jig a long ways, it may come 6- to 8-feet from the bank and fall to 10- to 15-foot depths before it hits bottom again. I’ll pull the jig just a little bit, just enough to get it off bottom. And let it fall again. You want the jig to stay along the bottom but still have that ‘fall.’”
He uses a 7-foot, 5-inch medium (3-power) G. Loomis GLX rod with a fast tip. It’s the lightest rod in his arsenal. A high-speed “ultra-lightweight” Shimano Metanium reel delivers extra sensitivity and ample line capacity.
His line of choice is 12-pound FC Sniper line. He occasionally goes to 14-pound. The density of the fluorocarbon provides better feel and a faster sink rate, too.
Walker admits that patience is the name of the game in winter. How slow will he go?
“I like to fish slow, but not extremely slow, because I just don’t have the patience,” he says. “It’s on the bottom, but I just keep it moving.”