Rapala Pros Offer Early-Season Tactics for Finicky Bass
For most anglers, cold weather and cold water can be a tough fishing combination. Sure - you can dress for the weather, but there isn't much an angler can do about cold water.
However, according to Larry Dahlberg, David Fritts and Jim Moynagh of the Rapala Pro Fishing Staff, cold water doesn't always have to mean slow fishing. These pros have come up with a few cold water tips sure to warm up any angler during the early days of the fishing season.
1. Use Suspending Jerkbaits to Attract Finicky Bass - Larry Dahlberg
According to Larry Dahlberg, ultimate game fish expert and host of "The Hunt for Big Fish with Larry Dahlberg" on ESPN, one of the best tricks to attracting big bass in cool water conditions is to use a suspending jerkbait, such as a Rapala Husky Jerk, in deep water.
"Bass are creatures of instinct," says Dahlberg, "and will attack if provoked. Lure action and placement is critical when fishing for cool-water bass. You've got to get the bait in front of their noses to trigger the attack."
Before you find your lucky spot, or even before you leave the dock, Dahlberg recommends casting your bait of choice in open water a few times to perfect the ideal action and depth of your lure.
Rapala Cool Water Tactics
"In deep water applications," says Dahlberg, "lure action is critical. Color patterns or other lure characteristics may not have as much affect on a fish as the lure's action. Finding the right combination of depth and action before you find your target will help put the odds in your favor when dealing with finicky fish."
"Once you have the technique down," adds Dahlberg, "search for productive water, such as shallow bays or channels that open into deeper waters. Depth- or fish-finders are useful tools to find such spots, particularly when fishing unfamiliar lakes or rivers."
"When you've found your spot, cast your suspending jerkbait past the target area to ensure your bait is deep enough once it reaches the target."
"Take your time as you work, ensuring your lure is at the right depth and producing the right action. Once you've reached the target, halt your retrieve and let your lure suspend in front of the fish."
"The suspended action of these lures makes it almost irresistible for bass," says Dahlberg. "Once the lure is in front of a bass' face, give it a twitch and pause again. The suspended action is sure to tease a strike out of the most tight-lipped bass."
"If you find the fish just aren't biting," adds Dahlberg, "vary your depths by increasing or decreasing your rate of retrieval until you find the right combination."
Remember - cooler temperatures don't have to mean less action. The right combination of depth and action will work every time.
2. Target Feeding Zones and Structure - David Fritts
David Fritts, "crankbait specialist" and winner of the 1997 FLW World Championship, targets feeding zones when fishing cooler water for success.
"Colder weather often translates to deep-water bass," says Fritts, "but that's not always the case - particularly in the early spring." Although the metabolism for bass slows during the winter months, females have to feed more than normal to ensure they have enough nutrients to develop their eggs. Bass may not be up in the shallows spawning, but they will continue to feed in water depths between 8 and 12 feet.
To attract spring large bass, use a crankbait, such as a Risto Rap, and target the feeding zone, particularly if the area leads to deeper channels.
"Run your bait through the target zone a few times while varying speeds," says Fritts.
"Bass also have a tendency to stick to structure," adds Fritts, "particularly during the colder months. Once your target structure is spotted, cast well beyond your target, and retrieve slowly, making sure your lure is in its full motion as it passes productive areas."
To make the most of productive feeding times, Fritts also suggests checking the fisherman's almanac in a local newspaper or area fishing guide for peak feeding times. Local tackle shop owners also may be able to offer a few hints.
3. Identify Water Color and Clarity for Best Results - Jim Moynagh
According to Jim Moynagh, winner of the 1997 FLW Open, water color plays an important role when targeting big bass, particularly when they are deep.
"If fish are holding below 20 feet," says Moynagh, "water clarity is critical. I look to particular lures and lure patterns that closely resemble a bass' diet, such as a Down Deep Rattlin' Fat Rap with Crawdad or Hot Mustard patterns. The deep-running action of the lure, plus the added attraction of an internal rattle, may help attract finicky bass."
"Unfortunately," adds Moynagh, "the clarity of water doesn't always cooperate with you. If the water is darker, bass will not only slow down their eating habits, but may have a hard time actually seeing your bait. If this is the case, be patient and slow down your retrieve."
In some dark or murky water applications, it's useful to use attractive colors and oversized lures. Firetiger and Clown are excellent examples of patterns that may help your cause. Orange and Red also are colors to keep in mind for these times. Larger lures, such as a Rapala Magnum, which normally are reserved for larger gamefish such as northern pike, can be extremely productive for bass of all sizes. Larger baits are also useful in cold water because of their ability to dive deeper than most hardbait lures.
Dedicated to delivering memorable fishing experiences every time, the Rapala Group, based in Vääksy, Finland, manufactures and markets fishing lures, knives and accessories under the Rapala, Normark, Blue Fox and Storm brand names. The company was unofficially founded in 1936 when Lauri Rapala invented the Rapala fishing lure. Rapala maintains its strict standards of quality and craftsmanship while delivering its fishing products to anglers in more than 130 countries.
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