Deer season is ending, and for a lot of Mississippi sportsmen it means their thoughts turn toward bass fishing.
Of course, the timing couldn’t be tougher.
We’re in the dead of winter, entering the period of time in January and February when water temperatures are at the lowest of the year. Rarely will you find any water in Mississippi above 55 degrees and most of the time you will see it in the 40s.
“Obviously bass slow down, so that means you have to slow down, too,” said Pete Ponds, an FLW Tour pro from Madison. “And you move to locations where bass will hold, like deep drops on riprap banks.”
Bass are lethargic in cold water so Ponds’ theory is to “force feed” them something they can’t refuse to hit.
No. 1 on his list is a suspending jerkbait, like Lucky Craft’s Pro Pointer 100.
“I like to go to a dam or another deep bank with rocks, and use the jerkbait,” Ponds said. “The key is casting, jerking it and reeling up the slack and letting it sit ... and I mean pausing several seconds. I’m not talking about ‘One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi ... it’s more like 10 Mississippi, 11 Mississippi, 12 Mississippi.”
The built in ballast and buoyancy properties of the suspending jerkbaits will keep the lure down in the strike zone, above the bass where they can see it and eventually react to it.
“Leave it there, no matter how difficult it is, long enough to force them to come up and hit it,” Ponds said. “Eventually, you will have to give it a series of jerks and twitches to move it, then you start the count again.”
Moving in the totally opposite direction, another one of Ponds’ favorite cold-water patterns is a lipless crankbait.
“Between 45 and 55 degrees I love to pump a Yozuri Vibe off the bottom on flats, especially with a shell or gravel bottom,” he said. “You’re not going to catch a lot, but oh man, the quality...”
Fish only those flats immediately adjacent to deep water, Ponds said, because the fish won’t stray far from it.
But, once he finds fish up on the flats and there’s a substantial warming trend, like maybe four or five days in the upper 50s and lower 60s, which are typical in the Deep South, Ponds knows fish become more aggressive even with only a small rise in water temperatures.
“Crankbaits,” he said. “I will fish those same flats with a Bandit 200 series because I want to cover water. Fish can tell even the slightest changes and will take advantage to feed. I’m looking for rock bottoms and stumps, any kind of structure.
“I will also use the 200 on the same stretches of dams where the jerkbait has produced action. I just move up closer to the rocks and try to keep the bait close to them by fishing more parallel to the rocks. With a jerkbait, I’m throwing perpendicular to the rocks and working it back deep. With the crankbait, I’m throwing along the bank and keeping it close.”
When the fishing is really difficult on cold days, Ponds doesn’t quit.
“I like to move out to the deep creek channel and slow down even more, and fish a drop-shot rig with a 5-inch Robo worm,” he said. “I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love to fish and I will fish with whatever it takes to get fish to bite.”