According to Tom Holman, a biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, gizzard shad tolerate cooler water better than threadfin shad. When shad die, they sink to the bottom, which is why catfish caught in winter are often gorged with threadfin picked up off the bottom.
What does this mean for bass fishermen? Holman believes lures made to look or act like wounded or dying shad may work best for lethargic winter bass.
High on the list of Fannin bass pro Shannon Denson’s list of winter go-to baits are suspending jerkbaits, such as a Smithwick Super Rouge. Allowing the bait time to suspend, Denson works the rod tip up and down to make the bait swim toward the surface for a foot or so, then fall and suspend again. The motion mimics that of an injured or dying minnow.
“There are quite a few baits that suspend now,” Denson said. “I don’t think one is really better than another, as much as presentation is a key for success. Bomber, Bandit and others have made divers that have limited depth, but if they dive deep enough to reach the suspended fish, then they can be successful.”
Once the sows began moving to the bedding areas, baits need to change to those that mimic threats to the nest and the eggs. Lizards or salamanders pulled through the bed will spark an angry reaction by the attending bass.
Consider that unique patterns exist on some lakes, and Ross Barnett Reservoir and the prespawn is a perfect example. If you don’t know how to swim a lizard through pad stems and other vegetation, you might as well stay home. It will work like crazy on buck bass in February and early March, then be extremely deadly when the big females move in to find a mating partner.
A slow, quiet approach is necessary in shallow water, so carry a push pole and don’t be heavy footed on the trolling motor.