February 16, 2021
Winter fishing is where some anglers draw the line. Some people don’t agree with the cold weather, and the fish aren’t as active either. However, if you’re one of the few that does enjoy casting a line out in the cold, you’ll know that a different strategy is needed to be successful During this time, the right bait and lure are essential, and crankbaits are one of the best to use. If you’re going fishing during the colder months, read on for some winter crankbait tips to get better bites.
During winter, nature’s colors fade and lull our surroundings to a bleak monochromatic environment. This is also true for the fish still swimming in the freezing waters, especially in muddier beds, where a darker gradient of grey is the dominant shade.
Choosing a colorful and reflective crankbait is almost tantamount to success when angling during this time. In general, anything bright green, yellow, or red with touches of gray should work. These vibrant colors will stand out in the dull waters, while still appearing natural. You should also pay attention to the common prey of what you’re angling for and aim for a shade that matches it.
In the winter, fish will move slower to preserve energy. They will be sluggish, hesitant to expend effort, and uninspired to bite at anything. Since the fish are slow-going, they also get a clearer view of your presentation.
Crankbaits are effective because they disrupt the lazy waters because they realistically imitate baitfish and will instantly trigger the hunting instinct in any fish, whether it's bass or walleye.
Also known as a diving crankbait, the lipless crankbait is effective in mimicking injured prey. It will sink after it hits the water and the downward movement will pique the attention of otherwise uninterested fish. The lipless crankbait’s wobbling movement can appear to be very similar to shad, bluegill, and crawfish, making it easier to trick your target. It’s especially effective in waters between 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit or in areas with cross-currents.
When using lipless crankbaits, leveraging it on top of shallower water or aquatic vegetation is an efficient way to hook winter biters. Creeks, sandbars, drop-offs, and docks are great places to use this crankbait during winter.
When retrieving this type of bait, you’ll want to employ a “Yo-Yo” method. Let your lure dive on a semi-slack line and once it hits the bottom, yank the rod up or sideways to make the bait jerk quickly from the bed. This imitates the shuddering of an injured fish, and as it falls, will attract them easily.
If the lipless doesn’t do the job, you can give the flat-side crankbait a try. It doesn’t sink to the bottom because of its bill but instead floats on the surface. It wobbles similar to the sluggish movement of fish and is useful for trolling, casting in shallow waters, and avoiding snags on vegetation as you retrieve. It’s also effective around fallen trees, rocks, and sandbars. The flat-side crankbait is preferred in waters that are 42 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Speaking of which, a “stop and go” retrieve is often used with a flat-side crankbait. If in open water, cast the lure further out than your strike zone, slowly retrieve it, and then stop for a few seconds to give the fish a chance to bite. Remember that the fish are lethargic, and have slower reaction times.
Ultimately, your tackle will boil down to preference. The most common rig would be a 7-foot medium or medium-heavy action rod with a flexible tip and a slow speed reel to control the lure better. A 15lb to 20lb monofilament line works well against the cold and will not freeze. Using a monoline will also make retrieval easier around submerged vegetation. A ¼ to ½ ounce bait is a great weight range during winter, but you can go up to ¾ ounce if going in deeper waters.
Choose a crankbait to match the waters you’re fishing in, as others can produce a rattling or clattering sound, which is best in turbid water. Silent baits are better in clearer water, but you need to cast them right in the target area since the presentation is more visible.
During the winter, some fish such as bass, have tougher skin due to the cold water. This makes them hard to catch if your hooks are dull. Your hooks can also lose their sharpness if they are constantly chafing against structures. Make sure you’re equipped with extra treble hooks and grind them until they’re honed before setting out.
If you’re trolling in the winter, bear in mind that your direction and speed will need to correspond to the crankbait you’re using. Dragging diagonally against the current generally works for lipless and flat-sided crankbait, but you will need to adjust speed depending on the bait's weight.
Finally, you should always take proper care of your crankbaits, as they are vulnerable to wear and tear. You should keep them dry before stowing them away, and always keep them separately stored to preserve their color, shape, reflectiveness, and lips intact.
You do not need to rig your tackle with every type of crankbait - they work well in almost any situation and you’ll only need a few. Take the time to know both the fish you’re angling for and the waters where they live, so that you can choose the proper crankbait to use. Fishing in winter can be a challenge for any angler, but with some foresight and a little practice, you should be hooking in no time.