Winter is typically a very predictable time of year for fishing a specific pattern to catch deep, lethargic bass in Central Texas. You can usually find some deep offshore structures and throw a drop shot, structure jig, or Carolina rig to entice the lethargic bass to strike.
However, this late fall / early winter has been a little different with the record-breaking heat wave covering the Central Texas region. Instead of the water temperatures dipping into the 50s, they have been steady at 65 degrees from the surface down to 50 feet. For the past month we’ve focused our attention much shallowed in the 5 to 12 foot range and catching good numbers of bass by fishing the grassy coves around the Pace Bend area of Lake Travis. Since the last big flood in October 2018, the grass has slowly been growing in the sand that was washed down from the lakes above Lake Travis. This factor, along with a consistent lake level, has allowed the aquatic grass to take hold and flourish.
Grass is an absolute bass magnet when it’s not the main cover on the lake. The grass seems to pull the bait fish away from the closer docks where they would normally hang out. Where the bait fish goes, the bass tend to follow. We’ve been seeing huge pods of bait fish shallow in the top two feet of the water column near the grass. This isn’t typical in the winter when the water has been historically much colder. The two baits that have been catching 20 bass in a half day around the grass are the soft jerkbait and a whacky stick bait. If there are clouds and a little wind, ripping a soft jerkbait over the grass has been eliciting very good strikes from the active bass that are chasing down the bait fish. Following up in the same area with a finesse bait such as a whacky rigged stick bait tends to catch some of the bigger bass.
The weather has produced many high-pressure systems sitting over the regions since September, making it the hottest September on record. These systems have continued through December, which also makes it the hottest December on record. Most of the days on the lake have been high-pressure days with very little wind and absolutely no clouds. If you can’t fish the grass in the first few hours of the morning or the last hours of daylight, it’s been extremely difficult to pull any bass out of the grass during the day. Once the sun gets high enough in the sky to cast good shadows around the docks and bluffs, we’ve switched over to the drop shot and shaky heads to load the boat with bass. Lake Travis has really become a finesse fishing lake for numbers with such clear water.
A drop shot rig is probably the most frequently thrown rig on the lake because it reliably catches lots of fish. Many of my clients have caught lots of five, six, and seven pounders on the drop shot rig in 2021. Lately, I’ve been working some of my old favorites back into the line-up, like a weighted whacky rigged stickbait and a Texas rigged baby brush hog. Getting these baits down to the depths of 25 feet has been successfully catching the bigger bass. So even with the warmer weather the days are getting shorter, which may be driving the bigger bass into deeper waters out of habit.
So if you’re hitting the lake this winter and the bite is getting tough, a simple change in depth can make a huge difference. Start on the main lake points or the bluff walls with a jig or drop shot and move further into deeper water until you find them. With good electronics you can quickly find where the bass are orientated in the water column. No need to fish the entire point if you’ve located bass suspended off a ledge in 30 feet of water.
I hope you find this information helpful as we enter the winter months! Just remember, the bass will move deeper in the winter but may come up to feed if the bait moves shallow.
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Big fish for the year goes to Atlas B. with a beautiful 7.26 pounder caught on a drop shot in 20 feet of water! This was also a new youth catch and release lake records with a length of 24.25 inches!