In many fisheries around the US, nothing beats live bait for smallmouth bass fishing success in the wintertime. Many of you may be wondering which live bait is best un cold water conditions.
Bass continue to feed year round but they don’t like to work for their food because their metabolism matches the water temperature and they tend to be more responsive to live bait in the colder months.
Best live bait for winter smallmouth bass
In many large lakes, nothing beats shiners for smallmouth bass in the cold winter months.
James came with two rods, one for fishing live shiners and the other for fishing a smaller, lighter jig. I didn’t get to fish my jig much in the first few hours because I was too busy netting James’ nice smallmouths. As soon as I would get settled in working my heavy jig way out from the bank on deep points, I heard, “get the net.”
James didn’t fall for trying something new. He stayed with the tried and true and threw a live shiner. Nothing out-fishes live bait for winter smallmouth bass on lakes such as Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow or Laurel River Lake, no matter how many new lures come down the pike. The float and fly presentation can come close at times, but the real thing is the real deal.
Use medium-sized shiners for smallmouth bass. Large crappie minnows will work in a pinch and cost much less, but shiners seem to catch more big ones. Use a 1, 2 or 1/0 sized Octopus style hook and run it through the lips of the shiner. Attach a couple of BB split shot weight about 18- to 24-inches above the hook. Circle hooks work okay for still fishing live bait, but they bring lost fish and frustration when casting shiners.
When you cast a shiner near a smallmouth, they usually take it gently and don’t swim off with it. You often don’t get the tension necessary for the fish to imbed the circle hook in its jaw. You’ll lift the rod and reel to keep tension, but you just end up leading the smallmouth. Eventually, they detect something funny and drop your shiner.
With an Octopus style hook, wait several seconds after the take and set the hook. If you stay on your toes, gut hooks are exceedingly rare. Source
If you get a chance to fish this winter, consider taking along a few shiners to avoid “the skunk”. It may feel a little weird at first if you always fish artificials but you will forget this once you start reeling in some wintertime smallmouth bass.
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