Winter can still be an awesome time to slay some bass atop your fishing kayak while the majority of other anglers hang up their gear and leave prime fishing spots to you. That is, if you have the right fishing kayak, the right gear and know how and where to use them, since presentation of baits is even more key in the colder months, as is safety.
While northern states are pretty locked in ice in January and February, down here in northern Georgia where the temps can get down to the 20s, there are still places to fish for bass during the winter in open water.
A good fishing kayak has really opened up the waters for me and gets me to skinny places of water where fish hide and lay-up that I never could with a bass boat. Prime fishing areas that most would have to pass by with a boat are absolutely fishable with a stealthy, stable and fast fishing kayak like either the Vibe Shearwater 125
or the Sea Ghost 110.
Whether it's on the ocean, lake, river, or competing head-to-head in a tournament in any weather Mother Nature throws at me, either of my fishing kayaks gets me on top of the big ones faster, and makes it super easy to bring them in. My Shearwater's Summit Seat Perch
gives me a full 16-inches off the water, which truly makes for ultimate sight fishing.
Regardless of frigid temps, I prefer kayak fishing smallmouth bass during the winter months. This time of year, fish tend to school up and the fishing kayak allows you excellent access to them. Most of the year they're scattered around, but in winter you can take advantage of them all huddling together. Even so, it can still be tough to locate them, and when you do, it's then all about presentation, presentation, presentation.
First, when it comes to locating fish in cold waters, I look for areas that will retain heat – like thinner water in sandy areas, or logs or other underwater structure, or rocks and boulders which absorb the sunshine. All these structures will retain heat even in colder water. All bass are cold-blooded, so they'll only expend enough energy as the water temps will allows. When temps are low, bass will move less. As water temps go up, bass activity will increase.
In the winter months, currents will also play a large part in locating smallies, which are typically found hanging out adjacent to current areas, only moving into faster waters to feed when they must. More often in the winter, smallmouths will congregate along slacker water areas near current seams and eddies. An angler who has some skill at sight fishing will notice the seams and ripples on the water surface and know that's a place where fish could be hiding along the seams.
It's tougher to gauge where troughs are located along the bottom, where currents run slower, but groups of fish can sometimes be found huddled in these currents which often have warmer temperatures, and also provide natural cover.
Once you've found the bass, then it's about presentation. In the winter months, there's not much that's hatching, so the bottom is going to have nymphs, baitfish, or leeches, and not much moving fast, so you have to pay attention to retrieval speed. You want the presentation to be what's in the water, and how it's likely to move. So, you want something like a minnow with a split-shot placement that fits the current and gives a long, slow float that runs right in front of the fish's nose so that it has no choice but to take a bite.
Live bait can often deliver greater success when it's very cold, but when the temperatures spike a bit, then artificials, like a tube jig fished slowly along the bottom, can deliver great hook ups, as can jerkbaits twitched with very long pauses.
The key in wintertime is to work all baits a lot slower than you would in spring or summer, and no matter where you go out on the water in the colder months, pay even more attention to kayak fishing safety.
Safety should always be your first priority whenever you are out on the water. Traversing different waters in winter can be dangerous.
Having a super stable and premium quality fishing kayak like the Shearwater, or either the Sea Ghost 130 or 110, which resist tipping, allow you to more easily stand when you need to, and have lots of storage areas to keep electronics weather-tight, hold cold weather gear, dry bag, and anything else needed. That’s where you start. Then it's making sure to always having a PFD, a warm jacket in the storage hatch, a dry bag filled with extra clothing, and your cellphone and matches tucked into Vibe's weather-proof electronics pod.
So just get out there and get yourself some bass! Forget that it's a little cold, find yourself a warmer-water spot near a water treatment plant or power plant, and practice your kayak positioning, your perfect drift, and test your baits in new ways. You just might find that you've a lot less competition at this time of year, and get a real buzz off cold weather fishing.
Good vibes and tight lines!