HOW TO USE JIG LURES TO CATCH BASS IN WINTER
Before I get into why I am partial to jig lures when fishing for Australian Bass during winter, it is essential to note that there are closures in place depending on the state and region. For example, at the time of writing this piece, only catch and release fishing of Bass is allowed from May to August in rivers below freshwater impoundments in New South Wales while the closed season for Australian Bass applies to tidal waters only in Queensland. Victoria is a little more complicated. Fishing restrictions are in place in some waters to protect native species and breeding species of importance. There’s no excuse for ignorance. These restrictions are in place to protect the species, and quite rightly so.
With that in mind, I prefer to play it safe when fishing for Bass during the colder months by fishing impoundments – the perfect place to take advantage of the characteristics of jig lures.
Even though impoundment Bass can’t find their way to saltwater in winter, they are still in spawning mode, and their behaviour is still somewhat ritualistic. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find schools of Bass moving around the thermocline during the colder months. If you’ve been fishing for a while, you will have heard someone talking about the thermocline.
In layman’s terms, the thermocline is the layer of water where there is a substantial change in water temperature. In the winter, the thermocline is generally found between the rapidly cooling surface water and the colder water on the bottom resulting in a body of water that is a few degrees warmer than above and below.
Just above the thermocline is where you will find the baitfish. And if you find the baitfish, you have found the Bass. A moderately-priced fishfinder will show the thermocline. The trick is to gradually increase the sensitivity of your echo sounder until you see a distinct line. Bass generally feed just above the thermocline in winter as the warmer water moves up to displace the cooling water at the surface. It’s pretty tricky to find the thermocline at any specific time in those particular conditions without electronic assistance. Nevertheless, in calm, clear conditions in deeper waters, it’s fair to say that the thermocline will be somewhere around three to seven metres down. Helping to find that sweet spot is another reason why jigging lures work for me during winter keeping in mind that near-perfect calm, cold and sunny days make for the best fishing.
JIGGING THE THERMOCLINE
Traditionally speaking, jigging involved cranking the handle while whipping your rod up and retrieving line when swooping down. Just in case you don’t know, jig lures work well when fishing vertically in deeper water. As the fish’s metabolism also slows down a bit, the slow presentation of a falling jig lure has what it takes to get a bite. The trick is to jig lures with a slow and deliberate action. Slow jigs flutter on the way down, giving the fish plenty of time to take a bite.
Australian Bass aren’t too fussy, so dropping a slow-moving jig lure into a school typically results in a bite on the way down or back up. Once you get on the fish, the action will take off because Bass are still quite aggressive during the colder months compared to most other fish species. That’s when the real advantage of jigging slow-action lures comes into play, especially if you don’t have a fishfinder and don’t know where the thermocline is. Slow jigging lures allow you to find the depth at which the fish are working the thermocline. I make sure I am keeping contact with my lure at all times and know the depth at which I flip the lure. It’s a delicate balance between letting the jig free-fall and not allowing any slack to form in the line.
If you don’t get any action in a particular area after a little trial and error, move on to the next. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of jigging lures on the day because it won’t be long until you strike the honey pot.
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