While winter is technically a few weeks away, the rapidly falling nighttime temps are bringing the Fall fishing conditions to a close. Water temps across the county are dipping in our local reservoirs, and the bass are noticing. You’ve noticed also, undoubtedly requiring an extra layer or two of clothing in the morning to stay comfortable. Bass aren’t awarded the same luxury, and thus must alter their behavior to endure the cold. If you want to keep catching them, you better shift the focus of your efforts on the lake.
It is no secret that the bass fishing in San Diego takes a serious dip in the Winter months. Luckily for us however, our weather doesn’t completely hinder us from fishing, and catching this time of year. Many bass anglers across the US are putting their bass boats in storage and pulling out their ice augers. Not only can we still bass fish, but we will also find some of the most predictable fishing conditions of the year. In the warmer months you will find bass in a wide spectrum of zones and feeding patterns. In the Winter, bass are much more predictable day-to-day, and a good spot you find in December might hold fish all the way until March. Their metabolism slows way down, meaning they’ll not only eat less, but move less.
The baits and approaches you’ve been successful with the last couple months will need to be re-evaluated, if not completely tucked away until Spring. Many anglers have been taking advantage of the active feeding bass in the North End at El Capitan over the last couple months, catching them on shad imitating baits like flukes and spinnerbaits, or even topwater baits. Not only should you put those baits away, but you can probably also write-off that back end of the lake for a few months. Deeper spots like humps, deep creek channels, and rock piles will hold the majority of the bass population as the water cools. At El Capitan for instance, areas like the Island, or points like Rusty Pipe will become popular for bass and anglers alike.
As mentioned before, with a slower metabolism, the bass will move considerably less. Not only will they travel less from spot to spot, but they’ll be less willing to chase down prey and angler offerings. Plastic worms and ice jigs will supplant spinnerbaits and flukes. Your approach must slow down to entice the cold, slower, and less aggressive largemouth. Some favorite techniques for Winter in San Diego include drop shotting, carolina rigging (bubba rigging), and spooning/ice jigging. You will see most of the upcoming team tournaments won using one of those three techniques.
One bait that has historically fit the bill for Winter bassin’ is the Fluttercraft, a small, thin worm produced by the Pasalich family in Poway. The Fluttercraft reached an almost iconic state on the local bass scene, producing win upon win in team and club tournaments. Its slight stature is perfect for the less aggressive fish you’ll encounter for the next couple months in San Diego. If you’re a shorebound angler, you may find no bait more effective then the Fluttercraft for catching fish throughout the Winter. Rig them on a split shot or drop shot that you’re able to cast to the deeper zones and hang on.
John Kerr told me “over the years, I have caught more pounds of fish on Fluttercraft worms than anything else I have used,” and obviously with the poundage he’s amassed over the years in San Diego that should tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness of the little morsels!
Another bait that has been at the forefront of tournament wins around here this time of year is the Rapala Ice Jig. This dense, slender bait was designed for vertically fishing under the ice for all types of fish including Walleye, Pike, Trout, and Panfish. Southern California bass anglers picked up on the bait years ago when the baits erratic darting action proved deadly on schooling bass. Coupled with a capable fish finder, a savvy angler can employ the ice jig on fish found suspending off of structure spots. The heavy bait is extremely easy to pinpoint at specific targets, whether it be a break, depth zone, or fish on the graph. The dense and erratic bait is also easy to see on the graph, allowing you to effectively target those deep, slow moving bass. If you have the benefit of fishing from a boat equipped with a fish finder, this is a must-have bait for Winter.
If you’ve been griping about the bass fishing in San Diego right now, consider two things; at least we’re fortunate enough to be able to bass fish year round, and there ARE bass to be caught. And once you figure them out, you’ll probably be able to find them where you left em.