Feb. 2006
Winter Bass Fishing
By Tim Sherman


Angler’s Choice tournament director Dave Kilby shows that quality fish can be caught in winter with these bass of 3 and 5-pounds.

It's winter; it's cold outside, and many everyday bass anglers are waiting for the weather to break. But there is a special breed of fishermen, the guys who just can't put the rod and reel down no matter what the weather conditions, who will fish all year long. To them, winterizing the boat is not in their vocabulary. One such angler is Dave Kilby. Dave loves to fish in the winter months, which is one of the main reasons is that he is the Directory of four US Angler's Choice Tournament Trail divisions. Having a full time job, and doing all the coordination needed to run tournaments leaves little time to cast a line himself, so Kilby makes the most out of the cold weather opportunities he is given. He has mastered his craft and brings big bass to the boat when many of us are reading articles and tending our tackle.

Kilby says, "As long as it is safe to launch the boat and you don't have to worry about skim ice, I go fishing." He runs his home waters on the Susquehanna River when he is not presiding over the Angler's Choice Potomac Winter trail. While the Susquehanna Flats is the hotbed of bass fishing activity through most of the year, the deep-water structure of the river provides the best habitat for wintering bass.

Winter fishing can be adventurous at times. Wind is the biggest adversity because cold weather angling is a light line sport. You have to pick your days to hit the river, but all you can do is deal with the wind if it blows up once your on the water. Dave heads to the area marinas during windy conditions. They have relatively deep water for the big boats that are docked there throughout the year. Pumps are kept running near pilings to keep ice from forming around them. A side benefit is the pumps also help oxygenate the water.

During the best conditions, Kilby looks for bass in 8 to 18 feet of water. Some of the better places are around the railroad bridge pilings. The vertical structure gives bass a good piece of cover for which to relate. It also gives anglers a good target. Dave says that it is important to fish all the way around a bridge piling. During the winter months, tide is far less a factor than any other time of year. Anglers should also look for drop offs along the river. Bass will also stage in these areas.

Dave relies on three lures for his winter bass fishing. Twister tail grubs, Reaction Plastics Smallie Beavers and Silver Buddy blade baits are his choice. He says it is hard to beat a chartreuse grub, but green pumpkin, and watermelon hues are good back up colors. He rigs his grubs on 3/16-ounce ball head jigs without weed guard. Dave feels that the bass of winter are weary and may not make contact with the lure if there mouth touches the weed guard's stiff bristles first. Kilby's favorite color for the Smallie Beaver is magic craw swirl. He Texas rigs the plastic bait with a 3/16-ounce bullet weight. Both the grub and the beaver bait are presented in the same fashion -- by slowly dragging them along the bottom.

The Silver Buddy allows Dave to give bass a different presentation. He prefers the 1/2-ounce size gold plated model for winter bass. He fishes it vertically, gives it a repeated slow jigging motion after allowing it to touch bottom. No matter which of the three lures he is using, Kilby says you rarely feel the bite. He says he sets the hook when he feels additional weight during any movement of the rod.

Rod and reel selection is simple. Spinning tackle is all that is needed. Dave uses a medium power 6 1/2-foot Shimano Crucial rod with a Sahara reel spooled with 10-pound Excalibur copolymer line. When fishing with the gold Silver Buddy, he uses the same rod and reel combination, but downsizes his line to 8-pound test.

Winter bass fishing should not be entered into lightly. Safety is of great importance. Dressing according to the temperature is extremely important. This is not to say that you have to have so many layers on that you look like the Michelin Tires mascot. Today's thermal underwear, be it silk or the new UnderArmor, can keep most anglers warm when coupled with a sweatshirt and winter coat. Boat operations under windy and rough conditions can leave you wet and miserable. It is a good idea to have extra clothing on board. Changing weather conditions can make getting the boat back on the trailer a chore. Walk carefully on the pier because icy spots may have formed while you were on the water. Dave Kilby keeps bags of cement in his truck for when ramps become slippery. Spreading it on the ramp provides a better level of traction.

Anglers who just have to fish throughout the year know that they can still catch bass in winter. The Susquehanna River provides plenty of action. You many not catch big numbers of fish, but most of them are of quality size. If you plan to head out through the end of the month, try some of Dave Kilby's techniques. They will make your time on the water well-spent.

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