UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

Fishing the Worst Conditions

Fishing the Worst Conditions

Watching giant bags of bass caught down in Texas and Florida on FLW Live during FLW Tour events has many anglers dying to get on the water. The only problem is that a lot of people are still facing some of the toughest conditions for catching a bass – cold, muddy, moving water.  

This isn’t as much of an issue for people who live near clear-water fisheries, but if you’re like me and find yourself only having close access to less-than-ideal waters for winter fishing, you might consider foregoing fishing to work on tackle and dream about the warmer months when the bite will be better.

However, there are still bites to be had when you have only the worst conditions to fish. These are my favorite tips for getting your line stretched when faced with what I think are the absolute toughest conditions for bass fishing.

 

Get your mind right

Fishing in tough conditions calls for a completely different mindset. You have to go into it knowing that you aren’t going to get nearly as many bites as you might if you were on a reservoir that is known for good winter fishing – somewhere like Lake Lanier. I fish the Arkansas River near my home this time of year, and I like to set goals but keep them reasonable. Sometimes they’re small goals.

I like to start with just trying to get one bite per area. That’s right; just a single bite. I’m not worried about size, weight or anything other than just getting something to eat, at least to start with. Once I get a couple of bites I can start worrying about fine-tuning things to catch a better bag.

You hear all the time that you need to be “mentally tough” while fishing. This could not be truer in these conditions. You really have to tell yourself that you WILL get a bite in the area … and believe it, too. Confidence catches fish. If you begin second-guessing your area before you ever make a cast, you might as well put it back on the trailer.

 

Improve the conditions

Although things might look absolutely terrible at the ramp, that doesn’t mean you can’t find areas that offer SLIGHTLY better conditions. When it comes to fishing a cold and muddy Arkansas River, for instance, I look for areas that have cleaner water – even slightly cleaner – with no current.

In my case, that generally means looking for backwaters that are blocked off at the top by a rock jetty or other feature. There’s usually a deep hole right next to the jetty that’s caused by current washing over the top during high-water times, and the hole makes an awesome wintering spot for bait and bass. Many times these backwater areas will have warmer water as well.

Remember that on rivers, the water flowing down usually has a lower temperature than still-water areas. I’ve seen flowing water coming down that was in the mid- to high 30s, while the backwaters close by offered waters in the mid-40s. Once in these areas, I look for things that will hold even a bit more heat, such as rocks, logs, trees, brush, or even old barrels or tires (we are talking about river fishing, after all).

On other fisheries, you’ll need to look for similar situations, or key on areas with the most sunlight (south-facing banks), least cold-water runoff, etc. There’s usually some type of area on a lake or reservoir that fits what I’m describing.

 

Low and slow with confidence baits 

When bites are limited, it’s not the time to be experimenting with the newest bait or technique. I like to keep it simple when it comes to lure selection. This means no more than four rods. That’s it. I like to have two moving baits and two things I can just drag around. I only use baits that I know will get bites under all conditions. For me that means a spinnerbait, crankbait, finesse jig and drop-shot, and these pretty well apply all over the country.

Although these are common lures and presentations, I fish them in a bit of an uncommon way in tough conditions. Because the water is muddy, I like to have my bait in contact with cover and structure as much as possible. How I do it depends on the bait.

Crankbait – Everyone knows that a crankbait makes a great offering for a winter bass, but I like to use big plugs and throw them considerably shallower than they were intended to be used. For example, I might throw a Rapala DT14 down a rock jetty in only 5 feet of water. I can crawl it at a snail’s pace and keep it down easily.

Spinnerbait – This presentation is the same. I crawl it. Typically, I want weights from 1/2 to 1 ounce, depending on the depth I’m trying to hit. I try to fish it as slowly as I possibly can. I’m not afraid to wind it so slow that it almost feels like I’m dragging it like a jig along bottom or through the limbs of a big laydown.  

Jig and drop-shot – I always make a point to go with the lightest jig or drop-shot weight I can get away with and still feel the bottom. The lighter weight forces me to slow down the presentation to stay in contact with the cover/structure.

 

Spring isn’t too far around the corner, but if you want to get in some early fishing and are faced with some of the toughest conditions, try these tips to help you get hooked up.

You can follow Cody Kelley on Facebook and Instagram.

Tags: cody-kelley  blog 

Fall Means Topwater Time

Fall Means Topwater Time

The one thing I look forward to the most in the fall isn’t the beautiful views, eating turkey or watching football, instead I’m a fan of watching fish crush topwater baits. READ MORE »

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

When not on the road for tournaments, my wife and I love to travel, fish and camp together. Our favorite destinations are Oneida Lake and the 1000 Islands in New York, in search of giant smallmouth, as well as National Parks around the country. READ MORE »

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

Coming into the final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament event on Lake Erie there were so many things riding on it. Obviously, it was a chance to make a paycheck, but more importantly it was the last chance to earn enough points to qualify for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. READ MORE »

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Not long ago, with support from many sponsors, I had a blast hosting a very successful first-annual Youth Fishing Derby at Green Lane Park in Pennsylvania. READ MORE »

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My plan going into the Mississippi River event is pretty simple. I’m going to have four rods on the deck of my boat: Two flipping sticks and two frog rods. In my experience in western Wisconsin, that’s what will work the best for me to get big bites. READ MORE »

Guiding and Mentoring

Guiding and Mentoring

Now that we are back on track with fishing, and hopefully developing some normalcy to our lives again, I am excited to keep going with what I started talking about at the beginning of the year – mentorship of young anglers. READ MORE »

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

There’s a big change coming to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. READ MORE »

Fishing with Confidence

Fishing with Confidence

This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament. READ MORE »

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Like everyone else, I had concerns about when we would be able to resume our 2020 season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Probably a bigger concern was what the rest of the season would look like. READ MORE »

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. For the first time in my pro career, I’ve been home for much of the spring, and while it was great to fish local waters and get some projects done around the house, I’m ready to get back to fishing tournaments. READ MORE »

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Recently announced changes to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit have me extremely excited to get the season back under way. Specifically, a good number of the Major League Fishing anglers will be fishing the remaining three Pro Circuit Super Tournament events with increased payouts. This makes these truly the most lucrative five-fish-limit events in the country, with potentially half of the tournament field being paid $10,000 or more. READ MORE »

My Line-Thru Addiction

My Line-Thru Addiction

Pollen is in the air, on the water and covers my boat on a daily basis. When this happens, it means one thing to me – the bass are on the bed. Now, most people are all giddy about sight-fishing, but that’s not my deal. I can count on two hands how many fish I’ve caught truly sight-fishing. What comes to my mind during this time is swimbait fishing, but more specifically, one kind of swimbait in particular – a line-thru swimbait. READ MORE »

Making the Most of Quarantine

Making the Most of Quarantine

At the beginning of this year I was excited about the opportunity to fish the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Bassmaster Elite Series. I was most excited about fishing the spawn in March and April on some of my favorite lakes. When the schedules for both circuits were first released I was feeling very confident about doing some sight-fishing on Santee Cooper, Eufaula and Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »

The Real Reason I love Spring

The Real Reason I love Spring

Fishing for a living is awesome, but when spring comes it can be tough. April is always a busy month for tournaments – and the fishing is usually fantastic – but I really love to turkey hunt and tournaments can put a damper on that. READ MORE »

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

From spending some quality time with my wife, Katie, and my dog, Doppler, to organizing my life and fun fishing, there are numerous ways that I have been able to take advantage of our current social responsibility to participate in “social distancing.” READ MORE »

Encouraging the Next Generation

Encouraging the Next Generation

Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didn’t have the outlet to the outdoors that a lot of our youth enjoy while growing up. It often takes hours to travel out of the city due to traffic, and there were no lakes within walking distance from my house. So it’s not like I could swing by the pond after school. READ MORE »

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

When selecting a new rod, I consider several elements: action, power, length and components.  Different rods will fit the role, depending on the type of lure, cover and fish species you are targeting. READ MORE »

Always Go Down Swinging

Always Go Down Swinging

Greg Bohannan's late father, Kenny, taught his sons to never take a third strike looking. "If you take the pitch and don't swing, you never give yourself a chance," he'd say. With that lesson in mind, Greg took his cuts at Lake Martin and gave himself a shot to win. Even though it didn't work out, he knows that at least he went down swinging. READ MORE »

How to Catch Your New PB

How to Catch Your New PB

Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event. READ MORE »

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Without a doubt, during a tournament day I always get a question from my Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Marshal about why I have both left- and right-handed Abu Garcia baitcast reels. I get comments about the same thing from multiple social media followers if I post a picture that shows my reels. The remarks originally surprised me, but not any longer because of how frequently I see them. READ MORE »