The Yuletide season usually heralds the time when many bass anglers think deep to catch their favorite quarry.
Yet even when it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Tracy Adams still keeps a shallow-water option.
"It doesn't really matter what time of year it is, there are always going to be a few fish shallow if you can just figure out where they are and what they're doing," says the 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
The North Carolina pro looks for early winter bass in the shallows about halfway back in the creeks along riprap or natural rock banks. Later in the winter, he finds more shallow bass along main lake rocks adjacent to deep water. The fish in both scenarios will be 2 to 6 feet deep along the rocky banks. Adams knows bass will stay in the rocky shallows because the rocks hold heat better and warm the water more than other types of banks.
Some fish can be taken on sunny days when the sunshine warms the rocks, but Adams believes the best days for shallow winter bass are overcast and windy. "If a front is coming in, that will be better, but that's just typical of any fishing," says Adams.
During a late winter tournament at Table Rock Lake, Adams recalls when he and other competitors caught bass shallow in a creek while it was snowing and the water temperature was about 42 degrees.
"We whacked them in that creek," he says. "I had about 19 or 20 pounds, and a couple other guys had about the same. It was unbelievable."
Despite the cold, Adams will run and gun until he finds a productive spot. "Then I'll beat it to death," he says. "If I catch a couple of good ones off of a place, I'm going to be there awhile because more fish are there somewhere."
His favorite lures for tempting shallow bass in the winter are a crankbait and a jig.
"Most of the time, if I'm just on a rock bank, I'll throw the crankbait more, but if I catch a couple of fish off a place I might switch up and throw a jig," says Adams. The Bassmaster Opens competitor will also throw a jig in the shallows around wood or any other cover that might snag his crankbait.
Adams favors a Rapala Shad Rap over other styles of crankbaits in this situation because of the lure's lifelike action.
"It has that real tight wiggle, and that seems to be what the fish like," he says. "A lot of times the smaller Number 5 (Shad Rap) is better than the Number 7 for whatever reason, even for big fish." He opts for a Shad Rap in a natural shad pattern when fishing in clear water and switches to the crawfish pattern for stained water.
Positioning his boat parallel to the bank so he can keep his crankbait in the strike zone longer, Adams occasionally retrieves his lure in a stop-and-go fashion, but most of the time he cranks at a slow, steady pace. Since a Number 5 Shad Rap is so small and lightweight, Adams casts the crankbait on spinning tackle with 8-pound test line.
A 5/16-ounce Jewel Eakins' Jig in brown or green pumpkin combined with a green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk Junior is Adams' choice for hopping slowly along the rocky shallows during winter. He will fancast the jig on 14-pound-test line along the bank or will make repeated tosses to a specific target. "The best place for a jig is if you can find some natural rock veins. The fish will travel up and down those veins," he says.
Patience is the key to fishing shallow in the winter.
"I really don't like to fish slow, but in the winter you just have to because the fish are not going to react like they will any other time of the year. You're not going to get many bites, but when you get one it's usually a good fish."
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