Textbook bass fishing wisdom points to main lake deep bluffs as the places to be during winter. Bass can move up and down the water column depending on the rising and falling water temperatures. Baitfish like shad also favor the depth, providing everything a bass needs for the season.
The most productive bluffs on any given lake also receive the most fishing pressure, giving ample reason to seek other backup spots for the most success.
Skeeter Boats pro-Chris Zaldain knows better than to spend lots of time on the most obvious places on the lake. Instead, he passes those up for offbeat, less obvious areas that produce just as well, and even better, as the water begins to warm for spring.
Zaldain calls such places “mini bluffs,” or just about anywhere that a
vertical drop provides just enough depth to attract bass.
“Bass can survive quite well in shallower water if there is just enough depth to keep them there during winter,” explained the Bassmaster® Elite Series pro. “Even better, as the water warms up toward spring those fish will be easier to find, follow, and catch as they move into spawning areas.”
A mini-bluff can be a subtle one-foot drop in a shallow creek or up to 10-feet in deeper areas. The key is a well-defined break in the bottom contour. On crawfish inhabited lakes a stretch of hard bottom is ideal, even when surrounded by a silted bottom.
Locating the telltale signs of deep water along a shallow stretch is the easiest way to find mini bluffs. Look for the obvious, such as a subtle bluff wall or steep bank along the shoreline. The most ideal way to find them is by using electronics, such as the Humminbird® Helix® lineup favored by Zaldain. In particular, the Side-Scan technology allows him to see bottom details 180-degrees to either side of his boat.
“Start your search on a familiar stretch of water where you have success in spring,” he said. “Then look for the first vertical drops you can find using your electronics.”
He continued, “It doesn’t have to be obvious. It can be the first drop coming out of the creek.”
Zaldain simplifies his lure lineup with jigs and jerkbaits. For calm conditions he goes with a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Santone Lures Pro Football Jig that features a rattling action for emitting sound for added strike appeal.
"The lighter, the better because it slows the fall in cold water," he said. "And use natural colors like black, brown and amber."
Zaldain casts the jig near the bluff or shallowest water, and then slowly drags the jig to maintain bottom contact. Feeling the structure during the retrieve is key.
Windier conditions stimulate feeding activity and Zaldains switches to reaction-type lures. For water up to 3 feet he favors a Megabass® Ito Vision 110 Jerkbait. The 110+1 model is ideal for depths to 10 feet, and for deeper water he uses a 110+2 jerkbait. Zaildain uses a jerk, jerk, pause, retrieve to entice the reaction bites, never pausing by more than 3 seconds.
“It’s all about looking beyond the obvious,” he said. “You can catch more fish and get geared up for springtime tournaments all in the same trip.”
Follow the lead of the pros, and veer off the beaten path into the mini-bluffs the next time you hit the water.