January 12, 2017
When it gets cold – really cold – most residents of the Lone Star State pour a cup of hot coffee, start a pot of chili and throw another log on the fire while dreaming of spring and its warmer weather.
But not everyone, mind you. Because on a certain wintertime weekend when bitter-cold air invaded the region just south of the Red River, Dakota Jones loaded up his bass rig and went fishing.
Jones, a young gun bass fisherman who doubles as a top collegiate angler for Dallas Baptist University and the marketing director for Temple Fork Outfitters, found the bass action more than tolerable despite having to deal with the problem of ice forming in his rod guides.
In fact, mere hours after a light snowfall dusted portions of the DFW Metroplex and low temperatures plunged into the middle teens, Jones hardly seemed to notice as he set – and sprang – another wintertime trap for big bass.
What's that trap? A rattle bait, that's what.
"A lipless crankbait is perfect for cold conditions because of its tight wiggle and it ability to be fished at various depths," said Jones.
"This tried-and-true lure has been a producer for decades," he also added. "When Christmas vacation is over and cabin fever has gotten the best of me, this is what I do."
According to Jones, the bait comes into its own during the winter months.
"When the cold kills off all the shallow vegetation in a typically grass-abundant lake, the first bait I reach for is a lipless crankbait," he said.
Why is that?
"After the harsh cold of winter has taken its toll on shallow vegetation, fish seek deeper water – stable temperatures – and the last surviving vegetation has more oxygen," said Jones. "The most effective way I have found to target fish snuggled up in the last blanket of hydrilla left in the lake is to rip a Trap through it."
With frigid weather and water, it's still possible to get a strong reaction strike from a big bass in the winter months. All you have to do is find some vegetation and rip a rattle bait through it. (Dakota Jones photo)
As in a Rat-L-Trap style bait, a rattle bait, a Trap, a lipless crankbait or whatever else you want to call it.
Jones says the first step in effectively fishing such a bait during the winter months is to find some green vegetation in a lake.
"You can do this by looking at your electronics or by blind casting until you come into contact with it," said the Dallas resident. "Once I have found the depth and cover I am looking for, its game on."
Specifically, it's game on when it comes to ripping a Trap out of the vegetation, something that even sluggish wintertime bass can't seem to resist.
“Ripping a trap is actually a very simple technique," said Jones. "Count the bait down to the depth where you have located the vegetation and then retrieve it steady – at a moderate pace – until the bait comes into contact with grass."
"Once you hang the lure in the green stuff, rip it free with all your might," said Jones. "Always be sure to pause immediately after your bait clears the vegetation since this is where 90 percent of your bites will occur."
According to the DBU collegiate angler, ripping a Trap through vegetation is a way to search for a reaction strike, even in the dead of winter.
"Winter fish tend to not move and are not actively feeding," said Jones. "Rattle baits are loud and have enough vibration to grab the attention of anything in this cold environment.
"Once you make contact with the grass and rip your bait free, anything watching this scene is forced to react, and due to the predatory nature of bass, this typically results in a strike."
Even if the thermometer barely has any red liquid showing and it’s snowing.
What gear does Jones throw such rattle baits on? He starts off with a rod longer than 7 feet, something that helps him recover line quicker and strongly power a bait from the grass.
"I can rip my bait a greater distance with a 7-foot, 4-inch rod than with a shorter equivalent," said Jones. "My weapon of choice (for this) is the Pacemaker TPM CB 745-1 from Temple Fork Outfitters."
Aside from the length, the action of the rod is one important reason that Jones chooses this stick.
As waters get cold in late fall and winter – and grass begins to die back – Dallas Baptist University bass angler Dakota Jones says it’s time to start targeting big bass with Rat-L-Trap-style lipless crankbaits. (Dakota Jones photo)
"Of all the baits in existence, lures with multiple treble hooks seem to lose more fish ... go figure," said Jones. "The advantage of the soft crankbait action that Cliff Pace helped design in this rod gives me more cushion when fighting a fish so as not to tear hooks free."
Jones will couple this rod with a medium-speed baitcasting reel with a 6:3:1 gear ratio along with 17-pound fluorocarbon line.
"Your line is extremely important with this technique as it is constantly enduring a beating with each rip," said Jones. "When fishing around grass, I always want a line with no stretch. And with the lack of vegetation (at this time of the year), line visibility is an issue (too).
"Hi Seas fluorocarbon has always done well for me and it holds up very well to shock or the pressure that you will put on it when ripping these baits out."
While many people swear by red rattle baits during the colder months, Jones has a little bit more open mind.
"Color is always a heated debate in these conversations," he said. "I consider three variables in terms of choosing lure color: light conditions, water clarity and forage base."
In short, Jones says that "... your chromes and translucent (colors) always do better on sunny days while your solid colors do better in low light conditions. Brighter colors are more visible in stained water than (are) translucent baits. And of course, you always want to match the hatch (in terms of what the bass are feeding on)."
The bottom line for Jones is that despite frigid weather and chilly water temperatures, a bass angler that is determined and knowledgeable can still go out and challenge Old Man Winter.
And find some solid bass fishing action, even on the season's coldest days.
"For lakes that still harbor green vegetation in their depths, there is no more efficient way to root out big bass than ripping a lipless crankbait," said Jones.
And he's got the chewed up thumb and the big bass photos – and maybe even a little bit of frostbite – to prove it.