For Major League Fishing GEICO Select and FLW Tour pro Pete Ponds, the first few weeks of any New Year bring a great time of the year to be out on the water.
Even if the weather and the water aren't quite as warm as he'd like for them to be.
Because as long as he has one certain bait in hand, Ponds is actually quite confident he can go to catching a good number of sizable bass swimming in big southern reservoirs located not too terribly far from his Mississippi home.
"The bait that I would choose for wintertime fishing is (usually) a Hard Knocker by Booyah," said Ponds. "It's a lipless bait and I like to fish the red one – that's the dominant color in the wintertime – in the ½-ounce size."
How does Ponds fish the bait?
"I want to yo-yo it as my general pattern," said the Mississippi pro. "But the tip that I want to give your readers here is that when you get one to bite, don't move on. Instead, you want to make repeated casts into that same place."
When I asked why, Ponds responded: "Because this is the time of year where those fish swim around in groups of six, eight and even 10 fish at a time. The bottom line is that at this time of the year, where there is one, there is often more."
Ponds said anglers need to remember water temperature is always a key consideration when bass fishing in the cold winter months.
"You want to look for the warmest water, usually on a northeastern bank where that afternoon sun has spent a few hours shining on that bank," said Ponds.
"You want to also target pockets close to spawning flats. The fish know it's wintertime, but the afternoon sun shines on those (shallow) pockets and those big females will get up and start moving around, even in wintertime."
To target wintertime bass, Ponds fishes this lipless crankbait on a Duckett Fishng 7-foot, 3-inch heavy-power rod with a 6:3:1-gear-ratio baitcasting reel.
"I throw that bait on Vicious No-Fade Braid in 30-pound test," said Ponds. "I've caught some huge fish doing that.
"In fact, I remember one time catching 40 or so fish between 5 and 8 pounds from an area that wasn't much bigger than the hood of my truck," he added.
"I know that sounds like a stretch, but it's true. This is a big fish bait and a big fish pattern in the winter months."
One angler that knows exactly what Ponds is talking about is Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer, one of the tour's big-fish specialists.
The East Texas resident – who guides part-time on the legendary lunker factory known as Lake Fork – also is a big fan of using lipless crankbaits to tempt wintertime bass into biting.
"My top choice for wintertime bass fishing is (also a) lipless crankbait, specifically the Strike King Red Eye Shad in a ½-ounce size and in either Delta Red or Chili Craw colors," said Niggemeyer.
How does the East Texas bass pro fish the bait in the winter months?
"The main thing that I try to do is to cover water in areas where I feel like the earliest pre-spawn fish will show up," said Niggemeyer. "If there is grass in the lake, then I want to catch the grass with the hooks and snatch the bait upward, cleaning the hooks (of the grass in the process).
"That action draws reaction strikes from fish that are in a negative or neutral mood," he added.
What about lakes with little in the way of wintertime vegetation?
"If there isn't any grass in the lake, then I want to fish around rocky bottom areas that has stuff like rip rap, slowly lifting and dropping that bait with a sweep of the rod in a gentle motion," said Niggemeyer.
"When the lipless crankbait is allowed to fall on the slack line after the sweep – or in dropping the rod to cause the bait to fall in a dying sort of shimmy to the bottom – that action draws strikes kind of like a jigging spoon does on deep-water wood in the wintertime," he added.
And when fishing on a big-bass factory like Fork, the result is often a pre-spawn lunker weighing 5 pounds or better, even in the dead of winter.
The bottom line here is this: If you find yourself wanting to wake up a big bass from her wintertime doldrums, then grab a lipless crankbait – in a red-color pattern – and head towards the lake.
Because you might find the fishing to be spectacularly good, and even then some!