It’s a time-honored piscatorial postulate, “Fish gotta eat.” True, but for bass there’s a Part B to that notion and it goes like this: “Closer is always better.”
Combining these thoughts explains why vertical walls, A.K.A. bluffs, prove so appealing to bass this time of year. Rock means crawfish, but the hard stuff also attracts heat and that means a nice temperature moderator for bass and baitfish.
Good points, no doubt, but Pickwick guide Jimmy Mason notes the key to this attraction—convenience.
“The reason those fish like the vertical walls is that they can move up and down and find the right temperature zone,” Mason says. “Unlike a flat where they might have to swim 20 or 30 yards to find the right temperature, on a bluff, they may only have to move up or down 8-10 feet.”
Same deal applies on the “stair step” banks common to Tennessee River powerhouses like Pickwick Lake and Lake Wheeler. Here, rock layers from eons ago developed with declining layers resembling a staircase.
“Those stair steps that you see above the water continue down below the surface, so the fish use those different levels for feeding and water temperature,” Mason says.
This seasonal scenario welcomes a variety of offerings from jerkbaits to swimbaits and even a light umbrella rig. Mason also likes fishing bottom-contact presentations like a light, Texas-rigged YUM Christie Craw or a shaky head with a YUM Houdini Worm.
The key to this presentation is to cast close, make contact with the rock and then let the bait fall on a slack line. Think about it: If you keep the line tight while the bait falls, it will pendulum swing away from the rock.
But, if you give your bait room to do its thing, the imposter remains in the strike zone. Keep it where the fish are feeding and you can expect a hot bite in the cold weather.
Here’s a video about how Jimmy Mason fishes Pickwick in winter: