December 02, 2013
Bend It For Winter Bass
By Dave Wolak
In fishing, the word “bend” can refer to a few different things. From an aerial point of view, it could simply mean a turn in a lake or river. It can also allude to the curving of underwater structure, much of which you can't see without sonar. Whether a bend is formed naturally via current and wind erosion, or manmade structure changes the bottom contour to create a submerged bend, targeting them when the water is cold is a smart move.
In winter, bass love orienting to vertical structure. That’s because volatile weather conditions can make surface temps fluctuate rapidly, and hanging on the steep face of a bend allows the bass to rise and fall in the water column as temperatures change while maintaining the safety of structure. Outside bends are usually the steepest and deepest. They’re easy to find in rivers, but in natural lakes they can be subtler and often require scouting with electronics. As a rule of thumb, areas where bottom content changes sharply—such a silt to rock—often tips you off to an underwater bend, and the steeper it drops the better.
It’s important to remember that where bass orient to a bend varies depending not only on temperature, but water clarity. As an example, the inside corners of bends are often sediment-laden and flatter. When the water is dirty, bass may end up here, because with limited visibility they may simply not have a reason to go deep. When winter bass are holding the corners in dirtier water, deflecting square-billed or flat-sided crankbaits off shallow hard cover will create reaction bites. This approach is cold-water bass fishing 101. Likewise, if the fish are holding the vertical face, letting a jig fall through them often gets it done. While targeting bends you can pick out by sight is easier for anglers, it's finding the subtle offshore bends that I enjoy most. For me, the challenge of slowing down in deep, clear, cold water and trying to trick bass with smaller jigs and drop-shots is worth dealing with the wind chill.