No matter where you live, I’m betting at some point you’ve experienced one of those unseasonably warm winter days where curiosity got the best of you and you took the bass gear out of hibernation for a few hours. Living in North Carolina, I often get a bunch of these days, and nothing gets you more pumped up than when you get on the lake and find shad flickering in the shallows and mark bass high in the water column. The anticipation is raging and all your senses are firing, but then it all comes crashing down when you can’t get a bite throwing spinnerbaits and everything else you associate with bass around bait schools. That’s because although it may look like a summer scenario, it’s not summer, so you have to change your thinking.
Unseasonably warm weather creates confusion for both the bass and the angler. The bass see all the active bait rising to the surface and they know it’s a good chance to feed, but at the same time they struggle to commit to a massive change from a winter holding pattern to a summer-style feeding frenzy. When shad are creating surface commotion, it’s also easy for the angler to get confused into thinking every spot is a happening spot. Even if you’ve dialed in some activity (as in seen a few bass bust), you’re going to find that the fish are less likely to react to and eat traditional summer schooling-type lures like spinnerbaits and topwaters.
Through the years I’ve found one pretty reliable method to make some of those “confused” bass chew. What I do is cast a small swimbait on a jighead with light line around the areas where I see activity. If you think the method won’t produce big bass, you’re wrong. Lighter weights (like 1/16- to 1/4-oz) on 3- to 4-inch swimbaits create a subtle action, make a quiet entry, and have little vibration underwater. Slow horizontal retrieves keep the lure in the strike zone longer, too. I’ve found that these small swimbaits produce best on calmer days, but clear or cloudy skies have made little difference in my success.