It seems like every couple years I have to be re-taught a lesson about winter heat waves. It goes something like this: First an unconventional warming trend hits the area. Three or four buddies call me and want to hit the big lake. I agree. We get out there and the fishing is not as good as expected. This year when winter temps shot up, I finally passed on the big lake invites. Instead, I hit a local small lake with a maximum depth of 7 feet and caught 30 bass, while a buddy of mine spent all day on the big lake and caught 6. Here’s why.
I learned the hard way over the years that winter warming spells are more of a ruse than a guaranteed slugfest, especially if you hit the wrong type of water. On a big lake, water temperature is determined by weather and air temperatures averages over a long period of time. What that means is a week of above average air temps in December isn’t likely to affect the lake enough that bass will deviate from true winter patterns. As an example, bass grouped up on the bottom in winter are susceptible to bottom-bouncing baits. If a long enough heat wave occurs and does, in fact, alter the water temp significantly, those bass will scatter out, and hold higher in the column to soak in the warmer surface temp. Subsequently, they’ll become much harder to catch.
On the contrary, a small lake that doesn’t exceed 5-7 feet deep is subject to major swings in conditions simply because of its size, and odd warming trends can actually trigger a winter feeding frenzy. Whereas a big lake might jump up a few degrees in a week during a warm spell, a small lake can jump 20 degrees. I like to target small lakes and ponds that have heavy vegetation during the summer. With the salad gone in winter, the big girls are exposed. During steady winter weather, they just chill out. But when it suddenly warms up and they’ve got nowhere to hide, it becomes commonplace to find them right on the bank chasing big baits like aggressive pre-spawners.