There’s one simple truth about winter fishing, it’s tough and not for everyone. With the need of special safety gear, the cold weather and the need to fish slow and ultra small this all adds to the tough conditions. Grinding it out for weeks in these conditions is not what I would call easy. Don’t get me wrong the quality has been there, big fish have been caught but it’s one here one there and spread out. The people I meet on the river are few and far between this time of year but we all have a kindred spirits with shared hypothermia.
As the slow fishing grinds you down you know that it will change and the bite will be back. Finally the Ohio river and its tributaries are starting to give up the stripes in numbers I made it to the other side of the grind. White bass are beginning to stage into large tributaries, relating to ledges and bait. Water and air temps are still cruel in how cold it is but the the bigger white bass and hybrids and starting to bite along with a bunch of other species that relate to the ledges. You just never know what you’re going to find this time of year in the water.
I have a particular setup I like to use starting with the terminal tackle. ¼ oz jig head thin wire I know most people are scratching their heads on this. My reason for the thinner wire is the bite is soft and not committed, having a thinner wire you have a better chance of the fish hooking itself, not to mention you don’t need a massive hookset to set it. Make sure your drag is not set too tight or you might have a fish straighten the hooks out. The line is crucial I have three different weights I like using but mostly I end up using 8lb line. Yes I said 8lb line for big hybrids the fish are just looking for a reason not to bite 8lb line is as subtle as it gets. Just a nice sensitive rod 7ft ish medium with a fast tip. Buy something decent I burned up a Pflueger Trion rod and reel last season only had about 4 or 5 months on it.
The lures need to be small not just smallish but miniature nothing bigger than 2.5 inches and even that can be too big at times depending on the fish’s mood. I personally prefer small swim baits in a pearl or white color. Fish them slow on the bottom or just off the bottom along ledges the fish are right on the bottom mostly right now. Be prepared to catch drum, carp, hybrids, whites, sauger and catfish you just never know this time of year. My secret is using scent, scent will make all the difference. I noticed that you get more variety of fish using scent in the winter adding to the fun of winter fishing. If you do find fish schooling and they are trash fish always fish the edges of the group seems like you can always pick a good hybrid out of the group. Fishin the top and bottom of the school the hybrids seem to relate to these schools but on the edges.
Water temps are from 35 to 45 degrees so fish it “slow and low” I like to let my bait lay on the bottom sometimes for a few seconds during pauses. Good luck out there and be safe cold water is nothing to play around in. Please subscribe to my blog for more good fishing.