Winter Fishing with Shad

In the winter, many cold fronts hit the lake from the northwest. This affects all fish, but it especially hits hard on shad. During this period, shad move deep, but many die. This is good for gamefish because they also slow in the wintertime. The shad die-off is most significant when the water temperature dips below 40 degrees. These fish will slowly sink to the bottom and then flutter up and sink again. The slow flutter of the shad and the flash that they put off attracts all types of gamefish.

Luring In Bass
Winter bass primarily feed on dying shad in the winter. During winter, bass slow down. These bass are not going to feed on a fast-moving baitfish. Therefore, the fluttering action of a dying shad appeal to them. So, how do you imitate dying shad with lures? A blade bait is a great choice. These lures are fished on a clean bottom, especially off points. Fish this lure by casting parallel to the shore, letting it sink to the bottom, and then lifting the lure and twitching it. Most of the time, bass hit the lure on its fall, so you should watch for any light movements in the line. The tackle to use for this lure depends on the situation. On a clean bottom, you can use a spinning rod with 6-pound monofilament. When the bottom has more rocks, or you're near larger fish, you can use 20-pound braid on a baitcaster.

Catching Catfish
Catfish have a different reaction to this time of year. They have habits of going to deeper water in the winter. Our lake is a very deep lake, so don’t be afraid to utilize the deep water. In your boat, find large schools of shad suspended over about 50 feet of water. The shad in these schools will be killed off either by distress from the cold, or schooling bass will kill them. The dead shad will slowly sink to the bottom. While the shad is sinking, catfish will often eat it. To fish for the catfish, fish legal cut bait on a slip-bobber rig. Set your bobber suspended a few feet under the school of shad. Use a medium heavy or heavy power rod with a large casting reel. Spool the reel with 65-pound braid with an 80 to 100-pound leader. Unlike bass, winter catfish bite hard, and it is not hard to detect bites.

Winning Winter Crappie
You may not think that crappie rely on shad patterns at all, but they do. They will feed on minnows that follow patterns that are similar with shad. They also feed on baby shad. In winter, crappies are often found in similar places as shad but slightly shallower. When you encounter shad, you will often find crappie. Crappie rely more on shad in other seasons, but not as much in winter. If you want more information on winter crappie, read my article on winter panfish.

Catch The Monsters With Bassing Bob!
If you pattern the fish correctly, winter fishing can be lots of fun. If you enjoy fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks and aren’t a member at yet, what are you waiting for? With different levels of memberships, we make our memberships as economical as possible by enabling members to subscribe to the platforms that cover their interests. Sign up for your membership today!

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