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"Current" Conditions | Print |  Email
Written by Dee Thomas   
Friday, 04 March 2011 16:51

In the wintertime particularly, current plays an important role in deciding when and where to fish. Current will provide the warmest water in the winter, but more importantly, will provide the most stable conditions day in and day out.

For example, take the back end of any slough, with little or no current. Early in the day, these areas have the coldest water in the whole area. But, when the sun comes out and begins to really shine towards afternoon, the water will warm quickly, and actually be some of the warmest in the same area.

Now, though the backs of sloughs warm quickly, the flows -the rivers - maintain a more consistent temperature for the entire day. Consequently, more fish come out of the current this time of year than the backs of sloughs.

In the heart of the winter, the flows generally maintain water temperatures between 49 and 53 degrees, while the backs of slough can dip to around 46 or 47 degrees. When the water temperatures fall that low, bass really become inactive, and very hard to catch.

In the winter, I look for a point that has a back-water eddy behind it, where there is still good current, but it is not direct. I believe the fish are more comfortable hanging out there than actually right in the middle of the flow. Usually, the back eddies have a little deeper water and great circulation, which attracts the bass. Also, the forage has switched from crawdads to bluegills, shad, and shiners. The current brings the food, and bass have to do less work to get a meal. Another wintertime aspect that can't be ignored is dirty versus clean water. When the rains come to the Delta, the water becomes dirty and it sets up an interesting set of conditions. Cleaner water will generally produce more bites and those who find this water will be rewarded. However, dirty water warms quicker than clean, and if the fish want to move shallow, they'll most likely do it in dirty water. I've said many times that a fish will go to the bank easier in dirty water than it ever will in clean. So, a determination must be made as to where the fish want to be this time of year before ruling out dirty water as a condition to avoid.

Now, let's get into to what baits to use on the blacks. If you've read my columns long enough, you'll know the winter conditions I've been describing call for reaction baits. To some that might sound funny, but trust me on this one. It is the perfect time for the bass to wait in ambush of an easy meal coming their way.

Get out your crankbaits, ripbaits, and jigs and let's go fishing. The "crank and rip bite" will go all day long; the "flip bite" will come on around Noon or 1 o'clock, and will last until the sun sets. Dave Nichols and I came up with a finesse jig that I like year-round. The thing I like about it is it's compact, yet it has a 4/0 Gamakatsu hook, and you can put a small skirt on it, and even in a 1/2-ounce version, it's not bulky, and is very effective.

I really enjoy using a darthead this time of year as well, with a 4-inch worm. There really isn't a lot of debris on the bottom of the Delta like there used to be, so little dart heads, small grubs, and tube baits can be real winners. Largemouths this time of year are fairly predictable, and really, it's a no brainer as to what will catch them. Now, let's mention a little about the stripers again this year. The colder the water the better the striper action becomes. There are several keys to striper success that really are important.

First, key in on any running pump on the Delta, because it's going to hold stripers during January and February. Second, key in on areas such as Discovery Bay, White's, Sycamore, Beaver, and others; any dead end slough that has deep water. Then look for bait and bring along your spoons. Jerking spoons will catch a lot of fish.

Third, for larger fish, key in on the flooded islands and throw pencil poppers and spooks. It seems to be very consistent that the larger stripers love to "bust" topwater baits.

The exciting thing about the Delta is its diversity. During the winter, even more so than the rest of the year, a guy can concentrate on more than one species of fish with incredible success. It's almost like a big buffet line with the angler trying to decide which food he's going to try next. If the largemouths have been active, he'll go after them. If the stripers have been most active, he'll chase them around a while. The only shame here is putting the boat away for the winter and not getting out on the water. Boat traffic is at its lowest, and at times, it seems you have the whole Delta to yourself.

Remember what current means to your black bass angling, and focus on the key elements to locating stripers. And, lastly, don't forget what I told you last year about having a good meter on your boat this winter. Have fun, and good luck.


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