Be it for Texas rigging, shaky head fishing, jig trailers or swimbait tactics, the pros tend to agree that slow and subtle seems to be the guiding factor in choosing plastics.
Welcher agrees, unless he’s fishing for suspended fish.
“If I’m dragging a bait on the bottom, I go with less action and will use a Zoom Super Chunk on my jig,” he explains. “But if I’m pitching to a deep dock, I’ll use a jig with a NetBait Paca Slim because it falls slower and has more draw power for the suspended fish.”
Shaky head fishing with a straight-tail worm is a common wintertime technique.
“Especially if they won’t bite a jig,” Welcher says. “On tougher days, or if the water is ultraclear, go with a slimmer soft plastic like a Zoom Trick Worm.”
Jason Williamson says he keeps three techniques rigged throughout the winter: a shaky head, drop shot and jig.
He loves the Buckeye Mop Jig because of the living rubber skirt that he says “breathes” even when the bait sits still. He adds the Zoom Super Chunk as a trailer.
“The fish are lethargic, and the Super Chunk only moves when you move the bait,” he offers.
His shaky head rig consists of a Buckeye Spot Remover Jig Head fashioned with a Zoom Tiny Fluke, while his drop-shot bait is the Zoom Swamp Crawler.
Carriere likes to flip the Yum Christie Craw on a Treeshaker Jig around Louisiana cypress trees when a lot of crawfish are present. The lure has a low profile and isn’t really bulky.
However, if he’s fishing a smallmouth lake, he likes to fish a football jig around points next to channel swings and will use either the NetBait
Paca Craw or a Christie Craw as a trailer.
When on a grass lake, Benton will rig a Big
Bite Baits BFE on a Texas rig and punch through dead hyacinths or hydrilla mats that tend to hold water. He said the bait penetrates well with a heavy sinker, and with a 5/0 hook he gets good hookup ratios.
Smaller swimbaits also play well in cold water. Many pros use them as trailers on spinnerbaits and bladed jigs or fish them on jigheads.
For example, Benton will put a 3.3 Big Bite Baits Pro Swimmer on a spinnerbait for fishing around laydowns or dock edges to help keep the lure near the top.
Welcher says he will throw a 3.8 Keitech swimbait on a 3/16-ounce Untamed Tackle Scout Jig in the same places he would throw a crankbait.
“In real clear, cold water, I will get more bites on this rig than with crankbaits,” he insists. “I’ll slow roll it at a speed I can feel the tail thumping, such as in current eddies and around bluffs or docks. It’s like wintertime wacky fishing because you often see the fish come up and eat it.”
Williamson says he’s had success on blueback herring lakes by fishing a Zoom Swimmer on a Buckeye J-Will swimbait head.
“I slow roll it over ditches in deep water,” he describes. “The swimmer not only imitates the blueback herring well, but it doesn’t have too much action for cold water. This is when you want a swimbait tail with subtle action.”
Swimbaits are equally popular for fishing behind bladed jigs and enable anglers to slow down.
“I like the NetBait Little Spanky over a twin-tail-style trailer because it helps get the bait deeper and the twin tails give it more lift,” explains Welcher.
Benton likes the Big Bite Baits Kamikaze Swimon because “it’s not real bulky and will keep your bait down in the water column near the deeper grassbeds.”
Like most anglers interviewed, Carriere likes the Evergreen JackHammer bladed jig and will add a Zoom Tiny Fluke as a trailer. However, he says, the Wager Baits Calcutta Jig — a bladed jig with synthetic hair material — is ideal in cold water.
“When I slow it down, the hair flares out,” he describes. “I think that helps when the water is cold, and it’s different than a lot of the regular bladed jigs the fish see that time of year.”