I feel like I write about the importance of wintertime rock ad nauseam. At the risk of sounding slightly repetitive, however, I’m going to bring it up again. I sincerely want you to understand how powerful this type of cover is when it’s cold and miserable outside. Bass are cold-blooded critters which means their body temperature is regulated by the water temperature. Although you and I couldn’t tell the difference if we jumped in the lake, just a two- or three-degree difference is an enormous deal for a bass. That’s why, especially during historically cold weather, they tend to snug up to cover that conducts and retains heat for long periods of time.
The best example of such cover is rock; I don’t care if it’s boulders, chunk rock, rip rap or gravel on a 45-degree bank. Winter bass love rock and they become even more infatuated with it during these cold spells.
When I first started experimenting with this pattern during 20-degree weather, I thought I had to find long stretches of rock in order for them to be “worth my time” to stop and fish. As I’ve matured as an angler, I’ve realized that I probably wasted a lot of great opportunities due to that mindset. In all honesty, I think I was being lazy. Why take the boat off pad, unstrap the rods and drop the trolling motor just to fish a 10-yard stretch of rock?
Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because these small stretches play host to some of the biggest winter bass you’ll find. It just took my stubborn, redneck butt a few years to finally come to that realization.
These small stretches seem to concentrate the fish better than, say, a 100-yard stretch of riprap would. When there’s so much continuous cover in an area, I think there are just too many hiding places for a bass. If you put a 10-yard stretch of riprap on a main-lake seawall on an otherwise featureless bank, however, every big female in that immediate area is going to be attracted to it. It’s the difference between us setting our houses’ thermostats at 70 degrees compared to 80 degrees. It’s a huge difference if a bass can find an isolated stretch of rock and raise its body temperature a degree or two.
Now, there’s a reason I mentioned the main lake in this subheading. Can you go catch some big bass in a pocket somewhere right now by targeting rock? I’m absolutely positive you could. But to have those special 25-pound days we all dream about, I personally believe your best chance at multiple kickers comes from the main lake area during a historic cold spell. Bass right now are crazy about some sort of verticality. Is that an official word in the dictionary? Heck, I don’t know. But that’s what I’m going to call it, by gosh.
I think they still want some sort of adjacent deep water, especially if they didn’t move up to stage before the cold came through. For the same reasons we discussed with the offshore humps, a steeper bank on the main lake offers these prespawners an easy and energy-efficient way to adjust their situations. When you combine isolated stretches of rock with adjacent deep water, it’s just a matter of time until you run across a 6- to 8-pound bass.