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Crawdads or rainbow trout? This is a question I ask myself every year around this time when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. I always wonder what the bigger bass are doing and what they really want to feed on during these colder days. Where I live here in San Diego, California our Fall and Winter months can be one of the best times of the year to to catch a few really fat healthy bass, maybe even that one trophy you have been chasing all year. I myself have caught a 17-2 out of Lake Jennings Ca. in November on a jig as well as an 18-1 out of Lake Poway Ca., also on a jig. Both bass were very deep; the Jennings bass was in well over 50′ of water while the Poway bass was caught at around 40′ of water. I find that during the colder shorter Fall/Winter days the bigger bass seem to be deeper, gorging on crawdads every chance they get. But once in awhile, I hook a good bass well over ten pounds on a swimbait during these same periods.

Rainbow Trout vs. Crawdads

Every year is just a bit different and this year has been one of the hottest on record. It is almost Halloween and the air temps are in the 90′s while the water temps are still around the mid 70′s and a bit higher at some lower elevation lakes, so even though the days are getting shorter there is still some unusually warm water to be found and even some top water action still going on during the day. Typically this time of the year the water temps are in the low 70′s and the nights are really cold and clear so the bass are typically deeper where the water temperatures are a bit more consistent.

These deeper bass seem to be mainly feeding on crawdads and even with trout stocks starting they still remain very focused on slowing down and feeding downward on crawdads. I believe the cooler water decreases the bass’ metabolism and encourages the large female bass to slow down and start loading up on calcium-rich crawdads. I have seen this scenario play out year after year and that is why I prefer to use a jig with a crawdad trailer from October through March. Historically for me throughout this these months the jig has always been a high percentage go-to lure in the colder water. But every now and then, after a few trout plants have been put into the lakes, I’ve noticed some short windows of oppurtunity where some of the bigger bass seem to want to chase some trout over feeding on crawdads.

This is where I scratch my head trying to understand why these big bass have a slight change in their diet during the cooler months. I want to understand what triggers these bass to change their feeding pattern, if I can understand some of what influences this change then I might have a chance of being at the right place with the right lure and hooking a good bass.

Jig & Craw Imitation

One thing that I’ve noticed over the years during the Fall and Winter months is on clear, sunny, warm days with little to no wind that around 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I have witnessed some monster bass up shallow in 2′- 10′ of water just sitting on some shallow warm rock piles as still as possible as if they were sleeping. I believe that after eating crawdads for several days that these hard shell crawdads are very hard to digest and load up in the bass’ stomach and intestines, thus pushing these huge bass up shallow where the warm sun can help to warm up these bass and help to increase their metabolism which will help to push these crawdad shells through the bass’ digestive system just a bit faster.

And if the weather stays warm during the Fall and Winter months for more than a week, I have seen some huge female bass start to set up on shallow structure and ambush anything that will swim by and this typically is one of the freshly planted rainbow trout that are such an easy target for these frisky bass. But I’ve also noticed they don’t seem to want to expend too much energy or travel too far to catch one of these trout. This is where the game gets interesting. Now where some of these bass are set up on shallow ambush structure you now have a strike zone and it is up to you to discover what the range of that zone is.

As I have written about on MikeLongOutdoors, when a cold storm approaches where I live, it will push some  monster bass out of their deep hiding areas of the lake and put them almost on the bank for a brief period before the cold storm arrives. This is when these bass seem to be very frustrated and highly aggressive. These short windows of opportunity before the storm arrives, with falling barometer readings, have historically been great times for me to be tossing a swimbait over a jig and the results, at times, have been very good for a large bass on a swimbait. But these monster storms don’t come in every week and the bass always seem to move back to their deeper winter crawdad areas and now it’s back to scratching my head trying to figure out why, and where these big bass are again. But truthfully I love this part of the game almost as much as the payoff!

When looking at my notes and talking with other swimbait and jig fisherman, I have noticed that these big bass will definitely at times come out of the deeper winter waters and chase and eat the swimbaits. Too many people have shared their stories that say the same.

One of the greatest things to happen in my world of learning and sharing info has been FaceBook. I have met thousands of people from all over the world who share the same passion as me in pursuing these monster bass. I have gotten well over a thousand emails and private messages from people wanting to pick my brain and for me I have picked their brains too. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have learned about bass characteristics around the globe. Now I’m asking you for your brief stories on this topic of crawdads or rainbow trout. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

12 Responses to Crawdads or Rainbow Trout

  • i say push the crawdad until u seee them eat a trout then roll that to them thats what i would do hope this was helpful

    • Frank, when I was younger I use to double anchor more and toss live crawdads all day and have a swimbait ready if i saw some action close to the boat. Sometimes you could catch good bass both ways throughout the day. Miss those times.

  • Mike,
    Great article, I experienced this myself. Couple years ago in January caught a 10.56 on a Hud and her whole lower jaw was completely rubbed raw from sucking craw dads out of the rocks. I have a question on that location. It’s long spine on a island off shore. This spot primarily holds big spots but this year the blacks have taken it over northerns and Florida strain. Will the blacks push the spots out of an area or will they coexist or maybe there forage changed?

    • Great question Justin, spotted bass and northern strain bass are very aggressive and territorial and if the spots have been run off then I would say for awhile the northerns will rule the area.

  • I live in Central Oregon and this time of year you have water temps in the 50′s and ice on your guides in the mornings. This time of year the trout push up in schools extremely shallow and the big bass seem to follow these trout. For me there is a couple of week window when the big girls move up and feed on trout before making their retreat to deeper water. When this happens the jig bite seems to dissappear and the only thing the big fish want is swimbait. Where I fish we are at higher elevations and winter weather tends to run from late October to April and these bass know to start feeding up. Last year I fished a local club tournament the 3rd week in october and crushed the competion with three topwater swimbait fish and no one was even aware of this unique swimbait bite. The one thing I did notice is you do have to fish slow. I started off throwing a sinking bait and could only get swiped at because I had to move the bait too fast to keep it from hanging up, when I switched to a slowly twitched floating swimbait it was lights out! Once the trout move off the banks though its back to throwing the jig as the big fish push deep again and are less willing to chase.

    • Love it! thanks Justin your reply is what I’m talking about when we share info we can all learn from each and pattern these big bass just a little bit better.

  • Another great article Mike. I love that you share such great insight in all of your articles. After reading this article I decided to pause the swimbaits in the Castaic Lagoon and give the jigs a shot. Question is do you have a favorite Jig and Trailer that you use and how do you like to fish them with the slightly warmer water temps.

    • Chris, I do not have a favorite jig more like a favorite style of jig. A 3/8oz football head that hides the eyelet and a short-shank hook medium gap. As for trailers I love twin tail trailers when i’m moving the jig a lot, and dead of winter pork.

  • Question, When working your jig during the winter months, here in SD, do you work uphill or downhill most of the time, or do you mix it up?

    • Great question Fred, when the water and weather is cold I work my jigs down hill, but with weather like were still having mid 80′s I’m almost flipping them on the bank.

  • Great article Mike! I am lovin all the info on here!

    I don’t have much personal insight but, I do have a bit of info to share. My dad was with Ray Easley when he caught his big girl way back when. They were fishing in 20-25 ft of water with live crawdads that day. About an hour before the fish was hooked they witnessed a very big bass make 2 swipes at a trout on the surface. Idk if it was the same fish but the bass were clearly feeding on both that day in March!

  • Mike!! I’ll just say it… You’ve been my hero for years. I’ve moved all over the USA in the last 10 years. In that time I’ve just become more and more consumed with bass fishing, especially trophy fishing. I currently live in Seattle Washington. The last few years I’ve notice a huge population of Craws in the shallows for most of October. The trout start to finally move shallow as well in most of the waters around here. I just got confident with big swimbaits a few months ago. A buddy and I have hit water together numerous times this month where i’ll be throwing a swimbait or 2 all day and he sticks to a jig/ senco. The results have been interesting. Like you mentioned the water temps are a little warmer than previous years. Last weekend he was whuppin’ my butt with a 3/4 deflection football head jig and a creature bait. Right about the time he said something along the lines of ”you need to get the skunk off your back” it stopped raining and A 7 pounder inhaled my 8” hudd. It seemed like the fish were all over 3-12′ of water and defiantly feeding on craws. The big fish bite got hot from 11:45-2pm. I hooked a 6er skipping the hudd under a steep/deep dock shortly after that and lost a good one as well in no mans land. It helps when you remember to set the hook ha,ha. My buddy’s craw pattern fish were all 3 lb or under.