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.
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.
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.