Lake Travis has finally hit that part of the year where the fishing can be a little tough. That is to say unless you know where to look!
During the winter months cold fronts constantly bombard Texas and throw the bass for a loop. Largemouth bass are greatly affected by water temperature, barometric pressure, and water clarity (i.e. the affect wind and rain have on the lake).
Since Largemouth bass are cold blooded, cool water temps in the mid 50's can make them sluggish and less active. While you northerners from above the Mason Dixon line might laugh at mid 50 degree water temps, us Texan's here in Austin think thats cold... and so do our bass! This year we have had a pretty mild winter all things considered, but with this past week's little bit of snow and cold night time temps, the water on Lake Travis is rather chilly. This causes fish to move out a little deeper in search of stable water temps.
In the summer time we all know bass move offshore to look for cooler water... during the winter they make a similar move but for different reasons. Since the water is cold all the way from the top to the bottom of the water column the bass seek out stable water temps. Cold fronts and warming trends affect the top of the water column, but have little affect on anything pas the first several feet of the lake. With no thermocline like during the summer the bass will go as deep as they want. I have caught bass during the winter as deep as 60+ feet, but for the most part they don't have a reason to go this deep.
More often than not you will find fish in that 10-25 foot zone right now. Slowing wayyyy down with your presentation will also help you get bit. Bass still feed during the winter. I heard someone online recently say that bass stop eating and go dormant during the winter... I have no idea who told them that but it is not true. Bass still eat, however it is true they feed less and are much less active/ agressive. Largemouth are very opportunistic creatures and will feed if the opportunity presents itself. Think of their feeding behavior in terms of how much energy does a bass have to expend in order to catch that meal? Will the calories being taken in outweigh the calories being burned? Bass don't have the luxury of going to H-E-B like we do... everything is about survival for them.
To combat this behavior I recommend three things... the first two are to fish slow and to downsize your baits. Small finesse jigs, ned rigs, and shakey heads are all great bait choices right now. Fish them extremely slow and give them long pauses. 5-10 seconds of just dead sticking can be the key to getting bit sometimes.
The other way to combat their sluggish behavior is to fish very fast. But wait... you just said to fish slow??? Have you been huffing JJ's Magic again? Nope! During the winter you can actually trigger lethargic fish into biting by going for a reaction strike. When put in front of their face a bass will bite a lure out of instinct and less because they are focused on feeding. This is why baits like a rattle trap are great during the dead of winter.
Crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, and Alabama rigs are all great winter time reaction baits. Typically I favor these baits during a warming trend, pre frontal conditions, or during low light conditions. (first and last part of the day)
While fishing has been slower we have still had some excellent trips lately. Now is a great time of year to get out for a coaching trip. Admittedly we probably aren't going to boat 30+ fish, but when conditions are tough it makes me work for those fish. I like being able to teach clients what I am doing... my though process to looking for fish, how to locate them, what baits to throw, etc etc. A lot more goes into putting fish in the boat when the bite is tough than it does when they are willing to hit lure. I rely heavily on knowledge of Lake Travis from fishing the lake so often during this time of year.
Luckily though its February and before we know it the spawn will be here. I predict you will start seeing pre spawn fish within a couple of weeks. Central Texas bass spawn fairly early, so finding a fish on a bed by the end of this month wouldn't be unusual. March and April are my favorite months to fish! March is booking up quick honestly! If you would like to get out this Spring and have a limited schedule, now is a good time to book. My Friday's, Saturday's and Sunday mornings fill up in advance.
If you are fishing Lake Travis this week let me know how you do! You can tag me on Instagram @laketravisfishingguide or on Facebook @ Torwick's Guiding Service! I always enjoy seeing how y'all do.