By Lynn Burkhead
OSG Senior Digital Editor
A wintertime trip for largemouth bass isnít for the faint of heart Ė or the unprepared.
Thatís because there may not be any second chances for bass anglers who get into trouble at this time of the year when water temperatures are typically in the 50s, 40s and even the upper 30s on some water bodies. But since some of the yearís best big-fish potential lies during the cold-weather and chilly-water months of December, January and February, how can an angler remain safe and still have a chance at a big bucketmouth?
For starters, never fish alone at this time of the year, says Bass Pro Tour veteran Kelly Jordon, a longtime fan of the big-bass catching potential found during the wintertime months near his East Texas home.
ďIf you do fish alone, make sure that someone knows where youíre going to be, where youíll be on the lake, and when youíll return,Ē said Jordon.
Next, just in case you do get into trouble while out fishing during the depths of winter, itís a good idea to keep a fully charged cell phone or marine radio handy in a waterproof container during such cold-season outings. Boat traffic is at a minimum right now and you might need to summon help if you get accidentally dunked instead of relying on other boats to come to your aid on the water.
Aside from that, be sure to dress in layers of warm, waterproof and windproof high-tech clothing that can ward off winterís dangerous wetness and chill. For me, thatís merino wool socks, a merino wool base layer, fleece mid-layers and a Gore-Tex outer jacket and bib pant combination like those made by Bass Pro Shops, Huk, Simms Fishing and others.
In addition to the heat-retaining properties of fleece and merino wool Ė which can provide some surprising warmth even when wet Ė the moisture and wind-repelling qualities of Gore-Tex can also keep an angler surprisingly toasty, all with minimal bulk.
In case of accidentally getting wet, Jordon recommends carrying an extra set of dry clothing, an extra jacket and maybe even a sleeping bag, all secured in waterproof bags or containers and placed in a boatís dry storage compartments. And it should go without saying that anglers should always wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) throughout a wintertime fishing trip when an unexpected fall into cold water can quickly numb extremities and bring about rapid, death-dealing hypothermia. Jack Frost isnít a comical character in holiday TV specials at such moments, turning into a deadly wintertime specter instead.
Finally, think about firing up the bodyís internal combustion engine with energy-producing food and drink. I like hot coffee and hot chocolate along with a YETI rambler filled with either hot chicken noodle soup or homemade venison chili. Add in a turkey sandwich on wheat for lunch, and maybe a couple of Mountain Ops energy bars to be snacked on throughout the day, and the fuel is supplied for an angler to stay warmer for a longer period on the water.
The bottom line is that the winter months offer the feast-or-famine fishing possibilities of catching the big bass of a lifetime on many hallowed lunker-filled waters from Fork to Guntersville to Chickamauga and beyond. However, such angling opportunity must also be treated with tremendous respect to carefully ensure that an angler can go out, have a good time fishing, catch a memorable bass and return to the warmth of home during the evening hours where family and loved ones wait.
Bundle up, follow on-the-water safety rules for wintertime fishing, and have fun. Because some of the best big-bass action of the year is at hand over the next several weeks, even as St. Nick gets ready to fire up the sleigh and head south for his annual Christmas Eve toy run.
Even if itís chilly, for the bass angler seeking a real bucketmouth, wintertime fishing really can be the most wonderful time of the year!