Target reservoir channel swings with Rapala® Shadow Rap® jerkbaits to fill your boat with bass this winter. That pattern’s been working since November on Kentucky Lake, FLW Pro Terry Bolton’s home waters.
“It’s been pretty good this winter here, the Shadow Rap has been pretty hot,” says Bolton, a 24-year veteran of the FLW Tour. “It’s been pretty well money.”
Bolton’s Shadow Rap pattern will produce bass now on “pretty much any reservoir in the middle part of the United States, like Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and even down into the south – Alabama, Georgia,” says the Kentucky native. “Some popular ones it should shine on would be Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock and Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, just to name a few.” The pattern will remain successful as long as water temperatures remain in the 40s to mid-50s.
“Your best water temperature for a jerkbait is 55 and below,” Bolton says. “And once you get down to 52 to 47, I’ve always felt that’s prime jerkbait water temperature.”
When water temps begin dipping into the 40s, bite-improving shad-kills often follow. “The shad will get stunned from the rapid onset of really cold water,” Bolton says. “And that’s usually when a jerkbait really shines. Especially after some of the bigger cold fronts, where you get these big plunges in temperatures.”
To catch winter bass like Bolton does, spool up several rods with 10- and 12-pound-test Sufix Advance Fluorcarbon and Sufix Advance Monofilament and tie on both original Shadow Raps and Shadow Rap Deeps. The originals run two to four feet deep; Deeps will dive down as far as eight feet. Water conditions and structure depth will dictate which set-up will be the most effective on any given day.
Make 45-degree-angle casts over the channel swing, retrieving your Shadow Rap with a jerk-jerk-pause cadence. No matter what you might have heard before about winter jerkbait fishing, Bolton says, don’t worry about waiting for what seems like forever on the pause.
“I usually don’t let it set very long, I’ll pause for only about three to five seconds,” he says. “I don’t care if its 45 degrees or its 55 degrees, if a bass wants to eat it, I don’t think he really needs it to sit there for 10 seconds. I think if he wants to eat it, he’s going to come get it.”
Bolton’s favorite winter Shadow Rap color patterns are Mossback Shiner in clear water, and Bud in slightly stained water. He notes that you’ll need at least two feet of visibility in the water for the Shadow Rap bite to be the most effective.
Combining a horizontal struggle with a vertical fade, Shadow Rap jerkbaits perfectly mimic an injured minnow’s last moments. Unlike a host of similar-looking jerkbaits, Shadow Raps neither rise slightly on the pause, nor strictly suspend in space. Not only will they dart side to side, they will spin around almost 180 degrees with the right action applied.
“It will even move after you stop the bait,” Bolton says. “And that’s one of the keys to that Shadow Rap. It stays in the strike-zone so much longer and it continues to work even after you’ve stopped it.”
In 24 years as bass pro, Bolton earned more than $1.3 million in prize money, won FLW Tour, FLW Series and BFL tournaments, finished in the top 10 in 48 tournaments and competed 14 times in the Forest Wood Cup, the FLW Tour’s championship.
How to Find and Fish ‘Prime Winter Feeding Areas’
Channel swings are “prime winter feeding areas,” Bolton says. The best ones to target are those “where deep water comes in and hits up against the bank and it makes a steep, vertical presence,” he explains. “And then as it swings away from the bank, there’ll be a little shelf or lip.”
Position your boat in deeper water and angle your casts upstream to shallower water. Work your jerk-jerk-pause cadence at least 2/3rds of the way back to the boat to ensure your bait passes over the eventual drop, or break, into deeper water.
“On some of those transitions, my boat might be sitting in 10 or 12 feet of water and the fish are coming out of five to seven-feet, right on that break,” Bolton says. “In other places, I may be sitting in 20 feet of water and the fish may be coming out of a little deeper water – that 10 to 12 foot range.”
When water temps are in the mid to low 50s, bass are more likely to be found in “the tail of the swing, where it transitions and flattens out, then drops off,” Bolton says. But as water temps get colder, bass will move to the deeper side. “And if it gets really bitter cold, a lot of times then they’ll go to the sheer, more bluff-like, steeper section.”
Bolton’s Line and Rod Choices
More often than not, Bolton will be jerking his Shadow Raps on 10- to 12-pound-test Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon, the most supple, sensitive and strong fluoro line Sufix® has ever engineered.
“That new fluorocarbon has such a small diameter, so you really get a good action out of the bait,” Bolton says. “I’ve had really good luck this year with the 10-pound.”
But when bass position on the shallowest sections of channel swings, Bolton adjusts by throwing original Shadow Raps on Sufix Advance Monofilament rather than Advance fluoro.
“A Shadow Rap sinks on the pause, so when you tie it on fluorocarbon – which is a little heavier than mono – it will add to your sink rate,” he explains. “So when they get up into shallow water and I don’t want my jerkbait to sink – I want a little more neutral buoyancy – I’ll go with the Advance Monofilament.”
Sufix Advance Mono is durable, low-stretch, abrasion-resistant line that makes no sacrifices that limit performance. Additional features include enhanced castability, reduced line memory, unrivaled knot strength and 50 percent lower stretch and UV absorption than standard monofilament.
Bolton fishes Shadow Raps on medium-action, 6-foot, 8-inch baitcasting rods with a fast tip.
“I like a little shorter rod, because I usually jerk the bait downward,” he says. “I like to jerk the slack of that line. Because that’s really one of the keys to that Shadow Rap. If you jerk the slack, the bait moves side to side [really erratically].”