Want a Master’s class in the best baits to throw in cold water? Watch Rapala® pros Mike Iaconelli, Brandon Palaniuk and Ott DeFoe in the Bassmaster Classic. To be contested March 3-6 on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake o’ The Cherokees, the tournament promises to be a cold-water-bait bonanza. Until then, take these pro tips to your coldest local lake and get on a hot bite.
Mike Iaconelli – Jerkbaits, Crankbaits & Lipless Cranks
Jerkbaits top Iaconelli’s list of must-have cold-water baits. Among his long-time favorites are Rapala Husky Jerks, Shadow Rap® and X-Rap®s.
“Any time the water temperatures are in the high 30s to the low 50s, I’m always thinking about a jerkbait as being a good bait,” says Iaconelli, the 2003 Classic Champ and a 14-time qualifier.
In 50- to mid-40-degree water, Ike favors X-Raps. He ties on Husky Jerks when “that water gets super cold” — from the mid-40s down to almost freezing.
Another go-to cold-water lure class for Iaconelli is a balsa-wood crankbait with a tight to moderate wobble. Rapala Shad Rap®s and DT®-series baits are his favorites.
The Shad Rap’s super-tight wobble, lack of a rattle and neutral action make it “probably the best wintertime crankbait,” Ike says. Rapala’s balsa baits trigger bites better in cold water than other crankbaits, he explains, because they hover when paused, rising ever so slowly. “The forage that bass feed on is cold too and doesn’t really move quickly,” he explains. “So you don’t want a fast-rise bait.”
Rapala’s DT-series crankbaits “are sort of a combo of a Shad Rap and a traditional wider-wobble crankbait,” Iaconelli says. Swimming with a side-to-side action that only balsa baits can create, DT’s trigger reaction strikes from sluggish, cold-water fish. Iaconelli likes to pause a DT often on the retrieve, snap it, rip it out of vegetation, and speed it up and slow it down.
On the warmer end of the cold-water spectrum, lipless vibration baits like Rapala Rippin’ Rap®s come into play. You’ll know it’s time to tie on a Rippin’ Rap, Ike says, “if the fish get a little shallower and start to pre-spawn on the flats.”
Palaniuk – Wiggle Wart®s, Arashi®s & Terminator® Jigs
In the Bassmaster Classic held on Grand Lake in February of 2013, Palaniuk finished runner-up. His top bait there was a Storm® Wiggle Wart. Water temps in that Classic were in the low 40s.
“In cold water, you want to just crawl a Wiggle Wart over the rocks,” Palaniuk instructs. “When you do that, it looks just like a little crawdad, scooting and scurrying in and out of those rocks. The action and the sound of that bait makes those fish bite.”
Storm Arashi baits have been key assets in Palaniuk’s arsenal as well. In cold water, he favors Arashi Rattling Deep 10’s and Rattling Flat 7’s.
Designed to target the 7-foot water column, the Rattling Flat 7 swims with a tight wobble, making it “less invasive,” Palaniuk says. “It doesn’t have that real hard thumping action to it,” he explains. “So when those fish are kind of lethargic in colder water, that’s really when that’s going to shine.”
Able to quickly and easily dive to 10 feet, the Rattling Deep 10 swims with a moderate wobble. Both the Deep 10 and the Flat 7 feature a multi-ball rattle that produces a loud, yet variable pitch for added attraction. And both feature an internal weight-transfer system to enable ultra-long casts.
In really cold water, when bass are “still a bit sluggish” and more likely to be found deeper than his favorite crankbaits run, Palaniuk turns to a Terminator Football Jig.
DeFoe – Shad Rap®s, T-1 Spinnerbaits & Pro Series Jigs
DeFoe, a 5-time Classic qualifier and the 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, is a big-time believer in the Shad Rap’s ability to tempt bass in cold water. “With all of the advances in fishing tackle in the last 20 or 30 years, the Shad Rap is still a super-effective bait,” he says. “It catches fish when nothing else will.”
When he’s looking to cull up to some big bass in cold water, DeFoe ties on a ½ oz. chartreuse and white Terminator T-1 Original Titanium Spinnerbait with double willow leaf blades.
“You’re not going to get a lot of bites on a spinnerbait when that water’s cold, but the ones you get are going to be really big,” he says. “They’re going to be fish you’re gonna want to hold up on that weigh-in stage at the end of the day.”
One of DeFoe’s confidence baits in both cold and warm water is a Terminator Pro Series Jig. When the water’s really cold, he’ll crawl one very slowly along the bottom on deeper structure. If weather and water are beginning to warm, however, targeting shoreline cover with the jig is often more productive.