Winter may seem like an unlikely time to pursue fishing, but for the avid angler equipped with the right tools and knowledge, it can be a rewarding season to reel in some impressive catches. One such tool that has revolutionized winter fishing is forward facing sonar. Paired with the right lures and techniques, forward facing sonar opens up a world of opportunities for anglers seeking success even in the coldest months.
In this guide, we'll delve into the world of winter fishing with forward facing sonar, exploring the best lures to use, where to find fish, and the optimal weather conditions for a fruitful outing.
Lures that Work Best with Forward Facing Sonar:
1. Spoons: Spoons are a staple in any angler's tackle box, and they work exceptionally well with forward facing sonar. Their shiny, reflective surface mimics the flicker of prey, attracting curious fish. When using sonar, you can precisely target schools of fish and maneuver your spoon right into their path.
2. Jigging Raps: These versatile lures are perfect for vertical jigging, a technique that pairs seamlessly with forward facing sonar. Jigging Raps have a lifelike swimming action that entices fish, and with sonar, you can monitor their response in real-time, adjusting your presentation as needed to trigger strikes.
3. Damiki Rig, Minnow Rig, Hover Rig, Mid-Strolling Rigs: The technique that is sweeping the nation. No matter the rigging method you prefer, a small shad profile soft plastic, is all the rage at the moment. For good reason, those off-shore forward facing sonar fish, have been targeted for several years now and are starting to get wise to our traditional power fishing techniques. I think without a doubt, this technique is going to be responsible for more fish catches than any other using FFS this winter.
4. Umbrella Rigs: The fish see this presentation more than any other throughout the winter months, but it still flat out catches fish. The Umbrella Rig has an unbelievable amount of drawing power, and when the conditions are right the fish can't help but bite it. Not to mention this technique catches giants, as well as numbers. For years the umbrella rig was such a hassle to fish, due to the weight and its inability to come through hard cover. The introduction of FFS has changed the Umbrella rig game. You only need to make a cast when you see fish or structure on your graph, and with it being as close to live as possible, you can see where you need to maneuver the bait around the structure.
5. Jerkbaits: Jerkbaits are still an incredibly effective technique, and forward facing sonar makes using them much more efficient. Now you can see in real-time what cadence the fish want the bait to have, you can fish it much faster, and create reaction strikes much easier. The biggest obstacle with the jerkbait is depth, you can only effectively fish a suspending jerkbait down to 6-12 feet, so if the fish are deeper than that, and not willing to move too far to eat, you're efforts are wasted. Some companies have started building baits around FFS, and is creating new categories in the industry. One such bait is the Berkley Krej. This bait blends the characteristics of a jerkbait and a spoon. The Krej is a sinking bait with an upward facing bill that will dart upward when worked, then slide down and backwards on the fall. This is a completely different technique fish have not yet seen, and can be extremely at triggering bites when nothing else will.
Areas to Look for Fish:
1. Drop-offs and Channels: In winter, fish often seek out deeper waters where temperatures are more stable. Use your forward facing sonar to locate drop-offs, underwater channels, and other structure where fish are likely to congregate. Pay close attention to any signs of baitfish or predatory activity on your sonar screen.
2. Sunken Cover: Fallen trees, submerged brush piles, and rocky outcrops provide shelter for fish during the winter months. With forward facing sonar, you can scan these areas with precision, identifying potential hotspots where predatory fish may be lurking.
3. Transition Zones: Look for areas where shallow flats meet deeper water or where currents create natural feeding lanes. These transition zones often hold concentrations of fish seeking both warmth and easy access to prey. Sonar helps you map out these subtle changes in underwater topography, giving you a strategic advantage.
Best Weather Conditions:
1. Stable Barometric Pressure: Fish are more likely to be active and feeding during periods of stable barometric pressure. Plan your fishing trips around days when the barometer is steady, as this often correlates with increased fish activity.
2. Overcast Skies: Cloud cover can act as a natural diffuser, reducing glare and making fish feel more secure venturing into shallower waters. Overcast days are ideal for winter fishing, as they often coincide with higher fish activity levels.
3. Mild Temperatures: While winter fishing can be productive in cold weather, extreme conditions can make it challenging. Aim for days with relatively mild temperatures where fish are more likely to be active and willing to strike.
Winter fishing with forward facing sonar presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for anglers. By employing the right lures, targeting key areas, and paying attention to weather conditions, you can maximize your chances of success on the water. Whether you're chasing trophy bass, walleye, or panfish, embracing the power of sonar technology can elevate your winter fishing game to new heights. So bundle up, gear up, and get ready to experience the thrill of winter angling like never before.