So you want to fish the California Delta in the winter
The Delta is a magical place and can be rewarding and frustrating in the same trip. That is never more true than the dead of winter. You can go all day without getting a bite and on your last cast catch a fish of a lifetime or more often go home empty-handed. That being said winter time could be one of the most productive times to find and catch bass on the Delta.
First you’re going to want to look for deep weeds or structure . When it’s cold and dry the bass like holes, in weed rocks wood, it doesn’t matter what it is something to protect and hide them while they cry about how cold it is (just like we are up top).
But just because they are buried up, as we like to call, it doesn’t mean they don’t feed. Largemouth are opportunistic feeders and if a meal comes in front of them they will eat it and even in the coldest water if you annoy a Largemouth with your fly enough he will eat it or at least try to kill it. So super slow retrieves and multiple casts to the same target or area are required.
Finding fish can be difficult this time of year but look for areas that have good structure in or around deep water. Marinas. boat basins, and outside river bends are always favorites of ours. This time of year the deep rock walls and bridges can be crucial stops for bass looking to hide from the weather. Tides are also a big part of bass life on the delta. learn them watch them and keep a mental note if you did good in an area was it high low incoming or outgoing. Often the tide controls the fish more than time of day or even to a certain extent the weather. That is why people get frustrated when fishing the delta. The old dock talk story of “we killed them in practice last week”. Ya well what was the tide and most of the time those guys couldn’t tell you. It’s important to note what the tide is doing and even more so in winter. It is as simple as looking at the rocks to see the water line and making a note what way the water is flowing. If you’re looking for an application on your phone to better keep track of tides on the Delta I use and have used for years TideGraphPro it provided all the information in and easy to use and read graph.
Now that you found the fish; what will get them to eat. Well conventional guys are going to throw jigs swimbaits rip baits and worms at them but how do we compete with that? It’s hard but it can be done.
The jig is hard to cast but not hard to imitate. A nice heavy Craw fly such as the DBB Bunny Bomb or our Heavy Leach patterns are always go to flies for us . Fished slow along the bottom and in and around structure it can be deadly and as always responsible for quality bass.
The swimbait or rip bait is an easy fly imitation. Any streamer will work but our favorites would be game changer style flies and big streamers. Such as the DBB Shell Cracker or DBB Stage diver; both suspend in the water column and allow for super slow retrieves over the top of deep weeds and structure.
The worm poses a problem; there are some really great worm style flies out there such as our magnum Rabbit Worm but in reality (my opinion) no-fly performs as well as a soft plastic worm when largemouth are concerned. Spotted bass and smallmouth are a different story however.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room of winter time bass fishing recently, the float and fly. Will it work on the delta? Yes to a point. The location has to be ideal. Deep clean water with hard structure and minimal weeds and the fish have to be in that location. Have we ever made it work? Yes on a few occasions we have found fish suspended next to bridge pilings or on the tips of trees. But I couldn’t say that I could go out there today in the middle of winter and catch 5 bass on the float and fly like I could at the lakes. I have some locations that I would check and I probably find a fish or two. I can’t be as confident as I would be with the jig fly, at least not on the California Delta.
Of course all of this goes out the window the minute you get one of those warm winter days. When you wake up in the morning look out the window and see the sun is out. Don’t hurry(sleep in) plan on being on the water by 2:00 in the afternoon and fish the warmest part of the day for a couple hours before dark. Largemouth of the Delta will feed at this time; streamers and jig flies(and even a few top water fish can be had). Winter afternoons are by far the best time to try and learn to fish the California Delta in winter. Good luck now go fish!