It’s the time of year when we would rather stay at home in front of the open fire. That does sound like a good idea but there is another option for those anglers still itching for a fish. Even though the conditions are far from enjoyable, the fish to be caught are nothing but monsters!
Winter kicks off the time when the smaller fish shut right down but the bigger fish become more active. They still need to eat and with little; bait fish, food and activity around, it gives anglers the perfect opportunity. The days can be tough with many trips yielding little reward but keep at it because the prize far outweighs the efforts!
In this article I’m going to share with you my top tips for targeting big cod in winter. We will be writing and publishing many more pieces over the winter that will go in depth of different tactics. But this one will put you right ahead in the game.
Tip 1. Find the big fish!
Now you might be saying, “Well how do we do that?”
The answer all lies in what sections of the waterway you are targeting. You can always pick where the big cod are hiding and in the ‘Complete Guide – Lure Fishing Series’ we talk more in depth about how to identify structure and find where the fish are hiding. Click here to find out more about this series.
You want to find these key features:
- Deep water – If you are asking the questions, “How deep?” The answer to this all depends on the waterway you are fishing. If you are in a skinny creek where the maximum depth is 2 metres – that is your deep spot. A river that has an average of 2.5m but drops to 5m in the deep holes – the 5m is your deep water. With dams you don’t want to fish the deep water because that could be 100m and the fish aren’t going to be there – so this rule doesn’t apply for dams, only rivers.
- Big Structure – This is key! You want to find the biggest red gum logs in the river and that’s where you need to fish. Don’t waste your time on the small structure because this is where the small fish hide and they are shut down during winter. Winter is when you can afford to fish hard on the big snags. In dams looks for big snag piles under the water on your sounder or steep rock banks to cast your lures along.
- Still water – Big cod are lazy and don’t like to fight the current. Many of our rivers will have little flow during the winter months, especially irrigation rivers and this still water allows our lures to get down to where the fish are hiding. Find areas in slow swirling back waters or just off the edge of the current. These locations are like gold because big cod like to sit in still water not far from the current as it’s the perfect ambush location.
If you mix all 3 of these structure types you will find the hideout of the monster cod!
Tip 2. Work harder in less locations
Something that I preach and do a lot of for most of the year is fish water quickly. What I mean is that we don’t waste much time on each snag – we have a few casts to the best location and move to the next one. This works well because we are finding the hungry fish. The ones that are sitting in wait for something to come past. This tactic works wonders – but winter is the time when this doesn’t work!
You have to do the total opposite when it’s cold and put in huge numbers of casts in less locations. This is why we forget about all the small snags and concentrate on the big ones. More casts, slower retrieves, letting your lure sink further and covering the entire piece of structure. Sometime even changing the lure up and fishing it with a spinnerbait and then a hard body. In summer we might average 5-25 casts on a snag, in winter we need more like 50-100 on the snags that we know hold big cod. We will sometimes spend 15 mins on one set of big logs and that’s what it takes sometimes to get the big fish to attack. Aim for 50-100 casts or until someone snags and ruins the spot (which is what happens most of the time).
Tip 3: Big, Bigger and Massive!
“What am I talking about? The fish or the lure?”
Both! Think big with your lure choice and cod will follow suit. You want to use bigger profile spinnerbaits and this doesn’t mean it needs to be heavier. As you don’t want to make your perfectly weighted lure plummet to the bottom. All you need to do is add a bulky soft plastic tail with a stinger hook and upgrade the blade to a big Colorado. I like to use the Powerbait Rib Shad as they have incredible action. The big Colorado blade will help produce a big thump through the water and will aid the lure to sink slower. This will hold the spinnerbait in front of the fish for a longer period of time, which gives the fish more time to eat it. When it comes to trolling pick big lures! You don’t want to look at anything under 120mm – the bigger the better.
Tip 4: Don’t Give Up
This may seem like the obvious but from experience I know it is the most important of all. If there is only one thing you take away from this article than make it this point. Keep going, fishing hard, and don’t give up. It doesn’t matter what you are doing the more time you put in the more chance you have of success – and this isn’t any truer than when fishing for big cod.
It can get hard in winter but keep heading out onto the water. These large fish can be very intelligent so they will take many casts to fool but it makes the reward all that much better. If you take the above 3 tips and mix them with your persistence from this tip you will have what it takes to tackle big winter cod. Like mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is just an intro into targeting Murray Cod in winter and we will have any more in depth articles and videos coming to you soon.
If you’re interested in learning more about targeting Murray Cod, watch our Complete Guide trailer here.