Artificial shrimp are probably the most versatile lure this time of year. You can drag them through the deeper potholes after a quick drop in water temperature. When the water temperature is above 60 degrees, you can work them just above the grass or rig one to a popping cork. If you use the models with weight in the middle of the lure, you can skip the shrimp under docks or other nearshore structure. Live shrimp are one of the hottest winter baits, but artificial shrimp will allow you to cover areas faster.
When working the deep holes, give the lure enough time to reach the bottom. Retrieve the shrimp slowly across the bottom. After 4-5 cranks of the reel, make the lure twitch with a slight snap of the rod tip. In 1 to 2 feet, keep the rod tip high and reel just fast enough to keep the lure out of the grass. When using a popping cork, adjust it so the shrimp almost reaches the top of the grass. Slide the cork across the surface and let the weight of the shrimp pull the cork backward until it stops moving. Give each stop a few seconds before repeating. When the cork goes under the water, reel the line tight to set the hook.
Before moving to the docks, practice skipping the lure in open water. Keep the rod tip pointed toward the water and cast like you would skip a rock.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.