During the the colder months, most fish seem to move out into deeper water leaving behind small packs of good size fish and the target of my winter pursuits: the lonesome Monster. Every year I spend large amounts of time chasing this monster, trying to figure it out.
For many years, livebaiting have been my go-to style, but over the last seasons, I have been casting surface lures instead. During most of the year, stickbaits work very well but once the water cools down, those really big fish seem to be harder and harder to hook. Some experimenting is required to improve the hook up rate.
I have been casting big cupped-faced poppers, and I haven't had a lot of interest but every fish that has come in and smashed the popper has been huge.
But getting hit hard doesn’t necessarily mean hooking up. I have been unlucky over the years, missing a lot of fish, but now I’ve started to pay more attention to the rigging. Recently I’ve tried using assist hooks, which seems to extend that crucial window of opportunity when the Monster has smashed your stickbait and you're waiting for it to come tight.
Work your poppers slow, and prepare yourself to have long sessions on the rod. This winter I’ve had days upon days of casting massive poppers, only to have a couple of monster fish crash in on my popper, and had only one of them staying connected! So, patience, good casts and big poppers. When it happens for you, it will be from the fish you dreamed of catching.