Catching bass in the winter is anything but easy. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most challenging fishing experiences out there. But don’t put away your fishing rod yet.
The bass will still be biting, and you may be lucky enough to catch a trophy fish. You need to adopt a slightly different approach during the winter season. Preparation and understanding fish behavior will help you land a nice bass.
A Quick Word about Safety
Winter bass fishing has less to do with fishing and more to do with the water temperature you are fishing in.
Depending on where you live and plan to fish, the water can be anywhere from cold to frigid.
The threat of hypothermia can lead to trouble. So, make a plan of where you want to fish and make sure to let someone know which lake you are fishing in and where.
Moving on, let’s discuss the behavioral aspects of bass in the winter season.
Bass Behavior in Winter
The myth surrounding the winter bass fishing is that you’ve got zero chance to catch fish past autumn.
This idea has to do with the cold-blooded nature of the fish. Dropping air temperatures affect their body functions and notably their metabolism. The slow metabolization of food reduces bass’ need to feed routinely, but that does not mean they do not feed at all.
While catching bass in winter is tough, there are some out there that will chase a lure in frosty temperatures. You should use an extra incentive for the bass to take the bait.
When searching for a location fit for winter bass fishing, two things are crucial: deepwater and baitfish. These two aspects are key to finding bass in winter, and if you find both in one location, then you are in for a treat.
If you own a fish finder, you can detect the location of the bass. Areas such as underwater islands, humps, and long points are good starting points.
Bass tend to swim in deeper waters in winter, but they will come up to shallow waters to feed. It is best to visualize where the bass are if you know the water.
The bass will not be far from the spawning areas. The first point featuring deeper water from a spawning flat is where you will see wintering bass.
The feeding window of the bass is short in winters. So, you could be on the right spot, but if they are not feeding, you will not pull in a catch.
This means you have to time it just right. The perfect times for winter bass fishing are at the crack of dawn or when the day is at its warmest point.
The best you can do is to find warmer water near heavily vegetated covers. Even a few degrees of change affects bass behavior, so keep in mind the water temperatures.
The prime fishing temperatures are 40-50 degrees. The bass may have slowed down their feeding but may not be too cold to eat.
They will chase the bait to some degree, albeit slowly. Waters that are less than 40 degrees are the most challenging condition to fish, but it is doable. The angler must cast the bait in front of the lazy bass to get the bite right away.
The bass will be inactive and need an easy meal. Once you cast the bait in front of the fish, you’ll have to give it time and practice.
Gear for Winter Bass Fishing
At some point in their lives, all anglers fall victim to the ‘fishing rut.’ Winter is the worst time to find yourself in a runt about how you approach fishing. To make your fishing quest easier, a few simple tactics will help you better understand bass behavior.
We are aware of the fact that bass do not feed as ferociously in the winters as they do in other seasons. Their metabolism takes a toll, and they do not need to feed as much.
They populate an area that has food and deep water nearby where they hover until early spring. Bass stay with their friends; so, if one bass does not give you a bite, you best believe a buddy right next to it will.
Bass are very keen on shad this time of the year. Shad struggles in waters below 40 degrees, so bass swims about in hopes of finding an injured, dying shad.
Yet, they will not pass up a slow crawling craw right in their face. They are opportunists and will feed on whatever they can. Having addressed their tendencies below, here are the best lure choices for catching sluggish winter bass.
There is a reason why hard-bodied jerk bait is the number one choice. When the water temperature drops below 40 degrees, this is where the hard-bodied jerkbait shines through.
It is one of the most effective and productive baits in the game. Jerkbaits have a baitfish profile and erratic action. Their ability to suspend triggers plenty of bites from winter bass. Work jerkbaits with a slow twitch, twitch again, and then pause. Cast around the buff walls, drains, and weedlines. Remember, the colder the water, the longer the pause.
Rod: 6’6” to 7” range, with a medium-power and fast action
Reel: 6.1:1 to 7.1:1
Line: A light line will create a more erratic action and go deeper into the water
Winter bass predominantly feeds on baitfish. An umbrella rig is the only bait that can replicate a school of baitfish. In colder water, the bass may be hesitant to attack a single baitfish, because it wants to preserve its energy for the long winter season. A school of baitfish, however, is too much for the bass to resist.
Rod: Ideal umbrella rig rod should be 7.5 to 8 feet
Reel: Heavy-duty bait caster in a low gear ratio (5.4:1)
Line: Fluorocarbon line works well with a 16 to 20-pound test.
The lipless crankbait produces a ton of commotion to attract the attention of the bass. You’d think a bait with basic treble hooks would get snug in cover, but it beautifully comes through.
You can easily cast it over grass lines and stump fields until you run into a fish. Shallow flats and natural reservoirs are great targets as well.
Rod: A rod in the 7’2” to 7’6” inch range with a medium-heavy to heavy power with a fast tip works well with lipless crankbaits.
Reel: Choose a high-speed reel with a gear ratio ranging from 7.1:1 and 8.5:1.
Line: A braided line can be a good choice, although it can cause more fish to shake the bait because of a lack of stretch. For avoiding that issue, many anglers use fluorocarbon or a monofilament line.
There are many schools of fish in deeper reservoirs, along the creek channel bends, deep points, and under the docks. The best way to target these bass is by using a jigging spoon.
This bait looks like a dying baitfish, and you can use it vertically over the top of wintering bass. Upon fishing the school of the bass, drop the spoon down and hop it up and down until you get a bite. Be patient, because once you get one bite, you can get a bunch more
Rod: Medium to heavy rod with a good backbone
Reel: Spinning or casting reel
Line: Monofilament or fluorocarbon 10-12lb.
Jigs are useful at any time of the year, but, in cold water, it is the most popular choice for the anglers. Hair jig has a much more subtle action that appeals to the winter bass, compared to the rubber or silicone jig.
Cast a lightweight hair jig around docks and anywhere you suspect bass to hang out. Let the bait sink on a semi-slack line and then drag it back to the boat. You will get many strikes on the fall, so do not get caught off-guard.
Rod: A 7’6” rod
Line: A 6lb fluorocarbon line.
Blade baits are effective in catching largemouth as well as smallmouth bass. Let the bait sink to the bottom, and then let it be for a bit.
Jerk the rod tip, and then, dart the bait upwards, let it flutter back down to the bottom, and then repeat the process. Once the lure gets pulled up, you will feel it vibrate, which will garner the attention of the nearby bass.
Rod: 6’7” Medium casting rod
Reel: 5:1 or 6:1 gear ratio
Line: 14lb fluorocarbon
Grub is such a simple, faithful ol’ lure that most anglers totally forget about its existence. The fact of the matter is that it shines when the water is ultra-cold. When the bass suspend in vertical cover, a grub can be a dynamite bait to catch them. You have to cast it slowly and methodically to get the most bites.
Rod: Moderate to fast fishing rod
Reel: 6:4:1 gear ratio
Line: 6-10lb line
A tail spinner can hop, pump, and work in various ways both near the bottom and up in the strike zone, making this teardrop lure a dynamite presentation.
Rod: 7- foot long baitcasting rod
Reel: 6.1:1 or 6.4:1 gear ratio
Line: 17-20lb monofilament
Winter Bass Fishing Tips and Techniques
Snagging a bass in colder months is tough but not impossible. Thus, it is important to have a few tips and tricks under your belt for wintertime bass fishing. Here is a list to make the fishing process less painful:
Use the Right Bait and Downsize
Worms and small baitfish would be your best bet for the winter bass fishing. Lures are extremely effective in the winter months.
Those are the only baits that attract a lazy bass. Downsize your bait as bass won’t fight a large piece of prey. Try hooking up a crustacean such as a crawfish. Put something smaller on the menu.
Slow Your Bait’s Movement
Imagine you are a cold-blooded animal with cold water flowing through your body for three months straight; you would probably become slow and sluggish too.
Give your bass a chance to bite the bait by slowing it down. Many professional anglers recommend mirroring the bass’ movement patterns. This means keep your bait’s action steady and slow.
Stick to Deep Pockets in Lakes
When the weather takes a frigid turn, many bass move to the deepest part of the water. The deeper water is warmer. Target the deep pockets of lakes and ponds while fishing because the bass can find bottom-feeders without having to fight to chase prey.
Keep Near the Shore in River
In rivers, you are likely to find bass hanging out near the shore in the winter season. The fish typically migrate near river banks because the shallow waters are warmer due to slower currents.
There are also more baitfish and other bass attracting-structures near the shore. This particular spot makes a great resting and feeding area.
Fish directly from the shore as it puts you right on top of the bass that are chilling along the banks. Sneak up on them without commotion to catch one of them.
The process of catching a winter bass will take more time than you’re probably used to. Don’t get disheartened and give up after one try; keep at it. You will not get as many bites as you’d get in other seasons; however, there is a chance that the bite you get might be rewarding.
If you are an experienced angler, you know how tough it can be to stay in during the winter season. Hundreds of potential catches are out of reach. So this time around, why not take a leap of faith and head out into the freezing temperatures to try your hand at winter bass fishing.