Most people think bass fishing season is over once winter sets in. The winter brings tough fishing conditions, not to mention uncomfortable fishing conditions. It’s no secret that bass feed far less aggressively in the winter, but as long as the water has not iced over, and if you have a lot of patience, very big bass can be caught during the winter months.
The winter air cools water temperatures dramatically, dipping them in to the 30’s and 40’s before turning to ice in the northern parts of the country. These cooler water temperatures slow down a bass’s metabolism drastically. It’s said that a bass can survive an entire month from eating a single baitfish when they get this lethargic.
Of course this has a lot to due with how much energy a bass is expending, which during the winter is typically very little. Energy conservation becomes a bass’s main focus in winter. When deciding whether or not to eat, a bass will consider how much energy it is willing use to pursue a prey, and if it’s worth burning the energy or not. For this reason, slow moving baits are the best lures to use in winter.
Best Cold Water Bass Lures
Paitience and slow retreivals are essential for winter bass fishing. Slow might not be the right word, we’re talking about casting a lure out and retreiving it for ten or more minutes sometimes. Bass will sometimes watch a bait sit still for a full minute or longer before deciding to strike. Some bass lures work better at slow retreivals than others, so we broke down the best lures to use for winter bass.
Jigs are excellent for working areas slowly while still giving off an enticing appearance to a bass, making them ideal for cold water conditions. The best jigging method for cold water is sinking the bait to the bottom and letting it sit there. After some time hop the jig slowly along the bottom between periods of rest. The periods of rest can be as long or short as you want them to be.
This is because even at rest, the trailer and skirt of the jig will move slowly with the water and create a lifelike presentation on the bottom. How long you let the jig sit is an adjustment you will have to make, but twenty to thirty second pauses between hops is a good start. This method is especially effective with stand up style jigs, like a BiCO Jig.
Arguably the ultimate “go to” cold water lures are jerkbaits, very well known for their effectiveness in early spring and late fall. More specifically, hard suspending jerkbaits like a Rapala X-Rap and soft jerkbaits like a Zoom Superfluke. Both models work in the same way, they are “jerked” between pauses, causing the bait to dart in different directions.
They’re best known for getting reaction strikes from bass. For hard suspending jerkbaits, a bass will watch it suspended in the water column and as soon as the bait darts in a direction the bass’s reaction is to attack it. For a soft jerkbait, the reaction is a result of a jerk while the bait is naturally sinking, or while its at rest on the bottom.
Using a blade bait like a Heddon Sonar is a very effective tactic in extremely cold waters. This tactic works on largemouth but works particularly well on smallmouth in deeper water. The technique is to let the blade bait sink to the bottom and let it rest for a bit. Then you want to jerk the rod tip up and make the bait dart upward but stop and let it flutter back down to the bottom and repeat the process.
This technique doesn’t need to be strictly used on the bottom, you can use the same method of retrieval at different depths in the water column. Just let the bait flutter down a few feet then jerk it back up. When the lure is getting pulled up it vibrates, creating a noise in the water you hope will bring nearby bass over to check it out.
Winter Bass Fishing
You may have noticed a trend amongst all the lures and the technique used to get bites. They are all working to get a reaction strike. Bass have lockjaw in the winter, and will only move a short distance for food. So running power lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits are not going to do the trick.
There are some upsides to winter fishing though, and the main one is that for some reason some of the biggest bass hit during the winter months. A big contributor to that is that fishing pressure on most bodies of water is way down.