How you approach winter bass fishing depends a lot on where you live. The more northerly you are and the colder the winter gets, the lower the chances you will do so and the more frozen conditions can inhibit you. The further south you are, the greater the chances that you will need to do this as the air and water temperatures are relatively mild. If you live geographically in between, you rarely have to fight frozen water, but you do have to deal with cold water temperatures and sometimes uncomfortable weather conditions.
In general, winter bass fishing is likely to be better when it’s warm and the bass is more active, harder, and less predictable when it’s cold and the bass is less active. It varies from hard to good in areas of medium geography, mainly due to weather conditions. The prospects for bass fishing in late winter improve everywhere when the water is warm.
Anywhere you go winter bass fishing there are certain types of bait that will catch your eye and methods of using them. Here’s a quick rundown of these, with an emphasis on lure and open water fishing in the middle of winter before spawning.
Depending on the type of water you are fishing, you should use shallow, medium, and deep divers. The first two styles mentioned are particularly suitable for ponds and shallow lake areas. Models that do not hang on wood and wood and hang versions are particularly productive. Retrieve slowly and take occasional breaks.
These are best in open water. Some models are paused, which makes a pull-pause call worthwhile. Others sink and should generally be fished in cold water when retrieved slowly, although sometimes retrieving more quickly will cause a reaction-only blow. Also, try a yo-yo call over a clean floor.
There are hard and soft jerkbaits. I prefer the former – especially hanging or slowly rising models – for cold water, especially when the clarity of the water is good. Be patient while you work and avoid jerking it too hard or too fast. Strikes are often subtle. Focus on the edges of the brushy, woody ceiling, where the bench drops quickly, and over the submerged vegetation.
Spinnerbaits are great spring buck bait, but marginal for most winter fisheries unless the water is warm. Try a spinnerbait with a large single Indiana blade for large fish and deeper water use. Also try spinnerbaits late in the day for shallow warm cover.
Rattling blade devices
This type of bait is kind of a cross between a spinnerbait and a template and creates a lot of vibration, which is especially good in dirty water. Depending on the size and trailer, it can be fished more slowly than a spinnerbait and with a yo-yo retrieval. It is generally a shallow to medium bait but can be deep worked.
A variety of jigs catch trout and black bass practically all year round. Large body versions with rubber and / or soft plastic bodies are good for stumps and other wooden coverings. Tube and creature body jigs make good reservoir baits. Maggot and curly tail devices are ideal for smaller fish and especially for small mouths. These are generally all processed at or near the ground and with slow retrieval.
Tips for fishing in winter bass
- Don’t waste time trying topwater plugs or buzzbaits, even on warm days when the water is cold.
- On flat and / or sunny days, try late in shallow and backwater, as it is likely several degrees warmer there.
- Frontal systems often have a detrimental effect on winter bass fishing. So pick your times if you can.
- Try to fish during and at the end of a warm, stable weather period.
- Basses are often sluggish and hit easily in cold water. Retrieve slowly.
- Use light line (thin diameter) for non-aggressive fish, especially when the water is clear.
- Mid to late winter is the best time to catch great bass, especially in warmer southern locations. This is a good time to focus on this.