Bass fishermen can still enjoy their favorite sport during the cold winter and early spring months. They just need to adapt their tactics to the colder water temperatures and the ways the chilly weather effects fish activity and feeding behaviors.
While wintertime bass fishing will rarely kick out fast, fish-every-cast action, it can be one of the best times to focus on catching that big, heavyweight bass you’ve been dreaming about. Here are some tips on getting those cold-water bass to bite.
Slow Down. Fish are cold-blooded animals, which means that their body temperature and activity rate slows down when the water cools. While they still have to eat, they are not going to expend a lot of energy chasing down a meal. And they are not going to be moving very fast. This means anglers should put down the crankbaits, topwaters and other reaction baits, and focus on lures that can be fished slowly, near the bottom or in the mid-water column.
Go Big. When bass have their thermostat turned way down, they don’t want to waste time on snacks. They need to make every meal count. They don’t want to eat a French fry — they want a double-bacon cheeseburger. This is a great time to fish large profile lures like the venerable jig-and-pig, big creature baits or an oversized 10” plastic worm. Work these lures slowly around structure, drop-offs and other places bass wait to ambush prey.
Stay in the Strike Zone. In the cold, bass tend to lie in wait to ambush their food. If you are marking structure and fish on the sounder but not getting many bites, try positioning the boat over the top of the target. If you cast to these fish and work the lure back to the boat, you may only have a short time when your lure is actually in the strike zone. By working the lure vertically in small “hops” around the rocks, ledges and trees where bass are hiding out, you have a better chance of getting them to attack. This is also a great time to put on a metal jigging spoon like the venerable Hopkins, and jig it in small twitches, watching for bites as the lure flutters down.
Think like a fish. On those winter days when the sun is out and the air warms up during the day, recognize that bass will often move up into shallow flats. These waters warm up fastest during the warmth of the day, and bass will often take advantage of this opportunity to boost their metabolism and feed more actively.