It’s no secret that winter is a tough time for catching bass. These fish are cold blooded so their metabolism slows way down this time of year, and they eat less often. But they still eat, so catching them is certainly possible. It just takes a little different approach than fishing for them during the warmer months. These tips will help.
1) Fish smaller lures. Scaling down your lure sizes is the first thing you should do this time of year. Bass simply don’t eat as much when the water is cold, so snack size bites are more appealing to them. Lightweight jigheads with small soft plastics like shakey heads, tubes, and the Ned Rig are great options. Small suspending jerkbaits are also good choices.
2) Slow down your presentation. The bass are in no hurry this time of year, and even when they see a snack, they are less prone to chase it. It’s also more natural for any of their regular potential meals to move slower in the cold water, so moving a lure too fast is another reason for them to shy away from it.
3) Fish the area with the warmest water. This can vary, depending on the body of water. In deep lakes, bass may find deep pockets of water that are warmer than the surface. In shallower water, the warmest will typically be closest to the surface. In rivers, the warmer water will be in sloughs and other areas that are out of the current.
4) Fish tight to exposed cover. This is especially true when it’s even colder than normal. Wood and rocks that protrude above the surface catch a lot of heat from the sun, and that heat is transferred throughout the rest of that cover under water. Bass will stay right next to that cover, soaking up the little bit of heat they can, and it takes some convincing to get them to move even a slight bit.
5) Watch the water temperature closely, and adjust your tactics during warming trends. In the Carolinas, we usually have some relatively warm winter days, and when we string two or three of those together, it can raise the water temperature significantly, especially if the air temperature doesn’t get too low during the nights surrounding those warmer days.
It’s not uncommon for the water temperature to reach 60 degrees during these warming trends in many waters across the Carolinas, and when it does, tie on a hollow body frog and fish it hard in whatever surface weeds or lilies you can find. Once the bass feel that type of warming trend, they tend to move around a bit more and eat like it’s spring.
6) Break rule number 1, but do it sparingly. A large crankbait or spinnerbait fished very slowly can be too much for a bass to resist, even in the coldest water. If you’re laying on the couch on a cold day, you might not think it’s worth it to get out from under your blanket to walk to the kitchen for some crackers, but if someone walks by and sets a ribeye on the coffee table in front of you, you’re probably going to sit up, grab a fork, and fill your belly. Likewise, a bass may chomp down on a big lure when it’s offered up nice and easy.
Lots of bass anglers love fishing this time of year. Even though they usually catch fewer bass, many of the ones they do catch are big, quality fish. One thing’s for sure. If you’re sitting out this time of year waiting on warmer weather, you’re missing out.