Cold weather and bass fishing are two things that, for the majority of bass anglers, don't
fit together. We are all used to picture in our mind hot sunny days and giant bass, not
miserable cold snowy days, frozen northern winds, ice on the shorelines or similar stuff.
These aspects often represent what keep the bass fishermen away from the water
during the coldest months of winter. Well, not all of them. Those like me enjoy fishing for
the little green fish 12 months a year, experience, during the dead of winter, some of the
best bass fishing action, and catch QUALITY bass too!
I'm not afraid to say that the largemouth bass, specially the northern strain, can be
caught even through the ice if we are willing to fish for it. I've caught bass, and lot of them
in waters partially iced up! The key to be successful in winter is SLOWING DOWN,
sometimes leaving our lure motionless on the bottom for seconds if not minutes. It's
tough fishing, which requires lot of self-conditioning, an excellent mental preparation and
full concentration on the job at hand. As for these latter aspects, I compare winter fishing
to tournament fishing.
Winter fishing is, for several aspects, a mental game. First of all, we have to convince
ourselves that the fish is there and has to eat to survive, even in the coldest months of
the year. Surely it will eat a less amount of food but it has to nourish itself to not die by
starvation. So, mr. Bass will probably bite one of our lure… With that in mind, we'll have
to consider that during spring, summer and fall we took particular care of two aspects to
consistently catch fish: location and presentation. In winter it's exactly the same thing,
maybe with some slight exceptions.
Another thing that plays to our favor in our mental game, is that winter bites, as I've
already mentioned, are quality bites. There are also very good chances to catch those
huge fish we have seen spawning last spring and which seemed disappeared for the
rest of the year! Wonder why? For two reasons. First, because they're subject to almost
no fishing pressure; second, when the opportunity of an easy big meal arise, the big
female bass is the first one to take advantage of this in winter.
Despite the most of anglers I've spoken with about winter fishing are convinced that
sunny days are usually better, I'm not of the same opinion. I'm aware on how a
prolonged period of sun affect bass behavior but in the dead of winter, sunny days often
correspond to lower air temperatures while cloud cover means warmer weather that
turns the fish a little more active and move them shallower. These are good ingredients
for a productive winter trip. Over my years of extensive winter fishing, I've discovered that
one of the best time to be on the water is when it's snowing. Snow seems to put some
frenzy on the bass.
Since the days are shorter during winter, I've experienced some extra-time fishing in the
dark, just because the bass were biting more aggressively than during the middle of the
day! Just a thought, but sometimes winter fishing has big similarities with the hot
Fish normally moves slow and so it will accordingly feed on slow-moving baits.
Presentation is one of the most mental aspect of winter bassin'. You need to retrieve
your lures so slow that sometimes this results painfully, in the true sense of the word. It's
even more hard in the beginning, after a wonderful fall season spent casting and
retrieving spinnerbaits, topwaters and crankbaits.
When you think you're fishing slow, slow down again and again and again! Sounds
strange but the most of the times it's that way you'll catch fish in winter. You have to
condition yourself to believe that a big fish is always following your lure, watching it and
wondering if it is the case to bite it or not. Often, this is true: there's a fish watching and
following your lure. Your task is to keep its interest high and convince it to bite.
Sometimes it will attack with vengeance and you'll see the line jumping and starting to
run sideways like a rocket, but the most of the times you'll feel absolutely nothing.
With the experience, I developed a "sixth" sense, and well, I often set the hook on what
this sixth sense tell me. When something is not right and you aren't able to feel your lure
or this one is where it hasn't to be, reel in the slack line quickly and set the hook!
Concentration plays a big role in winter presentation: you've to try to become one with
your lure and be always aware on where it is and what it's doing.
Coming back to the bass watching and following our lure, I've found that shaking this
one, brings a lot of interest from the fish. A good portion of the bites I get in winter comes
while I'm shaking the lure. I feel or see the distinctive "thump" of the bass that all of
sudden interrupts my shake. I usually add a shot of Kick'N Bass fish attractant to my
lures. I believe this give me an advantage over the bass because this way I stimulate all
its senses and in this season, every minimal aspect of our fishing is critical.
TACKLE AND LURES
My winter tackle and lures selection, as I've already written in my past articles or notes, is
somewhat simple. I normally don't have in my boat a huge tackle box during the "hottest"
months, go figure in winter!
Sometimes three rods in the boat are enough in the coldest months of the year. It's very
important to fish with rods able to transmit to our hand the slightest bite or tell us more
on what our lure is doing underwater. Specially in winter. As for the rod brand, I love G.
Loomis, just because of the extremely light weight and sensitivity of these rods.
Normally, in my winter outings I use a 6' spinning with medium action for small
splitshotted, T-rigged or leadheaded plastics and I spool on the reel a Berkley Trilene XT
17 pound test mono. Speaking on the jig & pig, spider jigs and hair jigs, I fish these
lures on a 6' Baitcasting rod and 17 pound Trilene XT mono. I carry another baitcasting
combo (6' w/15# test Berkley Big Game flipping line) to slow roll spinnerbaits.
Now a look to the lures which have produced very well for me on the weird winter
weather. Light jigs like tube lures, grubs or 4" worms. Lately the 4" Mega Curl of
Snakebite Lures, a Zipper-style worm, has caught lot of lethargic bass Texas rigged with
a brass and glass. Excellent, mostly for the quality bass are the "Ultimate" Jig
manufactured by S.O.B. Fishing Products with a big #1 Uncle Josh Jumbo Frog. This
winter I'm having lot of success with the 4" spider jig rigged on a 3/8 oz. football head,
dragged and shaken on the bottom very slowly (see the above paragraph on
presentation). My average weight on this lure is slightly over three pounds that is an
exceptionally good weight for bass!
Normally I fish natural colors a lot in winter, due to the clear water, though I've found that
chartreuse pepper is a great choice for tube jigs and spider jigs. Since our crawdads are
normally dark with orange and purple hues, I fish black, black/brown, brown/orange or
As for the crankbaits I prefer small, light, lures like the Rapala Shad Rap, on Shad and
Silver patterns. Four-inch hard-jerkbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk or the Bomber 14A
catch fish when soft- plastics and jigs fail to produce.
Spinnerbaits represent the heavy-artillery, since I normally slow-roll ½ oz. to ¾ oz. single
Colorado lures during winter. Sometimes, specially early and late in the season these
baits have caught giant fish for me. I really like the S.O.B. Thumper-B because of its great
emission of vibration which grant me an easier control of the lure. As for the color, in
clear water I've designed a skirt color that S.O.B. called "Massimo Special" which strictly
resembles a small preyfish. If water has a little color, I switch to a white/chartreuse. I
normally add a 4" white grub to add bulkiness to the lure and offer to the fish a big meal.
Well, remember to keep the body warm in your winter outings and don't let all that cold
discourage you on your mission as bass angler!