The seasons change, everything gets cold, and everyone hangs up their gear. The serious anglers start thinking about ice fishing, and we all get a little bit of tunnel vision, so we forget that not every lake freezes and stays that way all winter.
There are plenty of opportunities to fish moving water even when the temperature dips below freezing, but you have to adjust your strategy a little. Bass are slow this time of year, and they don’t eat nearly as much, so you need to mimic their winter habits with your fishing style and your lures.
In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the best lures and baits you need to have with you to catch bass during the winter.
Years ago I never used suspending jerk baits because I felt they were too difficult to fish with and I just didn’t have any luck with them. That was until I started fishing during December and January in cold weather.
Jerkbaits are meant to mimic bait fish, and the cool thing about them is they don’t sink and rise as most baits do, they perform more naturally and rest horizontally when you suspend them in the water and twitch them properly.
It’s important to remember that Bass is slow right in the winter, so you need to jerk the bait extremely slow as in if you think you’re going slow—go a little bit slower. Also, adjust the size of your bait to winter weather, going smaller right now is the best choice.
Grubs are traditional and found in most anglers tackle boxes, but they’re one of those lures that are so common we tend to forget we have them. They’re super useful during winter months for catching bass if you fish around weedy and overhead coverage areas.
Once you’ve zoned in on a spot you want to cast, throw the lure out there with a lightweight and let it fall to the bottom of the water. From there you want to slowly reel it back up and let it fall back down again. If you picked the right spot and you have bass nearby you’ll have no problem reeling a few in with this strategy.
During warm weather, these are almost non-existent because most anglers think they’re too heavy and bulky, but they can become your best friend in the winter. Fishing the water when its freezing requires you to scan the lake and get a feel for channels, banks, and rocky bases.
When you’re casting out, you want to try and hit rocky areas as much as possible, and this heavy jig will make itself highly visible among the rocks so you can try to upset the sluggish bass. Alongside the jerk bait, this lure is something I highly recommend for cold water bass fishing success.
I love using these lures all year long but especially in the winter because of its unique movement in the water. The weight on the top of the worm forces it to stand on end when it’s still in the water, so the worm part moves around with the flow of the lake. These worms require less attention than the other ones we’ve talked about, but you still want to try and jerk it around off rocky banks to try and make a little noise.
Minnows are always a smart choice if you’re unsure what to do during the winter. I know some people out there hate live bait, but shiners are one of the most common food sources for bass in lakes and rivers throughout the US.
With live bait, you’re giving off a natural scent, and if you are moving it correctly, you’ll have no problem catching that slow-moving bass. Remember, in the winter the most important thing is your movement of the bait – slow, slow slow.
Also, a lot of anglers I speak with say they have a problem with getting hung up fishing live bait around rocky areas. I like to use a bobber whenever I’m fishing live bait no matter what the situation is. Anytime I’m using shiners or even nightcrawlers, I use a bobber.
A Few Expert Tricks
From years on the water and talking to a lot of really great anglers at tournaments I was able to pick up on a few tricks that might help your winter fishing.
Get outside your usual comfort zone. Our mentality from summer to winter tends to stay the same, but in the winter you need to think differently about the fish. Bass do not always hang around weedy and rocky areas. They might be the best places to fish usually, but if you’re not having any luck try something different.
Bass are incredibly smart fish, and they have great senses, so you need to outsmart them. Look around the lake and find an area where the bass might feel protected. During the winter, deeper water is better.
Go smaller. Not only are bass slower in the winter but they are not eating quite as much either. Some anglers will disagree and say that you need to keep your lures the same size if you want to catch larger fish. That is somewhat true, but you’re also turning away a lot of reasonably sized bass.
Winter fishing is better—because you get the water to yourself a lot of the time. Get out there and get some good experience under your belt. You’ll catch a lot of fish, and I know you’ll have a great time!