Winter Bass Fishing Tips and Techniques

While you may have a number of favorite spots that always produce prize catches during the summer months, this may not always be the case when the cold winter season takes hold.

The cold temperatures cause a dramatic change in the behavior of bass due to the physiological pressure put on their bodies by the extreme cold. During the fall months, while the temperature change is taking place, you will find that bass are very active, much like the spring.

The spike in activity is due to the fish’s sense that winter is looming. The fish will begin actively seeking warm water, and relief from the cold. Needless to say, there is no relief. Bass will generally abandon their typical domain, gather in groups or schools, and seek out a deep water refuge for the winter.

The physiological changes that occur in bass are directly relative to the falling temperatures. For every drop of 18 degrees in body temperature, the bass’s metabolic rate is reduced by one-third its previous rate. For example, a meal consumed at a 70 degree body temperature may take three days to digest in the fall, but the same meal consumed at a 52 degree body temp in the winter could take as long as five days to digest.

The most significant changes in the bass’s activity take place when the body temperature falls below 50 degrees, with the fish entering a near dormant state at 40 degrees. At these extreme temperatures, that same meal would take the fish nearly two weeks to digest. This means that big bass may only feed once or twice a month during the coldest period of the winter.

Largemouth bass tend to gather in large numbers during the winter. These groups can be found near well-oxygenated water with very little current flow. The majority of the fish will be resting near or actually on the lake bottom. There are some more active fish in most cases, that can be found swimming within a few feet of the bottom, and that will be capable of short bursts for pursuit of prey. Cold bass have very little energy however, and these short bursts will be few and far between, tiring the fish dramatically.

During the winter months, fishermen should focus on areas that have the warmest water, which is typically on the northern end of the lake. The northern end of lakes tend to warm faster due to the increased heating produced from the southern sky.

A few hours of direct sunlight, even in dead of winter, can warm a shallow cove enough to attract invertebrates, bait fish and predatory fish. Rocks also can absorb heat and warm the surrounding water, triggering the same effect. Another area to target would be deep, dark, calm bottoms. Larger groups will gather in these areas to generate warmth.

Take all these factors into consideration when choosing your presentation and approach to bass fishing this winter. Different tactics will be necessary in the cold to provoke the strike from a hungry bass.

Here are a few suggestions for your winter bass fishing technique:

  • Overcast or cloudy conditions, focus on deep water with little current. Sunny conditions, focus on rock-covered banks, dams or shallow coves located in direct sunlight.
  • Avoid using large, bulky baits. Use small to mid-sized lures that mimic slow, easy to capture prey such as crawfish, worms or creature baits. Jigs and shakey head worms are my personal preference.
  • Slow your retrieve to a near crawl. When working jigs and soft plastics, work the bait slowly, allow it to rest for 10 or more seconds, then repeat.
  • Don’t focus on unproductive areas too long. There is a good chance there are no fish in the area if you see no results within 5-10 casts. Focus on areas where you see a strike as there more than likely will be multiple fish in that area.

Winter bass fishing can be very productive or very discouraging. The results depend on your approach and your overall understanding of the fish and the effects the weather has on its behavior.