When the weather turns cooler, it’s time to hang up the rods for a while, right? Wrong!
With a little bit of thought and expert guidance, you can still catch a few bass in winter. And today I’m going to show you how.
Below you’ll find 9 great winter bass fishing tips to ensure you have the highest possible chance of success.
Let’s suit up and get out fishing!
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Can You Catch Bass in Winter?
You definitely can catch bass in the winter. But you will need to modify your techniques (not to mention your expectations).
Think about it.
Although it’s cold, the bass still needs to eat.
If you play your cards right and adjust your tactics accordingly, there is no reason why what they eat won’t be something attached to a hook, line, and rod.
To be honest, winter fishing is a little different.
The water is much colder, and as a result, the behavior of the bass changes slightly. Everything (including your catch rate) might become a little slower. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to bag yourself a bass or two.
Here’s how to do it.
9 Essential Winter Bass Fishing Tips for Success
Choose the Correct Bait
I’m not going to get into a debate about which is better when it comes to lures vs live bait.
However, what I will say is this.
Both will work really well, but you need to use a little bit of thought.
If you are using live bait, try and choose something that the bass would encounter naturally. Good examples are things like nightcrawlers. These are great all-year-round bass bait. Minnows are another great choice, but they are often hard to source in the depths of winter.
Be sure to keep your bait fresh, but be aware that it will remain ‘live’ bait for a much shorter period of time in cold water.
This is a tried and tested technique when fishing is slow all year round. Still, it is particularly effective in the winter.
Bass don’t like to expend their precious energy when it is cold, and their metabolism slows down. As a result, they aren’t looking to gorge themselves into a slumber and will occasionally snack on ‘lighter’ morsels instead.
You can use this knowledge to your advantage.
Try using smaller hooks and reduce the size of your bait. If you are using lures, choose some of your favorites, but see if you can find similar lures about half the size. This should give you a better hook-up rate.
Slow it Down
Ever decided you want to go and sprint outside in cold weather.
Nope, me neither… And the bass are similar.
Fish are cold-blooded creatures. This means that their internal temperature and general levels of energy are dictated by the water around them. Colder water means that they (and the food they eat) slow down significantly.
In cold water, the bass can get a little lethargic, and you aren’t going to catch using the same retrieve speeds as in the summer.
Slow everything down.
I’m not talking half-speed. When I say ”slow it down,” I’m talking, quarter speed as a maximum.
Bass won’t pursue your lure over 30 yards like in warmer conditions. They are much more opportunistic and need time to react to your lure swimming slowly past them.
There is another good reason why this is one of my best cold weather bass fishing tips.
If you are bass fishing in winter, there is a good chance that the water may be a little more colored than usual. If the bass have a limited time to see your lure, it is best to try and increase that time as much as possible.
Slow it down. This is one of my best winter bass fishing techniques. You will see similar guidance in my article on the best bass lures for spring.
Fish Close in
Bass tend to follow the food.
And here’s the thing.
In winter, the food can often be found where the water is shallower.
Do you know where the shallow spots are, especially on rivers? Close into the edges and margins.
There tends to be more plant life, too, which provides the ideal habitat for smaller, slow-moving creatures that bass love to eat.
Forget casting as far as you can. Instead, focus on those closer in shallower areas where you are more likely to encounter bass.
If you are fishing lakes, the opposite of the above might be true. When the weather turns cold in lakes, the fish like to hunker down in deeper water, away from bright sunlight and the possibility of predators being able to take advantage of their tardiness.
Many other aquatic species do the same.
These deep-water holes can be absolute treasure troves for winter bass fishing.
In summer, bass will disperse as they forage for food, but they pack into tight shoals in winter. If you can identify one of these areas, you may even find that your catch rate will be comparable to summer.
All of the bass in one compact place? Sounds like heaven.
Consider Investing in a Fish Finder
In light of the above, where are these holes?
Well, unless you have x-ray vision or in-depth knowledge of the water you are fishing, you will need to find a way to see what is on the bottom.
A fish finder is an answer.
And the good news?
You aren’t going to need to invest a fortune to get a great insight into what’s underneath the surface.
There are plenty of great fish finders out there that will map the bottom, show you the features, and, most importantly, identify large groupings of fish.
In certain cases, you won’t even need a boat as there are types designed to be cast out and then ‘ping’ the data straight to a mobile device.
It’s like magic.
Check out my dedicated article here and see a great example of a castable fish finder.
Think About Your Lures
If you’ve shied away from the idea of live bait (I don’t blame you), you will need to ensure that your lures are as effective as possible.
And you should be aware…
What works in summer isn’t what will work in winter.
Ask yourself this. When was the last time you saw bass slashing and crashing above the water in the colder months?
Already you’ll know that the bass are deeper down, which means using heavier lures like jig heads.
Remember what I said above.
If you paid attention, you’d be fishing slower. But that means you will need something that imparts maximum commotion and movement, even at slower speeds.
Spinners are often a great choice for bass fishing in winter. You don’t need to pull them through the water particularly quickly to get some life into them. They also aren’t affected by colder temperatures like plastic lures.
I’d advise going bright with your lures too. Colored water and dark lures don’t mix. If you want to see what works in low light conditions, why not swing by my article on bass lures for night fishing to get some ideas?
Manage Your Expectations
Winter fishing for bass is easy.
Said no one, ever.
Now, I’m not saying it won’t be fun, but it is challenging compared to the full bags you’ll be catching in the summer.
What I’m saying is, lower your expectations slightly.
Winter bass fishing is a little bit of a test of endurance when compared to other seasons. That’s the bad part.
The good bit?
When you do catch (and if you follow my advice, then you will), you’ll get an even greater sense of reward. By catching bass in winter, you’ll definitely have proved your prowess as an angler.
Do you know what’s worse than the fishing being slow?
The fishing being slow, and being stood, freezing cold.
Winter bass can be a little unpredictable, and we can do little to reduce that possibility. But there are things that you can control.
Your own level of warmth and comfort. Trust me, fishing when cold and fishing when warm are two entirely different experiences. I prefer the latter.
Make sure you dress appropriately for the conditions and keep warm. There are some great fishing gloves out there that will stop you from getting numb hands, and I’ve also got some great suggestions for fishing jackets that are well worth a look.
Oh, and before I forget, here’s a great tip.
Get everything organized and prepared before you head out. You will want to maximize your actual time fishing when out in the cold, so do as much as you can at home. Make sure your rods and gear are ready rigged so you can ‘hit the ground running’ as soon as you arrive.
Wondering what the best rods are for bass fishing? Take a look at some great combos here.
Nobody said it would be easy, but it will be easier armed with my winter bass fishing tips. Keep warm, accept that you will find it challenging, and then alter your tactics slightly to adapt to the natural behavior of bass in winter.
Want to go more challenging? Fly fishing for bass in winter is about as tough as it gets. Check out my guide here to see what it is all about.