How to Fly Fish for Bass in the Winter? (Read This Guide)


Unknowing to some bass anglers fly fishing out there, the winter season is probably one of the best times of the year to catch a trophy bass.

This being said make, sure that you don’t go on vacation or even think of putting away your rods during the winter.

The reason because the bass is still attracted to lures or flies during the winter season. I’d also like you to know that a different approach is required in hopes to fly fish for bass during the winter season.

However, ‘being prepared and having sufficient knowledge with regards to fish behavior, will obviously ensure you’re able to catch bass all year long.

In that regard, shortly…I will also be sharing some useful guidelines on how to fly fish for bass in winter.

That being said, the list includes but isn’t limited to:

  • A guide on how you prepare, plus safety precautions.
  • A guide on how you identify appropriate fishing sites or locations.
  • A guide on water temperature evaluation.
  • A guide on your choice of lures and flies
  • A guide on electronic gadget usage.

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A Guide On How You Prepare, Plus Safety Precautions

First things first, be sure you make a plan with respect to where you’d like to fly fish for bass during the winter season.

Also, be sure you inform one or two persons about where you are going, and the exact part of the lake you will be fishing.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to go alone, make sure you apply extra caution, but ultimately, do your possible best to find someone that would accompany you.

Furthermore, you should know that the water can be anywhere from cold to dangerously frigid.

The reason is that winter weather and the obvious threat of hypothermia can quickly result in trouble. On the other hand, when it comes to keeping warm, you need to dress in layers and be sure to go with extra clothing, in case you get wet or fall in.

You should know that layering is undoubtedly the best way to stay warm all day.

What are the Basic Materials Needed to Stay Warm?

You can begin using things like socks, pants, and a base layer of a thermal shirt in a bid to stay warm. To keep your hands warm and functional, you could use hand warmers and wool gloves with exposed fingers.

In addition, you could utilize or make use of a fleece jacket and shirt in covering for your middle layer.

With that in place, you’re sure of maximum breathability and the possibility of staying warm. Also a rainproof set of pants or perhaps a bib and fishing jacket – (These are considered a good outer layer).

It is crucial to know that wearing or putting on multiple layers in a heated vehicle as you set out for the lake, will obviously do more harm than good. That being said, it is best if you add or put on your final layers when you arrive at the lake and start fishing.

Identify Appropriate Fishing Sites or Locations

Baitfish and deep water are very paramount in your bid to search or spot locations for winter bass fishing. Yeah, the above mentioned (baitfish and deep water) are crucial keys, indicators, or pointers to finding bass in winter.

And if you’re fortunate enough to find both baitfish and deep water in one area, you’ll have had a prime or very important fishing spot going forward.

Furthermore, you can as well find suitable locations as such, by simply taking a close look at a topographical map, or perhaps an electronic map card featured in your GPS unit.

Meanwhile, some very good places to start or begin with – are areas such as humps, long points, and underwater islands.

In addition, locations characterized by deep and shallow water close by, are also considered ideal locations for winter bass fishing.

fly rod and box with flies on the bank of a winter river

The Attitude or Behavior of Bass with Respect to Prime Locations

You should also know that bass will often move up and down to several depths in search of food, regardless of the fact that bass tends to go deeper during the winter season of the year.

In the same vein, if you’re very familiar with the body of water or know a lot about it, it is advisable and often best to visualize where the fish are, even during other seasons.

It is imperative to also know that bass is usually not far away from areas characterized by a good number of spawning fish.

In addition to that which was earlier mentioned, prime locations for wintering bass, are first identified or characterized by areas featuring deeper water from a known spawning flat.

More often than not, the same applies to locations that really worked for you in the fall (the season between summer and winter). Honestly, another good way to find or locate a bass hot spot is simply by you going back to deeper water.

A Guide on Water Temperature Evaluation

Water temperature is usually one of the most important or essential things in all of bass fishing.

The water temperature is what keeps the bass moving from shallow too, deep as well allow them to know when exactly to spawn.

Even so, the same signals the end or completion of a season, and also gets the fish moving or heading to a different phase. Going forward, the underlying information is water temperatures that do trigger or stimulate bass to change their eating habits more often than not.

Meanwhile, there’s the likelihood that the following temperature data will vary based on region, seeing that bass in Northern climates is more resistant to cold weather conditions.

Evaluation Lower Than 40°

Honestly, operating under this temperature level happens to be one of the most challenging moments to fish for bass. But however, it can be done.

In addition, bass in water temperature below (40°C) will often be inactive and will also require an easy meal. In simple terms, the angler will have to present the bait right in front of the bass, so it could easily strike the same (the bait).

Evaluation Ranging From Under 40° to 50°

You might like to know that the above are prime or very important winter fishing temperatures. Furthermore, bass living in these specified conditions will obviously have slowed down their feeding, but are also not too cold to eat either.

Having said that, the (bass) will rather pursue or go after lures to some degree and are most likely to be caught on a good number of baits.

Evaluation Ranging From Under 50° to 60°

More often than not, bass living or operating in these temperatures are obviously willing to bite or strike a wide range of lures. For most climates, (50° to 60°) is not considered typical winter temperatures, but the same may be the coldest period of the year in Southern waters.

However, the above temperatures – best suits the transition era of bass from one season to another season. Even so, it could either be a transition from fall to winter or perhaps winter to spring.

But from a general point of view, the above temperatures are excellent or suitable fishing conditions anywhere in the country (‘The United States Of America’ to be precise).

fly fisherman fishing in river in winter

A Guide on Choice of Lure and What to Consider in Lure Application

Seeing that winter fishing techniques (even for bass) are usually more streamlined than techniques for other seasons, the likes of fast-moving and topwater baits are ultimately out of the question.

Even so, the likes of ‘bottom-hugging baits’ and as well ‘slow-moving lures’ are the remnants, or perhaps what’s actually left. Nonetheless, jigs are considered some of the top winter baits available.

And if you’d like something that works fine in cold water, football head jigs and hair jigs will be a better bet or option.

Streamers and Nymphs

A good rule of thumb is that nymphs imitate subsurface insects and aquatic worms in bodies of water.

You don’t want to get hung up on the terminology, most experienced anglers do not refer to certain patterns as just simply “nymph flies.”

They use more specific terms to describe the fly such as the following:

  • Soft hackles
  • Nymphs
  • Emergers
  • Beaded Nymphs

Streamer flies are a group of non-insect subsurface patterns that are meant to be fished under the water. These flies are meant to imitate swimming and intensely active food sources such as minnows, baitfish, sculpin, and leeches, that are commonly found in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.

fly fishing flies and fly fishing rod

Getting Your Fly to the Bottom

Try to slowly pull your fly through the water. Most of your winter fishing is going to involve getting your fly deep and moving it slowly.

Then when you get your fly to the bottom, grab your line up near the lead guide.

Then with your free hand slowly pull the line back past your reel. Then you might want to start to mix your retrieves with some twitches and then some fast strips to try and change the pattern.

Sometimes breaking the pattern can cause bass to strike After a few casts, I will sometimes get bored and start to mix it up just a little bit.

Sometimes I start experimenting with pauses, twitches, and bursts of speed with a longer pause afterward. Whatever you can come up with to keep yourself fairly warm and mildly focused. Sometimes that little change in the retrieve can be the difference between a fish following your fly and striking it.

Effective Lure Application

In light of that, if you’d like to get a lethargic or sluggish bass to bite or strike, simply moving them in a slow manner along the bottom will be a good chance or opportunity.

It is advisable to also select colors closely mimicking crawfish in the above-mentioned body of water, seeing that football jigs imitate crawfish.

Furthermore, it is obvious the colors can vary largely by region, but ultimately, anything ‘green’ or perhaps ‘brown’ will usually be enough to match, or suit the hatch.

‘Hair jigs’ on the other hand – can also imitate or mimic crawfish, but can also look like or resemble small baitfish. Interestingly, the same approach is used to match colors also applies here. (i.e white and silver-hued baits being matched together – often make a good choice).

Other Viable Lure Selection and Strategies for Winter Bass Fishing

Another very good lure selection or choice to make with respect to winter bass fishing are metal baits (i.e the likes of spoons and blade baits).

In cold water conditions, the hard metal usually outperforms or rather outshines everything else. Even so, they go a long way to imitate or mimic dying baitfish and are also a very good way to catch winter bass.

The list also includes another top-notch lure called ‘Soft plastic’ being fished or used in a slow manner on a drop shot rig during the winter season.

I encourage you to also fish or apply the mentioned lure slower than you would at other times of the year, and then conduct an experiment with both the bait size and your leader length.

Even so, you’ll find out that smaller baits are often better. Also, adjusting or aligning your leader length based on the extent the fish are setting off the bottom is obviously an effective wintertime bass strategy.

fish finder sonar at the fishing boat

A Guide On Electronic Gadget Usage

Your electronics can be very important in the winter season, even besides you using a fish finder to locate or spot prime fishing locations or sites on your GPS.

In the same vein, the best way or strategy being used to locate baitfish is by conducting a quick scan over a couple of areas as you are idling, your boat.

Furthermore, by dropping or presenting the bait vertically to the fish each time there’s fish on your screen, it is indeed an excellent practice or approach.

Even so, the drop shot rig and metal baits (i.e the likes of spoons, blade baits) can obviously be worked vertically, and also catch bass you could see on your fishfinder.

The Reward for Adhering to the Above Mentioned Guidelines

Truth be told, it really would take some level of appreciable practice to get or present your bait directly in front of the fish. But once that is done or achieved, it is often regarded as the best way to catch winter bass.

In conclusion, however, you being prepared, giving heed to safety precautions, and also staying focused on the best locations or sites, can help ensure you have great results while fishing for bass throughout the winter season.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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