As the fall fishing season comes to a close, the cold winter season presents many challenges for bass anglers. If you don’t know how bass act in the winter and how to approach them, you are going to have very little success out on the water. Winter bass fishing is difficult, but this challenge just makes it all the more rewarding. With the correct strategies, you can still catch tons of bass even in the cold.
When is the Winter Bass Fishing Season?
Depending on where you live in the United States, the winter season will start between November to January. In the northern states, the winter will start in November, and in the Southern states, the winter will start in January. The winter in the Middle States will start in December. Some good signs that the winter bass fishing season has officially begun are when all the leaves have fallen off of the trees and temperatures have dipped below freezing more than once.
Winter Bass Behavior
The cold water temperatures slow down the metabolism of bass. This causes bass to move slower and become more picky. Bass leave the shallow areas that they have been in for the last 7 months and head to warmer water. Because of the slower metabolism, bass don’t need to eat as much during the winter. So bass aren’t as aggressive and aren’t as willing to eat. Bass don’t hibernate, so they still need to eat, but just not quite as much as the rest of the year.
Where Do Bass Go in the Winter?
Bass will go into deeper water during the winter months. The deeper water maintains a warmer temperature throughout the cold winter. Bass, as well as other fish, do not like the harsh, cold water. If the water gets too cold, bass metabolism slows down too much, and they can’t move around or survive. So the bass will head out deep in order to stay warm.
How Deep Do Bass Go in the Winter?
Bass actually don’t need to go super deep to survive. For example, small ponds don’t really have any “deep” water. Some ponds may only get as deep as 8-12 feet. These pond bass will go into this water which is usually in the middle of the pond. Pond bass will also swim into shallow, rocky areas on a warm, sunny day. These rocks temporarily warm up the shallow water, and bass love this. In big lakes and reservoirs, bass will usually go about 15-30 feet. During bad cold fronts, they will go a bit deeper, but for the most part, they won’t go to the middle of the big lake. They will only move out 1-2 drop-offs or depth changes to stay warm.
Best Technique for Winter Bass Fishing
It is hard to pick just one fishing technique, but you can’t go wrong with finesse fishing. Winter bass are more picky and more sluggish because of the cold water. Finesse fishing provides these bass with a realistic, enticing, and slow-moving presentation. This doesn’t mean that you can’t catch winter bass on bigger, faster lures, but finesse fishing is going to be the most reliable technique for wintertime bass fishing. Even when you are not finesse fishing, you want to slow down your approach. Taking bigger, more power-style lures and fishing them slowly will get tons of bites.
Also Read: Winter Bass Fishing – What Not to Do
Best Finesse Baits for Winter
1. Drop Shot
The drop shot is my absolute favorite bait to throw during the winter. Being able to hover the bait right in front of the bass triggers many more bites. The bass don’t have to look up or down, the bait is right in front of their face, and they simply can’t resist. Small flukes and finesse worms tend to work the best during the winter.
2. Shaky Head
The shaky head really shines when fished in deep cover. If you can find some deep laydowns or scattered rocks, tie on a shaky head. The shaky head is the wintertime jig. Instead of flipping to shallow cover, you are casting to deep cover. A floating finesse worm on a shaky head will almost mesmerize the bass into biting.
Everybody uses jerkbaits in the winter. Suspending jerkbaits can be fished incredibly slow, while still offering a bigger and more realistic baitfish imitation. Winter bass love feeding on dying shad. Jerkbaits are the best wintertime baitfish imitation. Watch your line closely because most of the bites are going to come while the lure is paused and suspended.
Lure Colors for the Winter
During the winter months, baitfish and other creatures lose a lot of their color. So the bass’s forage loses its color and becomes much more pale and bland in color. Stay away from bright and detailed colors. Use more dull colors during the winter. Instead of a blood-red crawfish pattern, use a beige or light brown. Instead of a bright blue and green bluegill pattern, use a very light green and dull pattern. Instead of a shiny and reflective shad pattern, use a clear or translucent pattern. Simply put, less is more when it comes to winter lure colors.
Bank Fishing in the Winter
Bank fishing is very difficult during the winter. The best winter bank fishing is going to be in small ponds. When bass go deep in a large lake, they might be hundreds of feet from the bank. But in a pond, these bass can still be within casting distance. Also, as I mentioned before, bass will often move into shallow areas to soak up the sun on a warmer winter day. Bass do this more if there are shallow rocks because rocks absorb lots of heat from the sun and warm up the surrounding water. In these small ponds, bass will often be very condensed and packed into warmer water areas. These being the shallow rocks and the deep pockets. If you can find one or two bass, you can find tons of them.
Reeling this In
Winter bass fishing can be frustrating and uncomfortable. The good news is that those struggles scare off many anglers. This removes lots of the competition and leaves more bass for you. Even in the cold water, bass still have to eat, which means you can still catch them. The more you get out there and fish, the more you will learn, and the better you will get.