Don’t cancel your bass trip on account of a cold front. Just fish a bit differently.
A cold front might be the most annoying natural phenomenon, if not the most destructive. They can come down fast and skunk the best laid plans unexpectedly. Especially for bass fisherman.
A cold front usually stuns fish and chases them to deeper water, and the extended sunshine post-front will keep them there.
Opportunities still exist even in these conditions. Bass don’t ever stop feeding during the colder months. They just feed differently depending on the weather, and success will come from accurately predicting their behavior and switching up your tactics accordingly.
Things to Look For in Cold Front Bass Fishing
There are a lot of factors that will determine the behavior of bass after a cold front. What stresses bass the most isn’t just the drop in temperature, but the sudden change in all sorts of conditions.
In less than a day, cold fronts will alter light levels, pressure, water clarity, and temperature, all factors that affect bass activity. A rainy cold front may also dirty the water, throwing another wrench in things. Keep in mind the standard procedures for fishing these conditions.
Double-down on Fishing Bass in Cover
Cover is maybe the most reliable place to fish bass regardless of conditions. Experts agree this is especially true when a front hits because other places will be almost vacant.
Often—not always—the fish will be farther back in the cover than usual. Weeds will need to be punched through, and woody structure should be fished from the roots outward. If the structure is gnarled, Texas or Carolina rigs will be extremely helpful, and pitch and flip techniques are critical.
Fish Smaller Baits
Your tackle is going to have to meet some very specific needs to be successful during a cold front. You’ll need to trade down a size—bass will be less interested in a heavy meal, which takes more energy to digest, and may go for something quick and dirty.
You want to do that without sacrificing too much weight, though; the lure still needs to go deep. Attention-grabbing baits like jigs and spinnerbaits work well in absence of weeds, but keep the jigs and worms on hand.
Slow Your Presentation, But Not Too Much
Most people will tell you to slow down your pacing and your retrieve. The fish are lethargic, and you also need to keep your lure as close to the bottom as possible. On the other hand, some pros say that it’s more important to read the water. Sometimes a quick retrieve is called for, but if the water is dingy they’ll be more apt to pursue a fast retrieve.
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Fish Around the Front
Although it’s a small window, there are advantages to fishing just ahead of the front.
Some fishermen don’t realize that fall is one of the most active periods for bass. The summer food supply has dwindled thanks to predation, and they feed more aggressively, often cruising the shallows in search of meals. They also feed longer—the cooler but not yet cold days allow them to remain active through the afternoon. When they start to feel the pressure dropping in advance of the front, they’ll be doubly interested in feeding as much as they can.
An early-season front can even be a jackpot. The bass know what’s coming, and their typical pre-front behavior will be magnified. After about three days the fish will start returning to their usual routine. If you’d rather not bother with the cold front, this is where you should be looking to.
Be Flexible, Be Patient
Patient, methodical fishing is highly recommended. Fish behavior will be relatively consistent from hole to hole, so take notes. How many casts before you got a strike? Where was the strike, and how deep? Use that to inform how you work the next hole. If nothing’s working, try new things. And be sure to work slowly—in summer you can afford to move around, but in a cold front there may not be a better hole waiting for you.
Don’t expect a cold front trip to be the most productive day of your life. But if you’re on a pretty strict schedule, you can still come out on top in a bad turn of the weather. And, if nothing else, it will make you a better fisherman. If you can wring a good day of bass fishing out of a cold front, you’ll probably be good to go when the season picks up.