Winter bass fishing can be rewarding and successful. Here's how to do it.
Summer has been over for a while now, archery season is wrapping up, and the firearms deer hunting crowd is done filling their freezers, so now what? Certainly, ice fishermen everywhere have been long awaiting the return of hard water fishing with their ice huts, rod and reel combos, and the best cold weather gear available.
Sure, not everybody thinks about bass fishing at this time of the year. In fact, many don't know that targeting catch and release largemouths and smallmouths is one of the best recreational fishing activities out there. In areas that allow winter bass fishing or at least understand by catches of sportfish, some of the best fishing of the year awaits them.
For those in regions where the water doesn't completely freeze or for those who have the opportunity to fish through a hole in the ice and target bass, either option can be fruitful. Here are a few tips and reminders of what it takes to get into some bass before the water starts to warm up again.
Low and Slow
Around your favorite lake or pond, after the winter weather has crept in, many bass will make their way to the deeper parts of the water. In fact, no matter what the season, there are many bass that can be found in deep pockets in a lake, but especially during the winter months.
Bass will usually group together more often in the cold than in the warmer months. They prefer to live and feed without all of the competition since their prey will do much the same and also be gathered in one area.
Patience is the Key
It goes without saying that the bite rate is going to be slow in the winter. Some of the best fishing times will likely happen at the most comfortable time of the day when the sun is out and high in the sky so have an extra cup of hot chocolate before you leave.
For jigging up fish, take the time to let your bait down slowly to the bottom and twitch it back up at a snail's pace. If you happen to be trying a jerkbait, then it has to be paused after every other twitch to give bass time to find and attack it.
At this time it behooves the smart bass angler to try the white, crappie-sized spinnerbait they used during the warmer months since the baitfish. It works because the baitfish the bass are targeting are also likely to be smaller. The same is true for worm and crawfish imitations as they are naturally sized for the conditions. It's not unrealistic to catch bass on the things you would have normally thrown for panfish including maggots, already dead crickets and small shiners.
This is an obvious tactic based on the time of year. If you rip a bait through the area the bass might see it, but are highly unlikely to want to expend the extra energy to chase it. Small blade baits fished slow in the water column are deadly for fish that have begun to move more slowly based on their metabolism. Jigs tipped with pre-colored shiners need a deft touch when it comes to enticing a bass to strike at this time of the year, Patience is key when fishing during the winter, which is probably why fewer anglers target bass at this time of year.
Mix It Up
This is a great chance to try things that are a bit off the beaten path. This is to say throw out all of the previous ideas that you've heard or come up with yourself and try something unusual. I've fluttered a large black and white Dardevle vertically to entice a few strikes over the years, a Johnson spoon, or even a spinnerbait since they all attract some attention eventually.
Sluggish bass, even in the winter, will still feed at some point, but speed is not the order of the day. Trying any bait that normally asks an angler for speed can be tried, but take it slow. Plastic baits slow rolled along the bottom to mimic a slow-moving target is another good tactic for winter bass.
Keep An Open Mind
Certainly safety can be a big issue if you're considering getting out on the water in colder temperatures. The winter bass angler should be even more ready to create for themselves a safer trip than normal by preparing for cold weather and the water that comes with it.
Most winter bass fishing enthusiasts already practice catch and release, but be sure to check your state and local regulations to make sure that targeting bass in the winter is legal in your area. Even at that, you may be surprised to learn that the laws in your region allow for a fisherman to keep a small portion (even just one fish) of your catch for a fresh fish dinner!
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