Catching big bass in cold weather

By Sam Anderson
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There are many factors that affect bass fishing, but one of the most perplexing can be the cold fronts that pass during the late fall and early winter.

No doubt, bass will always react to these changes in their surroundings. But you can catch big bass in spite of these negative conditions. Adjusting your typical bass fishing methods often makes the difference between a slow day and a good day. Here are a few tips for success in pursuing bass this time of year:

Learn to locate schools
Because bass slow down in cold water, they position themselves in an area that provides easy access to deep water, exposure to sunshine and a readily available food supply. Since most lakes have only a limited number of these spots, the fish tend to concentrate in large numbers. Some likely places to find these big schools include bluff banks and other points near the mouths of major creeks and channels or around submerged roads and bridges.

Adjust your fishing technique
A slow, deliberate lure presentation is often the only way to entice strikes under cold conditions. The idea is to keep the bait in front of the fish as long as possible and to make multiple presentations to the same fish.

Bait recommendations
Several baits have earned a reputation for being cold-weather producers. Below are a few of my favorites:

  • Jig and pig – Always use the lightest jig you can.
  • Slow-rolled spinner baits – Reel the bait as slowly as you can while still allowing the blades to spin. If you are fishing around grass or rocks, allow the bait to sink until it contacts the cover, then reel a little faster. When you can’t feel the cover, slow down. A 1/2- or 3/4-ounce spinner bait seems to provide the right thump.
  • Finesse worms – Scaling down to spinning tackle and light line often works during severe cold spells. The key is keeping the bait in contact with the bottom. A slow drag-and-stop retrieve is best.
  • Tube jigs – Around rocks and in clear water, I like to fish these baits on an exposed jig head. Simply insert the lead head into the tube and fish it on 8- to 10-pound test line. This is especially deadly for smallmouth bass.

Have realistic expectations
Because bass move less in cold weather, they burn few calories, and their need for food decreases. We need to adjust our expectations. If you expect to get 100 bites, you’re going to be disappointed. Four or five bites is more realistic. The good news is that big fish seem to bite better than small fish in cold water.

Sam Anderson is a professional walleye angler and president of Bay & Bay Transportation, a regional trucking company based in Minneapolis.