Until your local lakes freeze over, there’s no reason to put away the bass fishing gear for the winter. With the right lures and presentations, anglers can find dependable bass fishing all winter long. Get familiar with fishing these seven tactics for winter bass fishing to keep catching 12 months a year.
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Small lures and finesse fishing is paramount in the dead of winter, the subtle action and versatility of a Ned-rigged soft plastic like the Z-Man Finesse TRD on a Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jighead tempt big bass all year long.
Generally, ned plastics measure around 3-inches and feature a slim profile that resembles an easy meal. Ned rigs can be vertically jigged, cast and retrieved through the water column, or slowly crawled and hopped along the bottom, triggering lethargic bass to bite.
Given the slow retrieves used with this presentation, the Ned Rig isn’t the best technique for covering water, so it helps to know where the bass have balled up for the winter before breaking it out.
With a long history of success in cold water jigging, blade baits like the Cabela’s Mean Eye Blade, Reef Runner Cicada, Bass Pro’s XPS Lazer Blade and Rapala Rap V Blade are all go-to blades for bass anglers in the winter. While both largemouth and smallmouth bass eat blade baits, these lures are most often associated with deep-jigging smallies.
These metal lures sink quickly, getting down to the bass over the deepwater humps where they winter-over, and staying there. Subtle flicks or long sweeps with the rod generate heavy vibrations that draw reaction strikes from low-lying bass, but be careful not to “overwork” the lure. Often, lifting the rod just enough to feel the blade begin to vibrate is enough to trigger strikes.
These loud-rattling, tight-kicking lures are either irresistible to cold water bass or highly irritating. In either case, they put out heavy vibrations, and their narrow profile and forward orientation allow them to swim through wispy winter vegetation at various levels of the water column. Much like a blade bait, lures like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap and the Rat-L-Trap can be cast and retrieved or vertically jigged over changing bottom contours where smallmouth and largemouth bass school during the winter months.
To really get the most out of lipless crankbaits in winter, check out suspending lipless crankbaits, like the 6th Sense Quake 80, which will hover long enough to give lethargic fish a chance to strike.
Fished along drop-offs and weed lines, suspending jerkbaits are coldwater favorites for putting up numbers of largemouth from November to March. With their neutral buoyancy, internal rattles and a mid- to deep-diving range, these hard-plastic stickbaits produce frantic action upon retrieval that is contrasted by the appearance of a stunned-baitfish on the pause.
While there’s a wide range of effective jerkbaits on the market, the pricier models like the Shimano World Minnow 115 and Megabass Vision 110 tend to suspend better in cold water, when painfully long pauses up to 60 seconds can be the key to getting bit.
Scaling down to a smaller suspending jerkbait, like the Lucky Craft Pointer 65 or 78 can also help tempt sluggish winter largemouths.
Float and Fly
In the winter, bass are less likely to chase down a meal, but offerings that hover in their faces with subtle lifelike actions, like the Float and Fly, can be deadly.
The key components of this rig are a sensitive float, like the Bass Pro Shops Pear Float or Thill Premium Weighted Slip Float, and a 1/32- to 1/8-ounce hair jig, like the BPS Marabou Crappie Jigs, Kalin’s Hand-Tied Marabou Jigs or VMC Dominator Marabou Jigs. Soft plastics like the Berkley Atomic Teaser can also be very effective.
The float and fly is fishing when it’s paused and the jig below is subtly moving as the float bobs on the surface, with the hair “breathing.” While this technique is deadly effective on lethargic bass, it’s a poor choice for covering water. It’s best employed when schooled-up bass have been located with other techniques like lipless crankbaits or jerkbaits.
To suspend a bait several inches off the bottom in deep, cold water, the drop shot employs a pencil-like sinker such as BPS XPS Finesse Drop weights and slender plastics like the Roboworm Straight Worm, Z-Man Trick ShotZ , and Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Drop Shot Half Shell.
The slim sinkers are designed to slip in and out of narrow cover with ease to keep anglers free of snags and keep lures in the strike zone. A small, soft-plastic of choice is rigged 12 to 18 inches above the sinker with a specialized drop-shot hook through the nose, so it appears to wiggle enticingly in the water column, without much forward movement, keeping it in front of lethargic bass long enough for them to strike.
Casting and Jigging Spoons
Designed to sink quickly and swim like an injured or fleeing baitfish, metal spoons like the 6th Sense Divine Jigging Spoon, Acme Kastmaster, and the War Eagle Jiggin’ Spoon feature the kicking action and shimmer of a real baitfish. Their narrow, compact profiles maintain the target depth and maximize fishing time with fast drops and frequent takes when fished in clear water around schools of bait. With variable sizes, colors and weights, spoons make it easier to match the hatch and attain the desired depth.
– Article: Where to Find Smallmouth Bass in the Winter
– Article: Largemouth Bass by the Calendar