Bass anglers in the Northeast face cold-water conditions during a substantial percentage of their fishing seasons. Rather than hang up the gear and wait for warmer weather, here are two essential rigs for winter bass fishing that will help you catch big largemouth and smallmouth, from cold November rains to April showers.
(Note: On The Water is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)
Winter Bass Fishing Rigs
The Ned Rig
The Ned Rig consists of a short, soft-plastic stickbait fished on a flat-topped, mushroom-style jighead, creating a wiggling presentation that stands straight up at rest.
Hopping a Ned Rig, with frequent pauses, along an open, sandy or muddy bottom will immediately draw interest. On rocky bottom, bounce it so the jighead lightly taps the rocky floor. These small metal-on-rock clicks are sometimes enough to get the attention of a nearby bass that may not have otherwise seen your presentation.
In cold water, lighter and smaller are often better, and scaling down tackle makes it easier to use 1/8-ounce and lighter jigheads with these 3-inch-long baits.
Ned rigs are easy to cast and retrieve, and they work just as well when fished vertically. Some anglers even have luck “swimming” a Ned Rig through the water column without pauses. It’s a versatile setup, which is part of what makes it so effective on coldwater bass. Plus, the way the Ned rig “stands up” on the pause keeps it in eyesight of the bass, making them more likely to strike.
In general, long pauses between jigging actions can be an angler’s best friend during the colder parts of the Northeast bass season. A good rule to follow is: if you think you’re fishing slowly, slow it down even more.
The Dropshot Rig
Few baits move more slowly than the dropshot. This rig is designed to make a lure move in place, keeping it in the strike zone for lethargic largemouth, which is why it’s such an excellent choice for winter bass fishing.
The dropshot rig features a hook tied inline with a sinker set 6 to 18 inches below. The hook is tipped with a long, slender, soft plastic, one made from supple material that will have lots of underwater motion with minimal angler input.
Depending on the bottom’s consistency, the sinker is either a rounded drop weight or a finesse weight (in rocky areas) – no heavier than ¼ ounce.
Dropshot rigs are effective for finicky bass any time of year, even in the heat of summer, but its ability to fish a lure in place makes it especially deadly in cold water. The basic dropshot presentation involves casting out, letting the rig sink to the bottom, and twitching the rod tip to give the bait action.
It’s important to keep a tight line to the rig so that the bait remains suspended a few inches off the bottom. After working the rig in place for up to a minute, retrieve it a couple feet and begin again. Bass will often take a long look at the rig before deciding whether to strike, so rigging with light fluorocarbon line can help get more strikes.