Two Must-Use Rigs for Winter Bass Fishing

These simple and effective rigs will help you catch big largemouth bass from cold November rains to April showers.

winter bass fishing Ned Rig (Tim Allard pic)
(Photo by Tim Allard)

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.

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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.

Z-Man Shroomz Jig Ned Rig
Z-Man Finesse Shroomz Jighead and a Z-Man Finesse TRD Worm

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.

dropshot rig
The Dropshot Rig
This finesse technique has gained in popularity in recent years. It allows you to present your lure at a specific distance from the bottom and still remain relatively snag-free.

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.

Dropshot Baits: There’s more than one way to rig a dropshot. Senkos, minnows and finesse worms—like the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm (shown)—can all make tempting bigmouth baits on a dropshot rig.

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 hooks
Hooks: In open water, rig your bait with the hook point exposed. In heavier cover, Texas-rigging will help prevent snags. Specialty dropshot hooks are also available that are perfectly suited for nose-hooking fluke-style jerkbaits or minnows, or for wacky-rigging stickbaits.

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.

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7 Essential Lures for Winter Bass Fishing

2 on “Two Must-Use Rigs for Winter Bass Fishing

  1. James Nobles

    Only 10% of Largemouths bite thru out winter for most anglers. Small mouth can bite anytime in cold water.It’s best not to chance hypothermia, beat your equipment for 1 or 2 Bass. Not to mention Bass can throw up any meal they were lucky to get, putting them at risk for starvation and stress. Females can eject their eggs. Is it worth it, No. This is 35 yrs of Bass experience .

    1. Jeff

      I found your comment quite interesting. I just started bass fishing in May of 2023; and have fished at least 3 times a week since then mostly in the same large pond. I’ve learned a lot including how hard it is to get winter bites. Some days I catch a couple and some days none and I fish pretty hard. Jerkbaits, shadraps, dropshot, floating flys etc. I hate to think I am causing undue stress to them. But what you say makes some sense to me. I am VERY careful to get them up and released fast. I have not yet noticed any regurgitation or ejected eggs. I care deeply about the fishes health. Do you think I’m being careful enough or…it sounds like you would recommend just leaving them alone?

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