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  • 5 Hot Winter Bass Fishing Tips

    Bass Intelligence
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    As cold weather approaches, many fishermen who love bass fishing put away their rods and wait for the spring. But why put away your gear when you can catch bass all winter long? Bass may not be as active during the cold months, but with the right preparation and knowledge, winter does not have to be the end of the season!

    To maximize the potential of fishing in cold weather, armed with the information in this guide, it is possible take advantage of these cooler temperatures and have a lot of success wintertime bass fishing! 

    Fishing for Winter Bass: Is It Worth It?

    If you're looking to catch bass during the winter months, don't expect fishing success with the same baits and techniques that you used in the fall; most of those fish have moved on. But never fear - there are plenty of opportunities for a great day on the water if you play your cards right! Kick that cabin fever, dress warmly (it's cold out!), check conditions beforehand so that weather won't ruin your plans, and try different tactics than those that what worked earlier in the year - these all contribute towards successful wintertime fishing trips.

    So, what tactics you ask? Utilize these 5 tips to help you catch more bass this winter.

    winter bass

    Tip #1 - Understand Seasonal Bass Behavior

    In the winter months, many bass will migrate to deep water and their feeding patterns change. Rather than swimming aimlessly around their lakes, bass seek out areas with a cover and access to a food source. However, some bass may remain shallow, in particular lakes located in southern areas of the country or where the water clarity is low. These bass can be found around structures and docks, where they take advantage of warmer waters near the surface or in pockets of warmed water created by sunlight reflecting off rocks or debris.

    In winter, bass often congregate in large schools; some experts believe this behavior is an evolutionary response designed to conserve energy and increase their chances of survival when resources are scarce due to the cold temperatures. Bass also tend to suspend, which means they expend very little energy when searching for food. Additionally, being that fish are cold blooded, their metabolism slows and they become less active as as they conserve energy while awaiting the spring spawning season.

    Tip #2 - The Fish Have Moved... Know Where to Look 

    To increase your chances of success during winter bass fishing, it is important to understand where bass are likely to be and how they react in cold temperatures. Knowing these details will help you target the areas most likely to hold winter-feeding bass more effectively. After bass feed in the fall in the creeks, they begin to move out towards the mouth of those creeks or into the nearest deep water containing cover suitable for spending the winter. These fish will stay in these areas until the water temperature beings to warm, signaling that it's time to feed during the pre-spawn period.

    In cold water conditions, bass will usually migrate to deeper or warmer areas of the lake or river. During these cold winter months, most bass will move to deeper water, often suspending in the water column around underwater structures such as rocks, brush piles, standing or fallen timber and bluff walls. Some bass may also seek shallow areas where they can find some warmth from the sun, but the majority of bass will move deep with cold water temperatures. Winter bass fishing can be difficult due to their decreased metabolism and lack of activity in cold water temperatures, so bass anglers must take extra care to locate and target these fish.

    Tip #3 - Have The Right Tools to Locate Fish

    Bass fishing can become especially challenging in the winter, when water temperatures drop and fish become more sluggish. By utilizing advanced bass fishing electronics such as side scan sonar and down scan sonar, savvy anglers can catch bass in difficult winter conditions. Side scan and down scan sonar help to quickly locate structure, bait, or schools of fish which can make all the difference when fishing during colder months. Learning how to use sonar will allow you to stop fishing toward the bank or visible structure and begin to target structure that is too deep to visually identify.

    Advanced Fish Finding Electronics

    Forward facing and 360 sonar allows anglers to closely target specific fish, increasing their chances of finding a catch even on days when bites are few and far between. These advanced technologies are somewhat expensive, but with the right amount of education, will allow you to see and target fish with with ease. Instead of spending time searching with a search bait, your electronics will be your underwater eyes and you can quickly determine if an area will be productive. Whether you're an experienced tournament angler or just getting into bass fishing for the first time, these technologies will give you an edge come wintertime.

    bass boat electronics

    Be Patient and Learn Your Electronics

    In the beginning, it can be difficult to know what type of electronics are necessary, or even how to use what you have. While advanced technology is great, mastering more basic tools allows anglers who are just starting out to get comfortable with their equipment before advancing further. 2D sonar provides an excellent foundation and is perfect for locating structure and schooling fish in areas like creek bends, bluff walls or deep points through areas selected using your mapping software. As all fishing techniques take time honing - don't rush into purchasing expensive upgrades until you feel confident using your current setup!

    Want to learn more about bass boat electronics, check these out:

    The Beginners Guide to Bass Boat Electronics

    Bass Intelligence Forums

    Tip #4 - Choose the Right Baits for Winter Fishing

    Bass fishing during cold winter months can be difficult as the cold-water can make bass less likely to feed. Knowing what bass eat when the water temperature drops will help produce bites. To entice a reaction strike, coldwater bass lures such as a jig, suspending jerkbaits and dropshots can be used effectively.

    Wintertime Bait Suggestions


    A jig is an excellent cold water bait that has proven successful for many anglers when fishing for bass in cold water around structure. Bass like to target a large, easy meal that take little effort during the winter, so bass lures that mimic crawlfish are ideal for winter fishing. If you aren't used to fishing jigs, you may miss fish at first. Generally with a jig, when you feel the thump, that is the fish sucking in the bait. Setting the hook quickly after the bite has been detected can be the difference in catching or missing. If you wait to set the hook, the second thump that you feel could very well be that big bass spitting your job back onto the bottom. If you're new to jigs, this will take some time to get used to. 


    Using a suspending jerkbait is another great way to trigger reaction strikes from lethargic winter bass suspending in the water column. Many of these strikes occur as a reaction strike from a fish near the lure, so targeting these fish with electronics will greatly increase the likelihood of catching these suspended bass. As the water cools, so should your jerkbait retrieve. When bass are actively feeding, an erratic retrieve can trigger more bites, however when fish have slowed with the cooler water, subtle twitches and pauses can trigger more bites. Pair this retrieve with forward facing sonar, and you can really hone your retrieve to exactly what they want. 

    winter jerkbait


    With electronics, using a dropshot can also be a very effective way to target winter bass. Once you have located structure with your electronics, dropping your bait down over the top of the structure or into the structure can trigger reaction strikes as well. These winter bass in the deepest part of the lake can be some of the biggest bass you will catch all winter, if you can get them to bite. If you are an angler that normally targets smallmouth bass, this technique is not new for you, however it is also an excellent technique for targeting spotted and largemouth bass as well.

    Presenting the correct lure, in the correct way, to a cold water bass can give the wintertime angler an excellent shot at landing a big bass. If you want to know more about lures used to catch more, bigger bass, see our post Top Lures for Big Bass Fishing



    Tip #5 - Slow Down Your Bait Retrieve

    Anglers who want to target more bass when cold water fishing need to slow down. In general, cold water causes bass to slow down and become lethargic, so a slow retrieve is key in order to trigger big bites from winter bass. Fishing a jig slowly in cold water will generate more bites than fishing a fast moving lure. Using cold water lures will help anglers to mimic the slow, deliberate movement of cold water bait and entice a strike from sluggish bass. Paying attention to the water temperature can also tip anglers off as to when the bass will become more active in late winter once warm days begin to increase the water temperature. By slowing down during these cold weather months, anglers can reap the rewards of winter fishing.

    Final thoughts on winter bass fishing

    Now that you are armed with the tips in this guide, it is possible to take advantage of these cooler temperatures and have a lot of success winter fishing! By targeting deeper water areas with cover and access to a food source, or shallow areas near structures and docks, you can increase your chances of success. And remember: Bass often school in winter, so if you catch one there are likely more nearby. By following the tips in this guide, you will be able to find bass more easily and use the right equipment to maximize your chances of catching that big fish. So bundle up, get out there on the lake and enjoy some winter bass fishing!

    Bass Intelligence

    To see what other community members have to say about winter fishing, be sure to visit our forum, where you can ask questions, reply to other anglers and get involved with the discussion. Guests can start discussions on the forum, but only members can respond. Joining Bass Intelligence is easy and Free!


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