Winter bass fishing forces a lot of anglers to pack it in until spring. It’s cold, uncomfortable, and difficult to catch fish. Most people would rather sip cocoa than stand in the frigid cold slinging cast after cast with no bites. But if you’re a year-round angler and have zero thoughts of racking your rod this season, then nothing will stop you; no silver and cold skies, no rain, and no ice that’ll keep you indoors. So, try out the following baits this season and make those cold days worth it. You won’t be disappointed.
Where Do Bass Go In Winter?
Knowing where Bass go in winter is a crucial part of the puzzle. Generally, fish pull away from the shorelines as the cold sets in and migrate toward deeper water. They’ll group together around rock piles and rocky bottoms where it’s warmer. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to see bass motionless ( almost hibernating) right on the bottom. Other warm structures may include dock pilings, pillars, and train trestles, as they all transmit heat to the bottom from the sun.
The challenge is activating them to strike. As the fall transitions to winter, bass slow their metabolisms in response to a lack of food. This enables them to go long periods without feeding. But this doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish! Many anglers fish winter solely for the purpose of catching larger specimens. And many due so using the following lures;
1.) Football Jig
My all-time favorite lure year-round, and especially in winter, is a jig. It’s a perfect presentation for cold water situations. You can fish it slow and right along the bottom where the bass are. Using a 1/2 oz football jig, find those rocky bottoms either located on long-reaching lake points or in the very middle of your water and commit to a slow drag and intermittent hops.
The one thing to keep in mind is slow; everything should be slow and steady. Drag your jig along and let it sit motionless periodically. These periods of deadsticking will entice a sluggish bass to bite. Whether you’re winter bass fishing from the bank or from a boat, getting out to the deepest areas and around hard bottom and/or structure with a jig is one effective way to fish.
When throwing a jig, go with natural winter colors. For clear water in winter, I use a 1/2 oz Strike King football head jig in a brown craw color with a beaver-style trailer. For water with less visibility, I’ll go with the same jig but in black and blue with a dark trailer.
2.) Finesse Worms
A worm is a great way to present an easy meal to a winter bass. The key is keeping it on the bottom and retrieving slow. As far as rigging, there’s no one right way to rig a finesse worm. Some effective rigging methods include:
- Drop Shot
- Texas rig
- Shaky Head
Each rigging style is mostly based on preference. Although each has its own advantages. Once mastered, finesse worms are a fantastic part of an angler’s arsenal and can be fished year-round. But they seem to have a special place designated in winter for their deadly-slow quality.
Winter Bass Fishing: Drop Shot
I like Using a 3/16 oz pencil weight and a pink Robo Worm Straight Tail on 10lb fluorocarbon. Hook size, I go with a VMC SpinShot Drop Shot Hook and work the rig around off-shore structure and dock pilings. Other awesome drop shot worm brands include:
- Jackle Flick Shake Worms
- Zoom Finesse Worms
- Jackal Cross Tail Shad
- Robo Worm
I learned on a texas rig. It’s my primary rigging style. Using a 1/4 oz bullet weight and a pumpkin green zoom trick worm, I almost exclusively drag it along the bottom with an occasional rod raise for added action.
As an alternative to a texas rig ( and a lot of guys prefer it), the shaky head is deadly accurate and provides a faster, sharper, and more crisp movement vs a texas rig. The only real difference is the natural fall of a texas rig as your weight slides forward and allows your bait a slower, almost flutter-like ( depending on the worm) action. A shaky head, using a VMC standup shaky head hook, can be fished much like a texas rig – a slow drag with small hops in between.
Winter Bass Fishing: Ned Rig
The Ned Rig seems to be the absolute go-to for positive results when the bite gets tough. It’s a perfect downsized version of other worm presentations. These stubby little critters are awesome around harder bottoms like rock and concrete like launch ramps, and many of the hook selections like the Z-man finesse hook (pictured below) are outfitted with weed guards for any leftover grass.
If you’ve fished a jig around an area known to hold fish with no bites, switch to a Ned Rig on 8-10lb fluorocarbon, you’ll be happy you did so!
Some great products to try this winter;
- Zoom Beat Down Worm
- Robo Worm
Additionally, if you need to improvise, you can simply cut 3/4 of a larger strait tail worm off and use the stumpy remains as a ned rig worm.
3.) Winter Bass Fishing: Hard Jerkbaits
Hard jerkbaits are a go-to for tournament bass anglers. Rocky points and bluffs are perfect places to throw a shadow rap or a deep-diving jerkbait. A little windy out? Perfect! Look for those points with wind and current sweeping around it. Make long casts and retrieve quickly to get your lure down deep. Follow it with a double twitch on a slackline, and pause. Keep it slow, always. You can still activate bass in winter with this slow technique. But keep it slow! Some great jerkbaits for winter;
- Rapala Shadow Rap
- MegaBass X-80 Trick Darter
- Lucky Craft Lighting Pointer
When those winter days start growing colder and the nights bring ice and snow, having a quick flash of a double twitched hard jerk bait from side to side will re-activate bass. Additionally, jerkbaits are perfect for winter bass fishing from the bank, as lake points are easily accessible.
4.) Lipless Crank Baits
Lipless Crankbaits can produce some amazing catches during winter. With outstanding versatility, they are among the most exclusive fishing lures for lethargic bass. My favorite method is yo-yoing a rattletrap or a lipless Strike King at a slow pace. Cast out and let the lure sink to your depth of choice, then raise your rod tip fast and give it a quick pop. This imitates a wounded baitfish while putting out a strong vibration. Other benefits of a lipless crankbait:
- You can fish it through grass
- Perfect for deepwater ledges and flats
- Good year-round lure.
Another method of fishing a lipless crankbait is a straight retrieve followed by a twitch. You can also bring this lure through grass and deflect it along gravel bottoms similar to a standard crankbait and produce an attractive directional change. Play with different methods, and of course, keep it slow. For more information on wintertime crankbait fishing, check out wired2fish for tips on fishing a crank through the grass.
5.) Ultralight Lipless Crank Bait
When all else fails, downsize your bait. This technique is especially effective when fishing for smallmouth bass. Using a spinning rod and an ultralight setup, cast out and give your lure time to sink and begin your retrieve. With intermittent pops, you can fish this bait at the same speed you would with a standard-size lipless crankbait. The real benefit of an ultralight lure setup is that it presents bass with prey worth hunting. In other words, the larger the baitfish, the more chance it has of escaping. Check out these lure brands;
- Ultralight rippin’ rap 03
- Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Mini
- Jackall TN Lipless Crankbaits
It’s after switching to a smaller presentation that I often receive quite a few stikes. This method opens the opportunity to catch other species as well, including Smallmouth Bass and Crappie.
Winter can be tough, but by using the right lures and methods of presenting them, you may catch the fish if a lifetime. Remember, smaller fish die off this time of year due to starvation and stress. This leaves mostly the larger specimens. Try each lure above and don’t give up. Those long, hard winter days will be well worth it after you net a 10 lb bucket mouth!