An ultralight setup can be deadly for winter bass fishing. Especially if you’re looking to increase bites. And believe me, a cold day with no bites is enough to keep most people off the water! But having the right setup and a variety of dependable lightweight fishing lures and bait will increase your chances.
I’ve always loved fishing a grub tail; you really get a wide range out of these lures. Their ability to sink down and work the bottom really gives them an edge. I like throwing a 1″-2″ on a 1/16th oz Keithech SuperRound Jig Head and jig the bottom, letting the jig tap bottom before raising it up slowly. I’ll do this over hard bottoms and around hard structures; anywhere warm for fish to group near. A straight retrieve is also effective and requires no skill. Just cast out and retrieve slow, pausing your grub tail on occasion while giving it a fast-twitch.
2.) Rattle Trap
The Rattle Trap is a year-round lure for a reason! Like a grub tail, the versatility is unrivaled. You can jig a rattle trap using a yo-yo method. Cast out over hard structure and allow your lure to fall. Begin poping your rod tip after establishing where the bottom is, and allow for a nice flutter and fall, then repeat. The result is that of vibration. This is what makes this lure so deadly.
For an ultralight lure setup, I like to tie on a Rapala Ultra Light Ripping Rap in either darker colors or silver or chrome on 6-8lb fluorocarbon. The sliver flash is effective in activating fish in the winter, and it works well when fishing deep on cloudy days – that flash tends to fire them up.
3.) Ned Rig
Finesse bass fishing lures are easily defined by the Ned Rig. This little bottom-hopping critter is a dangerous change-up from a moving bait, as its presentation is subtle and quiet. Its profile also presents bass with a manageable meal scurrying beside them. Some awesome brands I like to fish with are Zoom Ned Worms, Googan Baits, and Z-Man Finesse Baits.
Slow drag it, hop it lazily, anything you want as long as the action is slow, and remains in contact with the bottom, allowing for a series of thumps across rocks, wood, and other hard structures. My line choice is often 10-15 lb braided line to a 6-8 lb fluorocarbon leader. The braid gives you that extra power when setting the hook due to the fact you may not always pick up on those subtle bites in winter. Having that fast power in my line is also crucial for sticking them when fishing in deeper water.
4.) Ultralight Jerkbaits
Most seasoned anglers agree that a jerk bait should be one of the first baits you throw in cold water scenarios. And there’s no rule that says anglers can’t downsize a jerk bait! Small lures are particularly effective when you’re fishing around pressured fish. All year, they’ve seen many of the same lures coming at them from the same angles, and when presented with something different – this can trigger an aggressive response. Additionally, some dainty little fry dancing past a largemouth tends to match the baitfish of many lakes and reservoirs.
And of course, like most winter fishing, keep it slow! Give your bait a twitch now and then followed by a SLOW, steady retrieve followed by another slow steady retrieve, and repeat this again and again around drop-offs and other hard structures.
5.) Ultralight Swim Baits
A swimbait can be used to reach the bottom and retrieve using a slow crawl. This method is exclusive to a swimbait and a preferred method for a lot of tournament guys. The slow paddle-tail wave achieves a near-flawless imitation of a baitfish. When downsized – and I mean REALLY downsized – they attract a number of species like Smallmouth Bass and Trout.
Fishing this lure is simple; just cast out, find the bottom, and drag, maintaining contact with the bottom as you go. Simple right? The slow movement will keep that paddle tail wagging. Check out some of these brands for the best quality baits on the market:
- Googan Saucy Swimmer
- Jackall Rhythm Wave Swimbaits
- Keitech Swim Baits
- Keitech Super Round Tungsten Jig Head 1/16 oz
6.) Spinner Baits
I find that spinners are underrated. Simply put, if you want to imitate baitfish, a spinner does the trick. They present a smaller profile bait for a versatile range of species like Trout, Crappie, Bass, and Bluegill, and they all take a fancy to the flash of a spinner. And best of all, you can drop it down to your desired depth.
My favorite areas to fish spinners are rocky points that slope down to a quick drop-off. Here, on a gradient, maintain your retrieve at a depth that works with the weight of a small lure. It’s a perfect way to entice a fish to bite who’s holding in 9-10 ft of water and against harder structures like bluff walls and points. Check out these spinners for multi-species fishing:
- Panther Martins
- Mepps Aglia
Add split shot weight to your line if you’re having trouble reaching the optimal depth. Additionally, effective colors in winter are black, brown, and green with silver blades.
7.) Jigging Spoons
If jigging is your thing, spoons are the way to go. They’re perfect for reaching deep, winter bass off ledges, dams, dropoffs; fish that are holding tightly to the bottom where ultralight lures won’t reach. Trout patterns with a silver flash are perfect under lower-light conditions ( cloudy skies, early morning).
They’re especially effective on lakes and reservoirs where trout are frequently stocked. Cast out, let your spoon hit bottom, and begin jigging by pulling up fast with your rod and allowing the spoon to flutter back down. Often, on the drop, you’ll feel a faint bite, so a high visibility line can help detect subtle line jumps. Colors like red, pink, and lime-green are proven to be effective.
Spoons I like to use for unrivaled action are:
- The Little Cleo
- Buoyant Soons 1/16 oz
- Kast Masters
These lures are best on lighter lines like 6-8 lb and an ultralight spinning rod. But play with any range and find your preference. Downsizing your presentation has numerous advantages. When winter settles and fish are deep and slow, a smaller, less capable food source can trigger a reaction. This method also presents fish with a different food source unlike what they’ve seen all year.