Can You Still Catch Bass in the Winter?

Winter may seem like a dormant period for fishing, but when it comes to bass, the cold months offer ample opportunities for anglers willing to brave the chill. From knowing where they roam to selecting the right lures, winter bass fishing requires a strategic approach tailored to the season’s unique conditions.

Can You Catch Bass in Winter?

Yes, of course you can. It will be more difficult and you will need to bundle up, but you can definitely catch bass during the winter. Bass don’t hibernate or wait out the winter months without eating. In fact, bass will still feed every day even when it is very cold. And if the bass are eating, then you can catch them.

Where Do Bass Go in the Winter?

The common answer is that bass go out into deep water when it gets cold. For the most part, this is true. But depending on the body of water, type of bottom, weather, and other factors, bass may not be as deep as you think. For example, in a small pond, the deepest water is probably only about 20 feet off of the bank (which is actually an advantage for pond bank fishing), and it rarely gets deeper than 12 feet. In this situation, bass will tend to hold closer to rocks in order to warm up, even if it means moving into a bit shallower water. There are other situations that influence bass location. But the important thing to understand is that bass go to the warmest water possible. Often that does mean very deep water. But other times it might mean rocks, sunny spots, or wind protected areas of the lake.

Winter Bass Behavior

Like I mentioned earlier, bass still eat quite a bit during the winter. It is a common misconception that bass don’t need to eat because the cold water slows down their metabolism so much. While the cold does lower the metabolism, it is nowhere near enough for them to survive long periods without eating. So it is best to not even consider this, because it can discourage anglers from fishing at all. Speed and depth are the two most important factors in bass behavior. Bass will move much slower and more cautiously. Generally, bass will move very slowly and hold tightly to the bottom. In very deep water, bass will sometimes suspend, but that is less common and almost nonexistent in ponds and small lakes.

Best Lures for Winter Bass Fishing

  • Ned Rig: It really doesn’t get better than the Ned rig for winter bass fishing. The ned rig is best known for catching bass when the conditions are tough, and nothing else will. There are a bunch of ned rig baits you can use, but I like to either use a craw style or a classic stickworm for cold water.
  • Blade Bait: The blade bait was specifically designed for fishing cold water. The thin, silent design is exactly like a small shad. And for whatever reason, simple metal lures always seem to catch fish. You can’t go wrong with a Yo-Yo retrieve in medium to deep water. 
  • Jerkbait: The suspending jerkbait is almost synonymous with winter bass fishing. It is hard to beat a realistic baitfish imitation suspended right in front of the bass’s face. And with the erratic, side-to-side motion, the jerkbait is both a reaction bait and a slow, enticing presentation. 
  • Finesse Jig: If you find a piece of wood or brush in deeper water, it will almost certainly be holding some bass. Nothing really beats a jig for fishing cover. The smaller, finesse jigs will give a more subtle and non threatening presentation to the cautious winter bass.

Best Winter Lure Colors

During the winter, all of the fish will be in deeper water, and be getting less sunlight. This results in them losing a lot of their color. The bluegill, bass, shad, and even the crawfish will become very pale. This is what you want to imitate with your lure colors. Choose colors that are more dull and pale in color. Grey, light brown, and green are a few good options. The less color, the better during the winter months.

Warm Winter Days

Bass will change their behavior up a bit during a winter warm front. Bass will move up into a bit shallower water and feed up as much as they can before it gets cold again. These warm fronts are a great time to try to get more of a reaction strike. Moving lures like chatterbaits, crankbaits, and umbrella rigs work very well on these days. Bass will also target shallow rocks because of how fast rocks heat up in the sun. Crankbaits are my favorite lure for fishing these rocks. These warm days will liven up the water a bit and get bass moving shallower and becoming aggressive for a brief time.

Ice Fishing

No winter fishing discussion would be complete without talking about ice fishing. Bass are not the most popular ice fishing species, but they can be caught just like any other fish. Ice fishing is best done in the Northern states where the ice gets really thick. The down side of ice fishing for bass is that you can’t cover very much water. If there are no fish where you are dropping your bait, you may just be out of luck. And since you are standing on ice above a freezing lake, ice fishing safety is paramount. But if you enjoy being able to sit in one place and let the bass come to you, you should definitely give it a try.

FAQ

What is the Best Time of Day for Winter Bass Fishing?

Bass are often more active during the warmest parts of the day in winter. Aim to fish during late morning to early afternoon when the sun has had a chance to warm the water slightly.

What Gear is Best for Winter Fishing?

Use lighter lines and sensitive rods to detect subtle bites in cold water. Fluorocarbon line is often preferred as it sinks and is less visible to fish.

When Does the Winter Fishing Season Start?

The exact time depends a bit on your location, but the winter fishing season usually starts between early late October and late November.

When Does the Winter Fishing Season End?

Generally, the winter will end between late February and late March. At this time bass will begin transitioning into their pre-spawn behaviors. 

Letting This Go

While winter bass fishing presents its challenges, it’s a rewarding pursuit for those who embrace the cold. Armed with the right knowledge of bass behavior, preferred habitats, and effective lure choices, anglers can defy the winter chill and reel in impressive catches. So, bundle up, gear up, and venture forth into the winter wonderland, where bass await the intrepid angler’s challenge.

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