Fishing for bass on open water in the winter requires patience. Cold weather causes bass to go into a lethargic state in which their metabolism slows down considerably. However, there are ways to coax bass to bite on various lures and there are ways to catch them through the ice.
In the winter bass will not stay in the same places as in the summer. In the summer bass swim in the shallows looking for food in lakes and are everywhere in a river system. When winter arrives the bass head for deeper water. Bass will leave the smaller streams and creeks and spend the winter in the main rivers that connect to these waters. Fishing the smaller and shallower waters will yield few bass in the winter. Rather than feed for much of the day as they do in the warmth, winter bass will make the effort to eat for just a short time during a typical cold weather day. Seek winter bass in the deeper parts of the waters you usually fish. Topographical maps of lakes are useful to help locate these bass. Identifying deep areas close to shallow flat ones and you will have a chance to find these feeding bass when they come up from the depth to feed.
Bass will not make great efforts in the winter to procure a meal. Try larger and smaller baits than normal and fish them much more slowly than you do in the warmer weather. Fishing a lure at the same rate of speed as in the summer will fail to produce bass since the fish will have no interest in a prolonged chase. The thinking behind using larger bait is that the bass would rather have a single large feeding than a number of smaller ones. If this approach does not work then downsizing might. Switch to smaller plastic worms and crankbaits. Whatever the lure, the key is to fish it slowly. Add as many as 10 seconds to the normal pauses you make with a lure; this could entice a bass to bite. Select spinnerbaits that have the Colorado type blades. These work to slow the bait down, as opposed to the much thinner willow type.
Catching bass through the ice is possible where safe ice forms in the northern portions of the United States. Use polar-thermal style tip-ups for bass. These tip-ups are disc-shaped and flat. They cover the entire hole and allow no light into it, making the presentation seem much more natural to the bass. The hole will not freeze over either, which makes the fishing more enjoyable. Rig these tilts using braided line of 30-pound test strength. Attach a leader of fluorocarbon line, which fish will not see in the water, before tying a No. 4 hook to it. Those anglers with electronic fish finders will have an advantage. Locate schools of baitfish if possible with the fish finders and set the tip-ups in those areas. Fish in deeper waters and use medium-sized shiners for bass bait. Bass tend to grab a shiner and take off with it, pulling line rapidly off the spool. This makes it important to have cleanly spooled reels that will not tangle.