Winter fishing means battling cold weather and cold water and trying to entice cold bass. The metabolism of these game fish slows as the mercury goes down, meaning the tactics that proved successful in the spring, summer and fall will not work. Patience, understanding what bass are looking for and being able to trick them with certain lures can result in an angler coming away with some winter bass.
Bass in cold weather have nowhere near the aggressiveness of bass in warm weather. Anglers using soft plastic baits, such as worms and lizards, must be vigilant for the slightest indication of a bite. When any resistance at all occurs on the other end of the line, the angler must treat it like a bite and set the hook. In cold weather, bass will often mouth bait, but not take off with it. It pays to use an ultra-sensitive fishing rod in the winter to help detect these subtle bites.
Big and Slow
In cold-water settings, a bass will expend very little energy to obtain a meal. This is why anglers will often use larger lures in the winter than in the summer and fish them much more slowly. The thinking is that you should make it worthwhile for the fish. A plastic worm that is 10 to 12 inches long and presented slowly to a bass can coax the fish into biting. The key to fishing a larger presentation is to reel it in so slow that the bass can easily capture it and does not have to exert itself doing so.
One of the premier bass lures in the winter is the jigging spoon. These metal lures are flat and heavier than most, qualities that allow them to sink rapidly into deep water. In the winter, bass seek the warmer, deeper water. A jigging spoon is one of the few ways to get a lure down to them. Fished vertically from a boat above the deepwater bass, the jigging spoon flutters downward, controlled by the movements of the rod tip. It is vital to understand that the majority of bites occur as the lure settles toward the bottom. Once the lure acquires the desired depth, the angler should move it up and down. Bass mistake these spoons for dying baitfish and strike at them. The angler needs to watch the line as the lure goes down, looking for any indication that a fish has grabbed the spoon before setting the hook with a violent pull upward on the line.