The best winter bass fishing can be had any day you can get on the water. Cabin fever has been known to drive many bass anglers completely insane, and just a few hours on the water can bring you back to reality. Let’s face it; conditions are never very attractive when we have the time to go. So, if your schedule permits, I say get on the water. Just keep in mind the conditions you’re faced with, and don’t try to force feed the bass your favorite bait. Take a hard look at the conditions, decide what the bass might be doing, and adjust your presentations accordingly.
Nature is a funny thing that we as humans don’t fully understand. On that day, when the air temperature is in the 20’s and it’s snowing so hard that you can’t see your mail box, do you ever think about what wildlife has to do to survive? I do this all the time. I also think about what I would do if I didn’t have the luxuries that I do. How would I survive? Obviously during the storm feeding is not high on any creatures mind. As creatures of nature, animals learn what different winds mean, different temperature changes, the amount of light in the day; all the things we don’t even consider are vital to the survival of nature. While a bass lives underwater and the current storm is not near as significant as a physical feeling on his scales, it does affect his survival, as the food chain is affected, and he is part of that food chain.
Anglers can find excuses as to why the bass didn’t bite; it’s easy to do in the winter. The water was too cold, a front just came through, the wind was too strong, there wasn’t enough wind, blue bird sky’s. The list is endless. Bass have to eat to survive; yes they can get very finicky, but to survive, they have to eat. Our problem becomes presenting something to the bass that looks natural enough at the time to make them eat, or to present something that works on another button bass have – reaction! We have options, and we have to make sure, even in winter, that we maintain a sense of versatility.
If you could pick any day to go, the best conditions would be 3 days after a front has passed through. This will be the time that pressure is settling back down, and cloud cover should start to be more present. The winds should be picking back up or shifting away from the north. Strong north winds or absolute calm are common after the high pressure following a front, and present a difficult situation to catch bass. This increase or change in direction will trigger activity and more feeding opportunities for bass. Bass that were not presented with feeding opportunities during the previous days will be getting aggressive, and hungry.
Another prime time to be on the water in the winter is the hours before a front hits. The winds will typically be from the south and warmer. This stirs the water and can raise surface temperatures slightly. This brings bait fish shallower, and the bass will follow. Going back to nature, bass know these fronts are coming through and will be feeding up knowing that they may not see many feeding opportunities for the next couple days.
Those are the prime times to hit the water in the winter. We all know that because of work schedules, life schedules, and the weathermen, we rarely get to hit the water at the perfect time. So what do you do? Again, hit the water any time you can. Just do it with an open mind and know that a few bites will be a successful day.
To get those few bites, you will have to be versatile, using a variety of baits and presentations to trigger strikes. You might be able to provoke a feeding response on one bass, but the next bite may require a reaction response. Use your electronics to try and find the depth the food and the bass are using to get you started. Then, present baits to these bass and see what you can develop. A finesse shakey head or drop shot may produce a few strikes, and then ripping a flutter spoon through bait fish might also work.
Here is an example of how you have to be versatile. I was presented with a major cold front the night before an event. The next day we had zero wind and blue bird sky’s with air temperatures that no sane angler would have fished in. It was a tournament though, and we all hit the water. Just like most anglers that day, we assumed that we needed to slow down and methodically work cover to get bites. It was one of those days that when you think you’re going slow enough, you better slow down some more. One angler got tired of doing this and decided that he would try a crankbait. Even thought it was against all he knew about post front bass fishing, he told me that he wasn’t getting bites on anything else so what the heck. He proceeded to catch a quality limit in the last two hours of the event that doubled the second place weight. Bass simply were not striking out of hunger, but if you ripped a crankbait past their zone, they couldn’t resist the temptation to reflex strike. This angler admitted that many fish were caught on the edge of the mouth, indicating that he didn’t have the correct color or they were just striking to be mean. The latter is more likely as he tried several different colors trying to dial it in better and had the same results on all choices.
Winter fishing is the biggest puzzle there is in bass fishing. Unfortunately, I have had more successful days that I can’t explain than successful days that I can. Sometimes it is just worth it to get on the water and start casting. Even if you can’t put the pieces together, you’ll put a damper on that cabin fever! Keep an open mind, listen to what nature is telling you, and be versatile, and your next winter bass fishing trip might be a little more successful.
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