During the colder months, winter, you will improve your bass fishing by timing your outings. I know most of us are locked into the weekends because of work. However, save your sick days, comp time, or basic time off and use when the weather dictates you should be out bass fishing.
When is the best time to hook up with bass in the winter? Well it’s easier to say, when is not the best time. Anytime, from about 4 hours after a front passes through until the end of the second day after that front. During this time, stay home, sharpen hooks, clean reels, study maps. Getting on the water during these 48 to 60 hours after a front will lead to more casting practice than catching.
Fishing during these few hours can be very difficult, and you’ll end up eliminating what would normally be very productive water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fished an area, post front, and did not get a bite, only to fish it again two days later and catch many quality fish.
Winter bass fishing can be very rewarding. Many anglers have caught their personal best bass during the winter months, especially in the South. In the North, this may be late fall or early spring, depending on your region. By timing your outings and not fishing during post front blue bird sky’s you are increasing your chances of catching a bass of a life time.
Immediately following a front, can be very productive for large fish. If a front passes through your area during the morning hours, I highly suggest getting on the water during the first four hours after it passes. Inside these four hours, you have many things happening that will help entice bass to feed. First is wind shift, normally after a winter front your southerly winds will shift and blow from the North. While a North wind is not very comfortable to us, I was once told by a wise angler “The fish don’t feel that cold wind, they just know it changed”. This direction change will get everything moving. Plankton that has settled on vegetation will be dislodged and float across the water-way to the other side, this gets the bait fish moving as it feeds on the drifting plankton. And, naturally, a bass sees bait fish moving and sees an easy meal.
Another factor immediately following a front is cloud cover. For the first couple hours after a front hits your area, you will have cloud cover. Depending on the front this may last an hour or a day. Add cloud cover to wind and you get shallow feeding opportunities. Once the cloud cover is gone, your losing your feeding zone quickly. I like to cover water at this point with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, or rattle traps. I’m looking for that reaction strike of hungry bass that know it’s just a matter of time before everything goes into hiding.
Barometer, the pressure during a front is dropping. If you watch this pressure, it will continue to drop slightly and finally stabilize about an hour after the front initially hit the area. When the cloud cover disappears this is your clue that the pressure is on the rise again. I’ve taught myself to watch the cloud cover, my thoughts are that as the pressure rises it squeezes the moisture out of the air. Whether that’s correct or not, it works in my head and in my fishing. When a front passes through, and the forecast is for mostly cloudy skies after it, you can bet I’ll be on the water as soon as possible.
My thought process on tough post front bass fishing is; it all starts with the micro side of the food chain. The high pressure effects the zooplankton more than it does a bass. While I know that bass can detect pressure, I don’t think it makes them so uncomfortable they won’t feed. I’ve experienced bass moving from 20 feet of water to 2 foot flats to feed of a morning and then back to the 20 feet to rest. If you’ve ever been in a swimming pool, you know that 10 feet of water can make your ears uncomfortable. Over time without proper clearing they will ache. I have no doubt bass can feel pressure changes. Anything in nature is extremely in tune with its surroundings, and I have no doubt bass can feel the barometer change. I just don’t feel it does more than ignite instincts. However, I do feel that the high pressure collapses the plankton and stops the growth. With little to no active plankton, the smaller fish settle into hiding waiting for plankton. Without bait fish roaming bass do the same, not wanting to waste energy roaming for food that is not there. In these times of low food chain activity, the strike zone of a bass gets very small. You have three options in bait presentation; put a bait on top of a bass, move it so slow a bass will realize it’s there and investigate, or move it so fast you get a reaction strike.
That said there is nothing better than “seat time” to improve your bass fishing skills. Sometimes we simply have no choice and must fish inside this time line. Either because it’s the weekend and our time off or because we have a tournament and a front blew through yesterday. When this happens you need to put yourself in an area that you know there are fish and grind it out. By getting out during the productive times, you’ll build some confidence in your areas and a “grind it out” day won’t seem so futile.
If you can get on the water during more productive times, even if it’s two hours after work, it can mean a lot come tournament day or a weekend trip. Simply knowing bass are in the area can boost your confidence and help enable you to present baits in a better manner. Conversely, only getting on the water during high pressure blue bird skies can lead to frustration and you’ll want to sell it all.
All this said, a day when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun is shining bright, and the air temperature is warms for the season; can be very enjoyable too. On days like this, I like to soak up the vitamin D and simply enjoy what nature has to offer. Casting practice is a good thing too!
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