Although many people associate largemouth bass with summer fishing, these popular members of the sunfish can be caught throughout the fall and winter in many parts of North America.
Bass fishing techniques begin to change as cool fronts begin moving across North America, becoming more frequent each week. Meanwhile the days grow shorter and foliage turns color, eventually falling and littering the surface of lakes, reservoirs and tidal creeks.
Perhaps the most common cold water bass fishing tactic involves fishing soft plastic worms or stick baits such as senkos. Many anglers use a Texas rig with a dark, flexible plastic worm for late fall and winter largemouth bass. Fishing these lures require anglers to pay attention and modify their retrieve. Due to colder water temperatures, bass behave much differently which requires a slower retrieve.
Worms or other soft plastics often work during cold periods by allowing them to sink and then moving them ever so slowly along the bottom. Once the worm hits bottom, the angler must hold the rod at about the 10 o’clock position and slowly move the rod towards the boat, which causes the lure to simply crawl along the bottom. Anglers need only to take up the slack at the end of each sweep. This dead slow presentation will entice bass even when they are lethargic from cooler temperatures.
Once this technique is perfected, anglers should look for productive structure. Stumps, downed trees and other structure that exist very close to a drop off are among the top areas where slow presentations of worms are known to produce. A key factor is the ability of the angler to position the boat along the drop and be patient as the worm is slowly worked from structure down the sloping bottom. Bites may occur anywhere along this path and may range from savage strikes when the lure hits the water to delicate movements that are all but undetectable.
When employing slow fished worms, anglers should watch the line closely as any unusual movement or change of direction by the line can signal that a largemouth has picked up the lure and is moving off its prize. Once slight pressure is felt on the line, a sharp hook set may be required. If a fish drops the worm, the slow bottom crawling can be continued which may entice the bass to return and pick up the rig a second time.
Another popular setup for catching Winter season largemouth bass is the drop shot rig. This simple rig utilizes an octopus style hook tied to the line with a sinker that trails 12-24 inches below. Using hook styles that have a turned out eye is important to keep the hook sticking away from the line. Dropshot rigs can be used with plastic worms, grub bodies, or live baits such as minnows, worms or crayfish.
Dropshot rigs have gained popularity due to their simplicity, versatility and effectiveness. They are suitable for targeting largemouth bass around deep structure, along the bottom or when fish or suspended near channel edges. Dropshots can be casted or simply lowered slowly and worked thru the water column until the bottom is felt. Another application for dropshot rigs involves positioning the boat near pilings or other structures that are swept by currents. Fish often suspend just up current of these structures, waiting to ambush prey that is swept by. This dropshot rig allows fishermen to effectively reach these fish, even in fast moving water.
Spinnerbaits are another effective lure for catching largemouth bass during cool weather. These lures are simple to fish yet yield consistent results even during low water temperatures. Choosing the right spinnerbait is important since Winter tactics require a very slow retrieve. Spinners and swivels should be high quality and in good condition in order to spin at slower speeds. Similar to fishing worms, its important to keep the rod tip positioned fairly high and use a slow sweeping motion when presenting these lures to sluggish fish.
The entire list of cold weather bass fishing lure can be extensive but most selections share a few common traits. Most lures for cold water bass perform will when worked slowly and are capable of covering varying depths where fish may be found.