During the colder months, everything slows down. The fish slow down and the catching seems to slow down too. While it’s not impossible to get bass to bite when water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, there are some presentations better suited than others for the task.
I asked four Bassmaster Elite Series pros, whose B.A.S.S. tournament fishing earnings amass more than $8,000,000, which lure they would choose for winter fishing. Of course, “winter water” is very different geographically around the country. For this article we asked our anglers about water in the 38 – 45 degree range, cold most anyone’s definition.
1. Jerkbait - Greg Hackney
Hackney’s Choice: Strike King KVD Jerkbait 300 series (Clearwater Minnow)
The 2014 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, Greg Hackney, chose perhaps the most discussed winter fishing lure of all time, a suspending jerkbait. Hackney finds bass will react to a jerkbait no matter how cold the water, opting for the shallower-diving but larger-bodied option from Strike King.
“If I had to choose one, I would pick the shallower series over the deep,” Hackney said. “I can always lighten my line to get the bait deeper, and I have found that bass eating a jerkbait are typically looking up to see, and feed on the bait. Even if the fish are sitting in 20 feet, if the water is clear, I can get them to come eat a jerkbait up in 7 or 8 feet of water.”
Hackney throws his jerkbait wherever the baitfish are holed up. He primarily targets things like bluff ends, channel-swing banks, and in the middle of drains. What all these structures offer is the opportunity to move vertically rather than horizontally, which is imperative for bass in slightly above-freezing water.
“This is definitely a clear water deal,” Hackney explained. “If the water has too much color to it, the fish won’t be able to see the lure, and I’d have to use something else. But to be honest with you, if the water is muddy and 38 degrees, I am going to be hoping I’m not fishing.”
2. Football Jig - Terry Scroggins
Scroggins choice: 1/2-ounce Booyah Pigskin Football Jig
Although Terry Scroggins resides in the state of Florida, he still knows plenty about catching bass in cold-water situations. The “Big Show” doesn’t go fishing without a jig tied on, and a football jig is his go-to winter fishing weapon.
“I’ll pair it with some kind of plastic trailer that doesn’t have a lot of movement,” Scroggins said. “In 38-45 degree water temperatures, I am going to be slowly dragging that jig around, never losing bottom contact.”
While many anglers would reach for a finesse or ball-head type jig, Scroggins favored the heavier football jig when forced to choose one because the options it gives him.
“A football head comes through rock cover so well and rock is typically what I’ll be fishing in cold conditions,” Scroggins explained. “You can fish a ½-ounce football head from 2 feet down to 50 feet. I target structure like channel swing banks, points and the first halves of creeks, or causeways and bridges. Slowly fish a jig around that sort of stuff, and you will catch some bass.”
3. Spinnerbait - Aaron Martens
Martens choice: 3/8-ounce Colorado/willow combo spinnerbait (white/chartreuse)
2015 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, Aaron Martens went with one of the oldest lures in his arsenal, a spinnerbait.
“A spinnerbait is great because it catches them in clear water or dirty water, which we often have in the winter,” Martens explained. “You also have so many options on how you can fish it. You can bump the bottom, yo-yo it or fish it high in the water column.”
Martens was quick to point out, as we saw in Casey Ashley’s 2015 Classic victory, blade baits are extremely effective even in the coldest of water temperatures.
“A spinnerbait is a really great choice throughout the entire year,” Martens admitted. “Spinnerbaits and blade baits of all kinds flat out work in cold water. I don’t know why so many anglers have stopped throwing them, but I’m not one to complain. They just don’t know what they’re missing.”
4. Shad-style crankbaits - Gerald Swindle
Swindle’s choice: No. 7 Rapala Shad Rap (gold)
A Rapala Shad Rap is another staple lure for many seasoned cold-water anglers. So it was no surprise when Toyota Pro Gerald Swindle said he would choose a no. 7 shad rap over any other bait if push came to shove in bitterly cold water.
“In any lake in the country that has any type of color to the water, this lure will be effective,” Swindle said. “Thrown parallel to rocky shorelines, or clay banks, in about 5-7 feet of water, this lure will catch bass in the coldest of water temperatures.”
Swindle pointed out you will need the proper gear to throw a small lure like a Shad Rap. Built from balsa wood, the Shad Rap is a light crankbait, even more so if you’re fishing the No. 7 or smaller. If you try and fish this lure on too heavy of line or the wrong rod and reel, then you’ll be asking for a day full of backlashes, especially if the wind is blowing.
“You’ll need light line and a relatively light action rod to get the job done,” Swindle explained. “Cast that sucker out, reel it down until you are bumping the bottom, and then just slowly crawl the bait along. If there ain’t ice on the lake, they’ll eat it.”
If you don’t have hard water on your local fishery, the bass will likely be inactive, but you can still catch a few with the options listed here. Often this is when the big fish bite.
Every pro we asked echoed that winter is a tough time of year to catch numbers, but there is a decently good chance of catching the biggest bass of your life!
Other Articles You Might Like on this topic:
- 4 Lure System to Catching Winter Bass
- 8 Lures You Need in your Winter Tackle Box
- The Best Coldwater Crankbait Ever
- Fishing Ditches for More Winter Bass