winter bass fishing

Focusing on Your Bass Fishing Winter Approach

Just because the temperatures are starting to drop doesn’t mean you’re fishing efforts have to drop as well.  Let’s look at some winter bass tips that might keep things interesting during this time of year. Some people will not venture out into the cold just to hook a big lunker.  However, some of us could care less how cold it is, we want that excitement. So let’s focus expanding on your approach for bass fishing winter months.

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Breaking Down the Bass Fishing Winter Months

Most anglers are of the opinion that winter bass are usually very inactive.  However, when the sun has beat down on the water for a few hours, the surface temperature will rise. Big female bass are usually feeding hot and heavy during the early winter months, they’re just located in different areas than during the warmer months. They are migrating more, schooling up, changing their home areas, and gaining weight for the duration of the winter.

On a January morning, the water is at its coldest point of the day just before the sun peaks over the horizon.

The winter months are, as you all know, the coldest of the year and this will really slow the bass down. But more importantly, it slows down their foraging efforts. During a cold winter morning, there isn’t much forage available. With that said its common sense that bass will not do a lot of moving around if their foraging targets are scarce. To give yourself the best chance at landing quality bass during the winter months, it’s advisable to wait until just after 10 A.M. when the water starts to warm up a bit.  Then you can stay until the late afternoon before the temperatures start to drop.

Use the Weather to Your Advantage

An approaching warm front is one of the very best conditions to get the bass moving during the winter. These warm fronts usually spark some quality baitfish activity, mainly in the early afternoon. A single sunny afternoon can bring the surface temperature up several degrees. The best case scenario is when these fronts linger for two or three days. This keeps the general air temperatures up.

Usually, any constant rise in air temperature will culminate with an increase in water temperature. That is usually enough to get bass and forage moving around. It will bring bass up from their deep water winter homes where they often suspend. Frequently, bass will actually venture near the surface to warm themselves. You might see this over fallen timber, rocks or dock pilings near shallow areas.

This is because these structures often hold heat. Therefore, the surrounding waters are a degree or two warmer.

Bass are always waiting for spring to hit. When the water temperature climbs, it feels like spring has arrived and they are ready to take advantage of it. They are oblivious to the fact that the weather will most likely crash and get cold again when the front passes. Now, this weather effect may not cause the bass to enter into a big feeding spree, but it should encourage them to hit lures that they would probably have ignored during the early hours of a cold morning.

Locations and Gear for Bass Fishing Winter Months

During winter months, paying attention to the tide seems to have less of a factor on your fishing approach than during other points during the season. Try looking for drop-offs along the river or spots with deep water close by on a lake. Bass are known to stage in these areas while waiting for baitfish. Railroad or highway bridge pilings are a few of the better places to try during the winter months. The vertical structure provides a good piece of cover for which bass will relate.  More importantly, it gives us, the anglers a good target.

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Keep in mind, when the bass shift into their winter patterns, most anglers believe you should break out the finesse gear.

We should also remember to fish all the way around a bridge piling.  This would be a good place to try rigging a grub on a 3/16-ounce shaky head jig. It’s best to use a jig with no weed guard. Winter bass are somewhat weary and may be hesitant to take a lure if their mouth touches the stiff bristles of the weed guard first. When going for the bass suspended near the bottom you might try using ½ to ¾-ounce jigging spoons or maybe a ½ to 1-ounce tail-spinner lure. When water temperatures drop below the mid-’50s, going to a jig and pig or even a jigging spoon are a couple of the top methods to try. Pork trailers are always a good addition in my opinion.

Curly or flat-tail grubs rigged on ¼ to ½-ounce jig heads are also some of the best combinations I have used. Large 7”-12″ worms or baby brush hogs used with a very slow retrieve will also initiate strikes in the colder water temperatures. The majority of the bites will be a light touch and generate only minimal line movement, so stay alert!

Personally, I think it is hard to beat a chartreuse grub or straight worm.

The use of chartreuse soft plastics has become a universal method of attack for this time of year and on through early spring. However, green pumpkin and watermelon tints are good alternative colors. You might also consider black or black with chartreuse tail tips depending on your water clarity. Black is a color that catches bass most everywhere all year long if the water clarity is right.

Another common technique for prompting bass to bite during this season is ever popular practice of split shotting. This is a very basic technique that is inexpensive and easy to set up.  But, there are a few things you should know that will make it a bit easier for you. First off, try to use 6″ straight tail worms. These seem to offer the best presentation with this technique. The other thing to remember is to start off using 1/8 to 3/16 ounce split shot sinkers. You can always adjust the weight as you work the rig and based on your water depth.

Remember that wind can hurt your ability to detect bites with these types of presentations so try to position your boat accordingly.

My choice of rod for this time year would be a medium action 6 to 6 ½’ lightweight rod, with a good backbone and a soft tip. I chose to rig it with 6-pound monofilament or braided line, and a quality spinning reel.

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Plan Before You Go!

Bass fishing during the winter months should not be entered into without forethought. Safety is stressed by some as an important factor when fishing during this time of year. It is imperative that you dress according to the temperature expectations for the day. However, this does not mean that you have to have so many layers on that you look like a giant marshmallow. Some of the better thermal underwear, such as Under Armor, can keep most fishermen warm when put together with a sweatshirt and a good outer coat.  

Many of us often have an extra change of clothes on board, just in case. You can often find yourself wet and miserable after running your rig wide open across the lake during windy and rough conditions. Weather conditions that suddenly change can also give us fits when trying to get the boat loaded on our trailer. A thermos of hot coffee or cocoa and some energy bars would also be a good addition to your gear for your cold water outings. Keeping your core temperature up helps prevent hypothermia.

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The most important thing to remember when fishing during winter months is to slow down.  

Patience isn’t something you can pull from your tackle box but it is just as important. Slow down your approach and work for each bite. You cannot agitate a bass into striking during the winter months. The bass are no more excited about the temperatures than you are. They are moving slow, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. Be subtle while trying these tips and see if you can’t pull a few more lunkers into the boat before things warm up again.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Chuck Boso


I have been a tournament angler for over 16 years giving me a good step up on others who fish on waters in Oklahoma and surrounding states. I am currently sponsored by Enigma Rods, Trapper Tackle, A&M Baits, K9 Fishing Line, Stan Sloan baits and Livingston Lures. I take my relationship with each of these companies very serious and hope to represent them well. I love helping others catch more fish!

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