In the south, we all too often bail on the topwater bite after waking up to frost on our vehicles for the first time. As anglers, we have a tendency to fish the air temperatures and not the water temperatures. In the spring, a warm sunny day will have us burning baits back to the boat when the water temps are in the ‘40s and the fish are still in a slow roll mood. In the early winter, our need for coveralls and toboggans will have us crawling baits through water that’s still in the mid-’50s, not considering buzzbait fishing.
The truth is, it takes several consecutive days of cold or warm air temps to really get the mercury moving in either direction relative to water temps. So you need to really focus on what the fish are feeling and not what you’re feeling. Bass will still bite a topwater bait when the water temperatures are in the mid-’50s.
I even caught a 6-pounder in a club tournament once on a Stanley Ribbit in 49-degree water.
Though I would not recommend pursuing a topwater bite when the water is that cold. I shouldn’t have been that day. But I had caught a 3- and 4-pounder the weekend prior during practice on the Ribbit. We had a massive cold front leading up to the tournament and the water temps plummeted from the mid-’50s to upper ‘40s. Still, nothing else was working for me the day of the tournament so, against my better judgment, I picked up the Ribbit and was pleasantly surprised.
Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Slow Roll or Bust
The point is, fish will still bite a topwater even when we don’t think they will. A buzzbait is one of the best topwater baits for this timeframe. To get bit buzzbait fishing in colder water, you’re going to want to really crawl the bait along. Hold your rod tip up a bit and fish the bait as slow as you can while still keeping it up on the surface.
I’ve caught fish on both 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce buzzbaits this time of year. The 1/4-ounce buzzbait is a little easier to fish slow and better mimics shad if you’re around an abundance of bait. But if I’m not around a lot of bait, I prefer the slow, deep chug of a 1/2-ounce buzzbait in cold water.
Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Conditions to Look For
There seems to be some correlation to sunny days and catching fish on a buzzbait for me personally, but I honestly think that’s probably a false positive due to the tendency I mentioned earlier. I’m guilty as well of not even considering buzzbait fishing on a brutally cold winter day.
There are also some sunny winter days where a buzzbait is pointless since the water temps have already plummeted deep into the ‘40s. However, 3 or 4 consecutive sunny days in a row can bring the water temps back up into the ‘50s as long as there aren’t disastrously low temps at night between those sunny days.
So on the tail end of a trend like that, be ready to break a buzzbait back out.
Warm rains can also raise the water temps here in the south. And shallow water is the quickest to change temperature due to the multiple days of sunshine or rain. So if you find yourself in a situation where your body is telling you no but the temp on your graph is telling you yeah, just try it out. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.