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IgotWood

Winter bass

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As winter sets in, I find it harder and harder to catch fish. I don't mind cold weather fishing, I've done it my whole life for trout. In trout fishing, it doesn't seem to matter how cold the air or water is. The sun is what gets the fish moving a little bit because it warms the water, the bottom, structure, etc.  Does this same practice also apply to winter bass?? I seem to have a mixed theory. I've heard some people say that a cold, cloudy overcast day will draw the bass off/out of cover to look for food, which I suppose I can buy into. I've also heard people say that a clear sunny day gives warmth and makes bass active. What do you guys think?

I also have been wondering if bass move deep once the cold sets in. Again, I have heard mixed thoughts on this. If they do move deep, what temps, or conditions trigger this move? 

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http://www.bassresource.com/content/search?SearchText=winter+fishing&BrowsePageLimit=30

From about the middle of October to the middle of March is the VERY BEST time for monster smallmouth on the Tennessee River. The fish in my avatar were caught in January.

 

:santa-107:

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Trout are cold water fish bass are warm water fish, very different behavior and locational preferences. Fish have no idea what winter is and it differs regionally. The basses calendar is made of seasonal periods that revolves around water temperature they live in.

Winter is the cold water period and for bass that is when the core water cools down below 55* degrees in most locations. Bass will seek the warmest water they can find during the cold water period, a few degrees makes a big difference. The basses matabelism slows down with the colder water so they eat less making them less active. Baitfish are usually the primary prey source with crawdads being secondary because they tend to burrow into the clay.

Search for baitfish by watching diving fish eating birds or using your sonar if you have a boat. Remember deeper water is usually warmer during the cold water period.

Seasonal periods; (winter) cold water, pre spawn, spawn- 62 to 67* degrees, post spawn, (Summer) warm water above 75* degrees and (fall) transition from warm to cold water.

Tom

* water temps at the depth the bass are in, not the surface.

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3 hours ago, roadwarrior said:

http://www.bassresource.com/content/search?SearchText=winter+fishing&BrowsePageLimit=30

From about the middle of October to the middle of March is the VERY BEST time for monster smallmouth on the Tennessee River. The fish in my avatar were caught in January.

 

:santa-107:

I was about to say I would much rather fish in the winter than I would in the spring fall or summer. Roadwarrior just gave an example why. 

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I fish through the winter here in Maryland for largemouth bass. I enjoy the challenge and have found you can catch some real slobs in the dead of winter.

With cooler water temperatures the metabolism of the largemouth slows down. It takes considerably longer for the largemouth to digest a meal. What this means for us anglers is that at any given time you are fishing for a much smaller percentage of the population than you would be when the water is 80 degrees and the bass are feeding frequently.

My personal theory for locating largemouth in the winter is that they do not necessarily flock towards the warmest water in the lake. I have better luck finding them in areas with "consistent" water temperature. The shallows are out as those waters can heat up during the day but the temperatures can drop like a rock on a cold night. Areas that are subject to cold northwest winds in the winter can also experience rapid temperature drops. I believe this is why you will likely find bass with some water over their heads (more consistent water temps). I will look for hard bottom areas 10 - 20 feet deep that have protection from a northwest wind.

50 degrees and warmer: many presentations are in play, bass can be surprisingly aggressive in these water temperatures

45 - 49 degrees: I slow way down with suspending jerkbaits and jigs

44 degrees and colder: I will crawl a jig at a snails pace

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Everything I see about winter fishing is all for lakes... what about winter fishing a small, muddy pond in Virginia? Also, I've never had much luck with anything in the winter, so any tips are welcome.

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RoadWarrior, WRB, and Turtle....Thank you! This is the exact kind of information I was hoping for. The two lakes I'm fishing are small, and the deepest parts are around 10', and also small in area, compared to the rest of the lake. So this will probably help concentrate the fish in a smaller area? Also, I'm assuming they will still stick to cover?

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During the winter months there are certain conditions one must pay attention to if one wants to be productive.

The first is stability as in stable weather; I don't care what the ambient temperature is as long as the weather has been stable for 3 or 4 days. In order to take full advantage of stable conditions one must have the ability to pick and choose the days you fish.

And no all bass DO NOT swim all over the lake seeking warm water.

I've caught em on wind blown points & in the shade behind a high bluff, both were in the coldest water around.

The second is the bass itself; a bass's metabolism is finally tuned to its circulatory system temperature which is the same as the surrounding water temperature. In cold water their metabolism slows down, their brain slows down, so the bass slows down. In cold water a bass's instincts are less finely tuned, it has less appetite and it mostly stays suspended at or near the bottom.

None of these means the bass will not strike moving lures like spinnerbaits or crankbaits. It does mean they will not chase it far, ya gonna have to hit on the head.

Y'all ever head the term "strike zone"?

Right now that strike zone is tiny!

My personal best of 12.8 was caught in February on a nasty, overcast, rainy, cold morning in shallow warter.

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By now you've read the responses and should be getting the general idea, slow fishing, suspending jerkbaits and jigs are the primary baits, and Catts point of stable weather is spot on. Either stable weather of crappy conditions, or favorable conditions (for us anyways) may do it, the key is "consistent" ,..I've had success in wet cold windy days, and sunny, warmer, and calm days, as long as its been the same for several days. BUT, what does one look for while out on the boat to locate bass, and not the other species present. Good question huh?

 Many fish will hold at a certain depth and close together in that range,.. Meaning as your cruising along watching your finder, you will probably find a myriad of different looking screens,. Some will be fish up kinda close to the surface around 6 to 9 feet deep, probably trout,.. some may be hugging the bottom a foot or so from the bottom, these "could" be bass actively feeding, but I've found usually not, I say "could"  because it looks like a summer pattern and bass will use the same areas and antics as in summer,... and I say "usually not" as I have found its usually perch. or some other like fish, walleye maybe, or sauger, pike, pickeral.,... Bass seem to utilize a funnier than one would think water column. Typically they will spread out using from 12 to even 20 feet of waters while suspending inactive. Meaning,... say your cruising around and the finder is marking nothing, your over 55 feet of water, suddenly your marking fish that range anywhere from 25 to almost 45 feet, and the bottom either drops, or starts rising up. These are "usually" bass, as sunfish and crappie "may" employ the same water columns. With fish closest to the depth change being slightly more active. Even better is when you locate bait around these suspending fish. 

 Now keep in mind this is a scenerio of a large water body that I have found up here, but "can" be found on a small pond as well, just not as predominant.

 Is this a definate scenario? Heck no, but it is what I've found up here in a area that suffers from winters grasp every year, whether we get ice or not.

 I have fished these fish with both the suspending jerkbaits and jig,.but I will also use a spoon as well. A crippled herring smothered in herring scent, a d.b. smelt covered in smelt scent, and a hopkins with a shad scent, etc., etc.,  etc.,...Jigged as a jigging spoon

 Typically when I find these spread out fish on the finder they are bass, usually smallies, but with largemouth mixed in,... even a few bigger crappies may be present. 

 Now on shallow ponds? the deepest water is where I fish, and thats really all you have to choose from. deepest water close to shore is even better if you can find such. and the prevailing baitfish mimicing floating rapala my top choice, with maybe the small hair jig and pork trailer stitched being my second choice.

Now,.many of you northern anglers have winterized the boat, and see the canoe or kayak, or bass raider a viable option as a gas motor is not required. You have one of the three in the back yard just sitting there waiting for you to use,..Your thinking "hmmm, I can still fish off the raider",.or canoe/kayak. "my fishing isnt done till the ice sets in"

 Winter fishing may be close to summer fishing in warmer climates, up here it "kinda" does, but requires extreme safety concerns. Hypothermia sets in quick in colder waters, kayaks, canoes, can be a dangerous venture. Thats not saying your safe on a bass rig, but just a bit safer. I keep a clean deck in winter, as fishing bundled up is a bit different than wearing shorts and a tee shirt. The cumbersome clothing to battle the elements this time of year can cause balance and mobility issues. Make sure you test out your winter clothing options and even raingear over said clothing, before you decide to leave home. If your clothing options have created movement issues? scrap them as a option all together! find clothing that allows freedom of movement without any hiccups. One issue on a boats deck while encountering waves from wind, can end up ugly, the heavy clothing once wet becomes a anchor, and will hinder your efforts to climb back aboard. And that cold water will actually deter proper thought in a moment when you really need it. You may think, "well,..I'll just do this, or that" now, while warm in your home reading this, but once out there, overboard, thought process is robbed quickly. 

 Please, I beg of you, if you plan on fishing cold water? be very careful. Have a plan in place in case of man overboard, a ladder to get back aboard, wear a lifevest when fishing alone, etc. etc. ,, etc.,...It's easy to "plan",... but when you are in that cold water, breathing becomes difficult, strength is robbed, thought is clouded, and whats a easy climb aboard during the summer, now is a climb hindered, and much more difficult. Cold water is a dangerous element, it has, and does kill. So make sure that you have your ducks in a row, OR,...fish with another while winter fishing if you can. It can save your life.

 Winter fishing can and often does provide a shot at a giant, or the lakes biggest bass. But mother nature doesnt just "hand" her to you. You need to respect that cold water, be diligent, but cautious, very, very cautious. It takes a slightly different preparation process to battle these colder than usual bass fishing outings,.. DO SO! Consider the variables, needs and demands

 A old friend once taught me the ever so important,... 7 p's,...and it needs mentioning here. 

Proper Planning and Preparation, Prevents, "Pee" Poor Performance

The last 3? while fishing cold water? not a good combination.

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Ned rig, pointer 78, 1/8 or 1/16 ounce Bucktail jigs, and if you have a clean bottom a 1/2 ounce blade bait.

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11 hours ago, FamilyFishinFood said:

Everything I see about winter fishing is all for lakes... what about winter fishing a small, muddy pond in Virginia? Also, I've never had much luck with anything in the winter, so any tips are welcome.

Cold, muddy water makes for the most difficult situation in the winter. The lack of visibility really shrinks their strike zone and you have to put it on their nose. It sounds like your pond is always muddy? If I encounter that situation I will use a small chatterbait in black and blue and see how slowly I can retrieve it.

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6 hours ago, IgotWood said:

RoadWarrior, WRB, and Turtle....Thank you! This is the exact kind of information I was hoping for. The two lakes I'm fishing are small, and the deepest parts are around 10', and also small in area, compared to the rest of the lake. So this will probably help concentrate the fish in a smaller area? Also, I'm assuming they will still stick to cover?

Small bodies of water are different than larger deep structure reserviors regarding bass behavior and availble prey. I would start fishing near the dam and concentrate efforts where the bank is steep and deep with jigs and worms fished slowly along the bottom and a very slow suspending jerk bait.

Tom

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I believe you have received a bunch of useful information here.  I am in SE Virginia and will only add one other note.  Do not overlook shallow water, especially in ponds.  Most of the waters I fish are 250 acres+.  Even with water temps in the low 40s and high 30s I have caught plenty of fish in less than 4 ft. of water.  My biggest last year, just over 9 lbs., came in January in 3 ft.  I'm not saying these fish are always active, but I do believe a certain percentage of the population never goes that deep, they stay relatively shallow all year.  With that being said, the consistent bite is generally deeper (10-18 ft. in my area).

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3 hours ago, VAHunter said:

My biggest last year, just over 9 lbs., came in January in 3 ft.

Nice! Those are the type of winter fishing results that keep me out there in that winter nastiness. Was there deep water in very close proximity?

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Bass in ponds and small lakes tend to roam the shoreline hunting terrestrial prey. Cold winter air temps tend to put a halt to terrestrial critter activity. If the weather was warm for several days the shallower wind protected areas the water warm faster and the roaming bass may stay there longer. 

In these small lake or pond small fish all the way around it by fan casting to cover as much area as possible. 

Tom

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Winter .... whut ? :huh:

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10 minutes ago, Raul said:

Winter .... whut ? :huh:

you know, winter, when YOUR water cools down enough for the bass to spawn! :D

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I dont fish winter much . I winterize the boat . There was a time I did fish more and caught some real beast . I like stable sunny weather . Fish in the afternoon on steep sunny banks . The lure I had the most success with was an arbogast mudbug , parallel casting the banks and reeling agonizingly slow . I caught some of my biggest bass that way .

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59 minutes ago, Raul said:

Winter .... whut ? :huh:

High altitude mountains where it snows.

Tom

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1 hour ago, Turtle135 said:

you know, winter, when YOUR water cools down enough for the bass to spawn! :D

Got it ! :thumbsup:

11 minutes ago, WRB said:

High altitude mountains where it snows.

Tom

Okie Dokie ! :thumbsup:

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16 hours ago, Turtle135 said:

Nice! Those are the type of winter fishing results that keep me out there in that winter nastiness. Was there deep water in very close proximity?

Yes, the main channel, 20 ft. deep, was located a short swim away. 

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If you have dirty water in the winter in a pond, and you get 3 sunny days in a row, go find water 5' and less, and fish one of the little rebel floaters you can find in the bargain bin at walmart.

 

Don't ask me how I figure that out, but I do that every single winter with great success. Caught one that taped out at 24" doing that one time.

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On 12/5/2016 at 0:01 PM, VAHunter said:

I believe you have received a bunch of useful information here.  I am in SE Virginia and will only add one other note.  Do not overlook shallow water, especially in ponds.  Most of the waters I fish are 250 acres+.  Even with water temps in the low 40s and high 30s I have caught plenty of fish in less than 4 ft. of water.  My biggest last year, just over 9 lbs., came in January in 3 ft.  I'm not saying these fish are always active, but I do believe a certain percentage of the population never goes that deep, they stay relatively shallow all year.  With that being said, the consistent bite is generally deeper (10-18 ft. in my area).

This is very helpful, thank you! And thank to everyone else who replied. When you find them deep, are they generally on some type of cover, like wood, rock, drop-off, etc? The lake I normally fish is pretty flat on the bottom, except for some grass, which makes that area difficult to fish. 

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