Keri: Here, you little feisty thing. Come hither. You are a feisty thing. There you are. You are a feisty one. Not happy at all. That one's not having that in his mouth. Another little drop shot bass come over. Hey there, little guy. He was, like, almost behind the boat. They're cold.
Glenn: Hey, folks. Glenn May here at BassResource.com and today, I want to talk about winter bass fishing strategies. It's really interesting to me in the wintertime because a lot of guys put away their rods and reels for the winter and won't fish until the springtime. And you know, I think that's a mistake because the fish are still biting and a lot of times, the bass, they're about the biggest they're going to be year-round. So, your chances of catching a trophy fish are pretty good. Albeit the bite isn't super fast, so, you've got to keep that in mind.
But today, I want to talk about this. You really have to have a little bit of different approach to wintertime fishing armed with a really good set of knowledge on bass behavior during the wintertime to up your odds in catching some of these trophy fish. So, that's what we're going to go through today. Let's get into some of the fishing strategies and things you need to know about, starting with locating these bass. There's two main things to focus on during the wintertime. That is deeper water and bait fish.
For the most part, let's talk about deeper water first. Bass, as a general rule, are deeper during the wintertime than they are during, say, the spring and summer. So, the best way to find them is twofold. One is if you're familiar with the lake and you have been successful during pre-spawn fishing or during the fall then you're pretty close already to where the bass are going to be. Just like in pre-spawn where you're, kind of, a step away from the actual spawning flats, take your position where that pre-spawn is and take a step back, a little bit deeper. And that's probably a good starting point for wintertime fishing. They're gonna be a little bit deeper away from those pre-spawn areas but not too far away from them, as a general rule. It's a good starting point.
Another way to find them is use your depth finder, look around, find that structure. Here you're looking for underwater humps, you're looking for underwater islands, ridges, long tapering points, those kind of things. Typically I'd start around that 15 to 25-foot range. In the neck of the woods I'm in, the dead of winter, you're looking at 50 plus, seriously, 45 to 55-feet water in some bodies I fish on is where the bass hang out. So, as a general rule, just back up a little bit from those pre-spawn areas and start there to find them.
The other thing is find those bait fish. Bass are not gonna wander far from the bait fish. So, what I like to do is look around with my graph and see if I can't find balls of bait fish and figure out at what depth are they hanging out at, and then I look for that intersection of structure. Say they're hanging out in 20 feet of water, well, I'll look for those long tapering points, for example, and I'll start fishing right about 20 feet of water and see if I can hook up with any bass that way. Same thing with the ridges and the humps and ditches and that sort of thing. So, that's, as a general rule, a good way to start out finding those bass. They're not gonna wonder far from those bait fish.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with the body of water, then a good map, a good topographical map combined with the map on your GPS unit, if you have a boat, can help you find those areas. Again, you're looking for those underwater structure areas that can intersect at different depth levels where those bait fish might be hiding. So, see if you can find those on maps, mark them first before you go out fishing so it speeds up your time to find and locate those fish.
Keri: There you go. That's much better.
Glenn: There we go.
Keri: Much better. A little 8-incher.
Glenn: He's a little bit bigger than that. He's a little bigger than that.
Keri: Maybe 10.
Glenn: Welcome aboard, big guy. He is cold.
Keri: Look at that. He's cold?
Glenn: Cold. You're cold. Got him right in the cheek. That'll work.
Okay. Let's talk a little bit about lure selection. It's actually a lot easier in the wintertime to figure out what lures to use because, as a general rule, bass aren't gonna be hitting top-water baits, they're not gonna be aggressively chasing down fast-moving baits, like crankbaits and spinnerbaits. So, that leaves you to slower-moving baits and baits that stay or hug on the bottom or stay near the bottom. So, my lure selection choice would start off with jigs, two different kinds of jigs. One is your typical, you know, rubber-skirted jig, football head jig, because you're fishing structure not cover for the most part, so you're fishing rocky areas so football head jig is perfect for that, or ball-headed jig, but I like to go with football.
And with that, you're imitating a crawdad. And crawdads during the wintertime are a bit lethargic, they're moving slow, they are affected by the winter, the cold water, so they move slow. They're not hopping and jumping up off the bottom and moving around so just crawl it on the bottom, just drag it along the bottom. You can do this with your rod, just drag, just move your rod and watch your rod tip. Or what I like to do a lot of times is I just take the boat and I drift over those structure areas I just talked about, just dragging that football jig. I usually go with a little bit heavier jig, like a half-ounce jig, sometimes up to a three-quarter ounce if I'm fishing really deep. That just allows me to maintain bottom, contact with the bottom. I can really feel if there's any light pickups when the bass grab them.
The other kind of lure I like to use is a hair jig. Hair jigs do a great job of imitating bait fish. And during this time of year, the bait fish, more than any other kind of fish in the lake are affected by colder temperatures. The colder it is, the more they struggle to stay alive, particularly if you have, like, threadfin shad. If you don't have that, even the perch and gobies, those fish will struggle at times when the water gets really cold, they'll get real lethargic and move slowly because they're trying to conserve energy. So, a hair jig can really imitate that action.
Hair jig, you can either drag it right on the bottom and here, you're trying to make it look like, say, a goby just hanging out, just dragging along the bottom or a sculpin. And sculpin don't have air bladders so they're not gonna lift up off the bottom. So, don't do that, they won't look natural. Just drag it along the bottom just like you did a jig. You can also use a hair jig when you find those balls of bait fish sitting over structure and let that hair jig drop through that bait fish down to the bass that are sitting down underneath and it looks just like a little bait fish that's dying and struggling to stay alive and that triggers that predatory instinct with the bass and they're gonna engulf it. So, great bait to use, both on the bottom as well as suspended fish during the wintertime.
That was a pick-up. It just got light. I just lost the weight. There we go. Cold-water jig fish. All right. Not a huge one, but hey, I'll take it in the wintertime.
Another type of bait I like to use are the metal blades...metal baits. The metal baits, those are things like spoons and also blade baits. Spoons, what they do is they don't even look like anything, you know, in the natural wild, right? But they imitate that dying bait fish action, which is what the bass are really keying on. Again, these bait fish are struggling to stay alive and a lot of them are dying, so what they do is they, kind of, flutter. They fall. They try to stabilize themselves and dart back up and they fall again. And that's exactly how you fish a spoon, you get it down towards the bottom, you jig it up and let it flutter back down on slackline. And that action is what the bass, they're triggered on biting, so a spoon can be very, very effective.
Blade baits are a little bit different. They're smaller. They do look like a bait-fish profile and they vibrate a lot. So, those are great. You rip them up off the bottom, again, flutter back down, but a lot of times, the bass will hit the blade bait as it comes off the bottom versus a spoon when they hit it on the fall. For that reason, I like to also take a blade bait and bring it along the bottom contours over structure. Sometimes I'll take the boat and I'll put it in shallow water, throw it out deeper and bring that blade bait uphill, just crawl on the bottom letting it move along just real slowly, it can look, you know, like an innocent little bait fish that's wandered off from its school. Easy target for the bass. So, blade baits and spoons.
My next choice would be finesse baits using either a split shot or a drop shot rig. These baits are, for example, I will use a 3-inch minnow-type bait and put it on a drop shot. I'll use a shorter leader this time of year because a lot of times the bass are hanging out right on the bottom so I want to get that bait right down near them so I'm using an 8 to 10-inch leader versus, you know, an 18 to 24-inch leader that I do in the summertime. So, a shorter leader. And I move it nice and slow again. You're trying to imitate a dying bait fish, so they're not gonna move real fast. So don't shake the tip really hard and make all this movement. You just want to make it nice, and easy, and slow. And again, I do the same thing as I do with the jigs, I just drag it along the bottom with the rod tip down pointed at the water and watch for that bite. Because you're moving really slow, the bass doesn't have to, you know, chase after it and annihilate it, so a bite is gonna be more subtle. Watch for that bite. It's gonna be very soft. It may just feel like a little spongy feel on your drop shot.
Another bait I like to use is a 3-inch tube. I'll put that on a split shot and do the same presentation, but here, again, I'm looking for, like, a bait fish or a crawdad that's crawling on the bottom. Same presentation but different bait. And I also like to use finesse worms, 4-inch hand-poured finesse worms. I can use them both on a drop shot and a split shot. Same presentation. Color-wise, I like to stick with green pumpkin, and the browns, the natural colors because the bait's moving slower, it gives a little more time for the bass to examine it so you want it to look natural to them. So, those are the baits I use during the wintertime.
Keri: Oh, you're pulling like you're mean.
Glenn: There you go. That's a bit better.
Keri: Pulling like you're mean.
Glenn: That's a good fish there. There you go. That's a largemouth.
Keri: Boy, oh, boy. You are not happy with me.
Glenn: There we go. That does the trick.
Keri: That does the trick, drop shot fish. There we go. There we go. There we go, much better fish. Much better. That's what we've been waiting all day for.
Glenn: That's a good one.
Keri: Thank you, dude. Got a little belly on him.
Glenn: Yeah. That works.
Keri: Got a little fish, drop shotting. Here you go, baby. Thank you for the play. That was fun. Slowly just saunters off.
Glenn: One other tip I want to give you for bass fishing during the wintertime is use your electronics, really learn how to use your electronics. Get it off the auto mode and understand how to interpret what those electronics are telling you because a lot of times here, you're not fishing visible structure. You're not fishing docks or stumps that are sticking out of the water or lily pad fields, that sort of stuff where you see it. Here, you gotta use your underwater eyes to see that structure, so you need to be able to find and understand the difference between, say, chunk rock and gravel or a hard bottom and a soft bottom, besides just the contour changes. Really understand what kind of bottom that is.
And then be able to pick out your lure. A lot of these presentations, such as jigging spoons, using blade baits, using drop shot, you know, you're sitting right over the spot in deeper water and you can use your electronics to watch that bait come down through the water column. And a lot of times, you can see the bass react to it and you can adjust your tactics. It's almost like sight fishing that you see in the springtime. You can watch bass react to your lure and change your presentation to get them to bite. If you can really understand your electronics and understand what you're seeing, it's very similar. It's like sight fishing. So, take the time to understand your electronics because it's a valuable asset during the wintertime.
Armed with these tips, you're gonna catch yourself a big fish during the wintertime. Understand it's gonna be slow, but when you do catch a fish, it's gonna be a big one. For more tips and tricks like this, visit BassResource.com.