Winter bass fishing

5 Top Baits for Winter Bass Fishing

Guide Jack Uxa’s five lure choices for wintertime bass are (left to right) a Ned rig, crankbait, jig, Alabama rig, and jerkbait.
Guide Jack Uxa’s five lure choices for wintertime bass are (left to right) a Ned rig, crankbait, jig, Alabama rig, and jerkbait. 

The tacklebox bulging with fall bass lures slims considerably for wintertime bass fishing.

Topwaters, fast-moving lures, and tons of soft plastics can be eliminated from the tacklebox when winter arrives. Missouri guide Jack Uxa considers winter the easiest season to choose baits for bass fishing. "All of your fast-moving baits are out of the question," Uxa says. "This time of year, you just need a handful of rods in the boat." 

Water temperatures in Uxa's part of the country drop into the upper 30-degree range throughout winter, and his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks rarely freezes over anymore. The cold water forces Uxa to slow down his lures, but he can still work his baits "fairly fast" in early winter. 

"One thing about winter fishing is you have to find the schools of bass," Uxa says. "You will definitely find clusters of five to seven bass in an area, which is your goal." The guide fishes with moving baits first to cover water and when he catches a bass or two, he switches to slower-moving lures to pick off the rest of the bass in the school. 

Uxa's top five picks for wintertime bass fishing are the following lures.

  1. Jerkbait 

    A jerkbait is an effective lure for catching numbers of suspended wintertime bass.
    A jerkbait is an effective lure for catching numbers of suspended wintertime bass.

    “A jerkbait is great for catching a variety of sizes of bass and is good in many different conditions," Uxa says. “It is a great bait for mimicking baitfish. It can be twitched to make plenty of flash and paused.” Uxa notes the lure is ideal for the deep, clear reservoirs in his region where bass suspend during winter. The flash catches the attention of a suspending bass, and the pause gives even the most lethargic fish a chance to swim up to the lure and eat it.  

    Uxa’s favorite suspending stickbaits for wintertime bass are the 4 1/2-inch Berkley Stunna and the Tackle HD Fiddle-Styx. He favors white jerkbaits for cloudy days and flashy chrome colors on sunny days.   Translucent and natural colors also produce for Uxa throughout the winter. 

    The Missouri angler varies his retrieves depending on the day’s conditions. "There are times when I am working a jerkbait fairly fast, and there are other times I am deadsticking it," he says. His standard retrieve is a series of two rod jerks, followed by a short pause, then three jerks and a pause.

    A 6-foot, 6-inch, or 6-09 medium action spinning rod and spinning reel are Uxa's combo for casting a jerkbait, especially on windy days. His reel is filled with a main line of 15-pound Spiderwire braid with a 6-foot leader of 10-pound monofilament line. 

  2. Alabama Rig 

    The Alabama rig is Uxa’s wintertime power fishing presentation with a heavy action casting rod and thick line. “I want to be able to put my back into it to be able to make long casts and want to set the hook hard,” Uxa says. “Sometimes the bass will absolutely hammer it, and when they do, I like to hit them back just as hard as they hit me."  Uxa favors the rig for wintertime bass because he can cover more water with it, and it usually produces bigger fish than the jerkbait. He claims the A-rig is also great for tricking suspended bass and is easy to see on forward-facing sonar and tell how bass are reacting to his presentation. 

    Retrieving an Alabama rig at a slow, steady pace triggers strikes from quality bass in the winter.
    Retrieving an Alabama rig at a slow, steady pace triggers strikes from quality bass in the winter.  

    Alabama rigs equipped with lots of spinner blades, such as the Yum Yumbrella Flash Mob, are Uxa's top pick for most wintertime situations, although he will switch to umbrella rigs without spinners on calm, sunny days. He adorns the rig with 3.5- or 4-inch Tackle HD swimmer swimbaits (white, Tennessee shad, or gray ghost hues) attached to 1/8- or 3/16-ounce jigheads.   

    A slow, steady retrieve produces the best for Uxa most of the time in the winter. "Speed is an important factor when it comes to Alabama rigs," says Uxa, who states he constantly has to remind his clients to slow down their retrieve so the rig stays in the strike zone. 

    Uxa beefs up his gear for his A-rig by using a 7-09 heavy action casting rod and a 6.3:1 gear ratio baitcast reel filled with 20- or 25-pound fluorocarbon line. 

  3. Jig

    “Jigs are just a versatile lure that you can pitch into some cover and get it behind docks," Uxa says. The tournament veteran opts for jigs to pitch behind docks on steep banks where he can stair-step the lure down any ledges behind the docks. 

    Uxa opts for a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce jig in peanut butter and jelly, brown or black-and-blue colors for his wintertime fishing. His favorite jig trailers for winter bass are green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craws or a Chompers Possum Tail.   

    Crawling the jig along the bottom, is Uxa's standard wintertime retrieve, although he will occasionally twitch the bait and pause it when fishing around cover. He presents the jig with a 7-0 heavy action casting rod and 8.0:1 baitcast reel spooled with 15-pound test Berkley Trilene Professional Grade 100% Fluorocarbon.

  4. Ned Rig

    “The Ned rig definitely has a place that needs to be discussed in the wintertime," Uxa says, “It is an absolute fish catcher.” Uxa suggests the rig catches a lot of small bass, but there are times when big bass will eat a smaller meal in the wintertime. He proclaims the rig is ideal for fishing during the bright bluebird skies of a cold front. 

    Uxa’s Ned rig consists of a 1/8-ounce jighead with a wire weedguard combined with a Crock-O-Gator Shortie, a 3.5-inch worm with a floating bulbous tail. Uxa favors a floating worm because it makes the Ned rig stand up better when dragged along the bottom. His color choices for the worm include green pumpkin, black blue, watermelon red, and brown with some blue tint. 

    The Ned rig produces best for Uxa when he lets it sink to the bottom and slowly reels it along the lake's floor. He retrieves the rig with a 7-foot medium action spinning rod and medium-size spool spinning reel filled with a main line of 10-pound braid and a 6-foot leader of 10-pound monofilament.

  5. Crankbait

    The crankbait is most successful for Uxa during early and late winter when the water temperature ranges from 45 to 50 degrees.   His favorite wintertime crankbaits are the number 5 Berkley Fritts Side, a small flat-side crankbait with a tight wiggle action, and the Tackle HD Crankhead that dives deeper and has a wide wobbling action. Browns and reds are Uxa's primary color options for his wintertime crankbaits. 

    Uxa makes sure he employs a slower retrieve for cranking in the wintertime. "There are going to be days when a stop-and-go retrieve will be absolute murder for bass,” Uxa says. “Some days it is about getting your bait down into those rocks and just ticking it, kind of reeling it fast until you get it down to those rocks and then slow it up.”

    The Missouri angler relies on spinning tackle for his crankbaits because casting the lures into the wind is easier. He opts for a 7-foot medium action rod and a medium-size spool spinning reel loaded with 10-pound monofilament.