Skip to main content

Early Scouting Prepares Anglers for Cold-Front Bass

Early Scouting Prepares Anglers for Cold-Front Bass

cold-front bass
Stephen Browning knows that moving baits like spinnerbaits tend to tempt bass better before and during a front. (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)

Fishing for cold-front bass is generally one of the toughest scenario a bass angler will face, but pro Stephen Browning shares some knowledge that will help you put more fish in the boat

By David A. Brown

There's undeniable logic in knowing the likely spots where bass will seek refuge in the harsh conditions on the backside of a cold front. Raymarine pro Stephen Browning knows well this game and, in his estimation, fishing after a cold front is generally the toughest scenario a bass angler will face.


cold-front bass
LIVETARGET's selection of medium-diving crankbais and lipless rattlebaits, thrown on St. Croix Legend Glass rods, are effective pairings before a cold front. (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)


Browning confronts this daunting scenario with a well-conceived game plan based on forethought and strategy. But first, let's look at how the scene unfolds.

As a weather system approaches the area, winds increase, skies turn cloudy, rain becomes more likely and the falling barometer spurs intense feeding. As the front moves through, the action continues and fish act like they want to eat the motor off the transom.

Then the front passes and things get weird. Wind goes flat, temperature drops, high pressure pushes every streak of cloud from the sky and the dreaded "bluebird" conditions can have you wondering if someone stole all the fish overnight.

More on Bass Fishing


Actually, the fish didn't go anywhere; they've just tucked in close to the nearest cover. Remember, the only way bass can shield their eyes from intense post-front sunlight is to utilize shadows. Similarly, the solid cover they seek radiates absorbed heat — a biggie for shivering fish.

(For clarity, some bass winter on deep offshore spots, but, as Browning notes, a good number remain in mid-depth ranges and even push surprisingly shallow to feed.) 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="504"]cold-front bass LIVETARGET HFC Crawfish. (photo courtesy of Traditions Media)[/caption]

KNOW WHERE TO GO

Browning's adept at locating bass when starting from scratch, but he also knows that bites can be hard to coax in post-frontal conditions, so less time looking means more time earning those bites. Therefore, he likes to attack these tough times with a hit list.

"What really helps me more than anything for post-front fishing is relying on my Raymarine DownVision, SideVision and RealVision 3D sonar to identifying isolated pieces of cover," Browning said. "That may be a stump, the tip of a laydown, a small brush pile, different size rock and subsurface transition areas. All those things are where I start looking to target where those fish should move to. 

cold-front bass
Photo courtesy Traditions Media

Stephen Browning's Raymarine AXIOM PRO 12 reveals a large pile of brush and laydowns. RealVision 3D technology depicts the cover in red, fish holding tight to the cover in blue, green, orange, and yellow spheres. Browning says RealVision 3D is especially helpful in revealing not only where the fish are in relation to the cover — but how deep in the water column. Also note that Browning's placed waypoints at the beginning and end of the brush pile for precision casting.

"The cold front is going to put those fish directly onto those targets. I think that is the key — identifying the target and making presentations to that specific target. If you have stable weather, you can catch them in a lot of different places this time of year, but once that cold front hits, I think there going to jump in there beside that stump; they're going hang out in that little cluster of rocks; they're going to bury up in that tree top. That's where your electronics can really save the day."

WHAT TO THROW

When the front is approaching or passing, Browning gets much of his work done with Live Target mid-range crankbaits, or the Golden Shiner lipless crankbait. Remember, this is the period when bass have the feed bag on, so covering water with reaction baits is the way to go. Spinnerbaits and Z-Man ChatterBaits also fit this plan.

Now, when the front passes and the fish put on their pouty face, Browning says it's time to slow down, refer to the waypoints he's marked on his Raymarine Axiom and turn to the targeted presentation plan. 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="580"]cold-front bass Z-Man Project Z Chatterbait (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)[/caption]

Z-Man Project Z Chatterbait

"On these days, I'm throwing two different baits: I'm throwing a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce Jewel football jig and I'm throwing a ball head shaky head jig with a 4- to 7-inch finesse worm," Browning said. "I would rather catch a fish on a football jig because I feel that fish is going to be a little better quality.

"But if I really think I'm around fish, but they're not taking the (larger) jig, that's when I fall back on the shaky head. It doesn't put out a lot of vibration; it is a super finesse style of fishing, even during the winter time."

As for football jig trailer selection, Browning offers this advice: "I use a Z-Man Turbo CrawZ during times when I think the fish are feeding actively. When the front comes through and the fish are less active, I'll use the more subtle Z-Man Bat WingZ, which is the standard split tail trailer. I'll trim my jig skirt up really tight and try to make it a really compact profile."

cold-front bass
Emergent stumps are easy to spot, but Stephen Browning relies on his Raymarine unit to show him the deeper structures that will harbor post-frontal bass. (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)

MIND THE DETAILS

Yeah, we have a general outline of what to expect on every page of the calendar, but nature bristles with variables; many of which can determine how greatly a weather system impacts a bass fishery. Among them:

Seasonal Severity: Simple math. If you have a full bag of M&Ms and I take a quarter of them, you still have plenty. But if your candy bag is only half full and I take 25 percent, you're not going to be happy with me.

Apply this to a cold front and it's easy to see that a mild fall/winter can absorb event a stout cold front if air and water temperatures have remained moderate. It's those years when fall sees early and significant temperature declines that see subsequent cold fronts seriously denting the bass fishing scene. 

cold-front bass
When post-frontal conditions find fish lethargic and evasive, slow down and target specific cover with jigs and shaky heads. (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)

Frontal Intensity: Expounding on the previous thought, a front's impact is largely measured by how much the temperature drops. There's no one-size-fits-all cold front formula. Some are mere irritations, others straight-up game changers. Also, the amount of rain a front brings can become a temporary factor, as runoff will stain the areas with concentrated inflows.

After Hours: Daytime temperatures certainly matter, but overnight lows can be the real bite killers. Consider that the pace at which a morning's action unfolds directly correlates to the temperature deficit the sun must overcome. Other words, if the pre-front water was, say, 55 degrees and it dropped to 50 between sundown and sunup; it wouldn't take too long for the the next day to reach a temperature at which the fish might cooperate. However, when the night of a cold front's passage delivers a double-digit decline, you can take your time at the launch ramp — it's gonna be a slow start.

Ultimately, each year and each cold front shapes up a little differently. There's only so much predictability you can count on; and often, you simply have to hit the water and make a firsthand evaluation.

Of course that's always easier when you have a place to start — and maybe find your dream come true.

cold-front bass
LIVETARGET medium-running crankbaits are a good bet for the aggressive pre-frontal feeding frenzy. (Photo courtesy of Traditions Media)

This article is courtesy of Traditions Media

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Veto Pebble Mine Campaign

Veto Pebble Mine Campaign

Veto Pebble Mine Campaign

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

From barracuda to wahoo to kingfish to sailfish and beyond, these new Daiwa saltwater rods rely on HVG technology (that makes them 50% lighter), soft tips to protect leaders as big fish make strong runs, and strong backbones to help anglers crank up hard-fighting species from below.

Rapala OG Slim 6

Rapala OG Slim 6

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ Ott Defoe sits down with In-Fisherman Associate Publisher Todd Ceisner, to talk about Rapala's new OG Slim 6 crankbait. The OG Slim 6 will feature a flat-sided, balsa body, and will dive around 6 feet. Featuring a circuit board lip, the OG Slim 6 deflects off of cover better than traditional plastic lips. Offered in 14 colors and available in tackle stores Fall 2020. MSRP $10.99.

What

What's New with Abu Garcia Veritas Rods?

There are big changes to Abu Garcia's popular Veritas series of rods. Andrew Wheeler highlights the new features with In-Fisherman's Doug Stange as part of our 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters.The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day Whitetail

10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day

M.D. Johnson - August 26, 2020

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.

Starting opening day, there's a small window to tag out before pressure impacts buck movement. Make the most of it.Quick-Strike Tips for Early Archery Deer Success Whitetail

Quick-Strike Tips for Early Archery Deer Success

Tony Peterson - August 18, 2020

Starting opening day, there's a small window to tag out before pressure impacts buck movement....

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can Stories

Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can

Adam Heggenstaller - June 24, 2020

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.

From striped bass to giant speckled trout and largemouths, these two southern destinations offer a variety of family fishing opportunities.Destinations: Fishing Fun in the Southern Sun Playbook

Destinations: Fishing Fun in the Southern Sun

John N. Felsher - July 24, 2020

From striped bass to giant speckled trout and largemouths, these two southern destinations...

Summer playbook: Ready for a little summer fun the whole family can enjoy? Here are some of the West's top destinations for family fishing adventures.Take Epic West Fishing Adventure Right Now Playbook

Take Epic West Fishing Adventure Right Now

Scott Haugen - July 27, 2020

Summer playbook: Ready for a little summer fun the whole family can enjoy? Here are some of...

Game & Fish headed south to battle giant bass in old Mexico to test the latest baitcasting gear.Tackle Test 2020: Best Baitcasting Rods & Reels Bass

Tackle Test 2020: Best Baitcasting Rods & Reels

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn

Game & Fish headed south to battle giant bass in old Mexico to test the latest baitcasting...

See More Bass

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now