How important is retrieve speed in cold water? Some anglers may tell you they fish just as fast in winter as they do in spring. However, most successful cold-water anglers will tell you slowing down the presentation is the best.
Biologist and experienced anglers agree bass will not normally chase a lure in water much colder than 50 degrees. An exception to this would be when bass move up to shallower water after a few warm days, and after a warm rain. As a rule of thumb, it is best to slow down your presentation during the winter months.
A grub can be one of the most effective bass lures for cold water. A 4-inch curly tail grub on a 1/4-ounce jig head can be all that is needed to catch your share of bass. Target steep, chunk-rock banks with as much as a 45-degree slope. Bass prefer these areas because they can make extreme depth changes by moving up and down the water column to feed without using much energy.
Cast to the shallow edge of the steep bank and then allow the grub to sink, raising the rod tip as the bait reaches the bottom to lift the grub up into the water column. Anglers often find success when repeating this technique until the grub is back to the boat. Bass often bite when the grub is on the fall, so be ready to set the hook.
If it is a trophy bass you’re targeting during the winter, it is important to learn weather patterns. Timing your fishing trips when there is a break in the cold temperatures can help. Fronts can bring relatively warm rain and a barometric pressure change; this can be one of the most productive times to fish.
A warming weather trend in conjunction with a barometric change will cause bass to feed as the bait will migrate to areas with the warmest water, usually in the back of creeks. Bait will then move out to the mouth as the water cools back down. One degree in water temperature can make a huge difference. Fishing with cold-water lures, like a jig and trailer, on the shaded banks just might land that trophy you’re looking for.
During the winter months, you may read a lot of articles about jigs and spinnerbaits, and how to use them for cold-water bass. Both lures do well as the jig and the spinnerbait are similar in design and use similar techniques when fishing them. The difference between the two is the spinner blade and the attaching wire. However, the Punisher Head Spinner is a hybrid innovation between the two and features a chip-resistant paint job, a Sampo ball-bearing swivel to enable the blade to spin easily at any retrieve speed. Backed with a sharp hook, the Head Spinner will hook and hold any bass that bites.
The Head Spinner works well when fished over deep cover, such as brush piles, around standing cover, like bridge pilings and standing timber, and along weed edges. You can use the Head Spinner with all of your favorite soft plastics or rig it with a skirt for a unique look. Use the Punisher Head Spinner with any single- or double-tail grub or the Super Fluke or Super Fluke Jr. as a trailer.
In winter, as the water temperature falls into the middle to low 50s, try pitching these innovative jigs to the wooden cover and work it the same way you would a jig. Allow it to fall while maintaining a tight line as it bounces off the limbs, shimmering and fluttering on the way down. Watch for subtle line movement and be ready to set the hook.
As water temperatures continue to drop and the lake turns, bass feed aggressively. Sensing winter is close, their metabolism will slow down; bass prepare by feeding heavily on the big baits when the water temperature is in the 50s. This can be a great time to throw a soft-plastic swimbait. Concentrate in the 4- to 10-foot range near docks, any remaining grass and broken mats.
Under blue skies, a few days into a cold front, fish deeper with a weighted swimbait on the bottom like fishing a jig. Concentrate on rock piles or drop-off by slowly crawling and hopping the bait across structure. Baits like these by FishHouse Lures can quickly entice a cold-water bite in winter.
A soft-plastic worm worked very slowly can be one of the most effective winter bass fishing techniques. By simply allowing the worm to lie motionless on targeted structure or “dead sticking” the worm and then shaking the rod tip occasionally can produce bites. Using a bait injected with a quality bass attractant, such as Attack Pak Juiced Up X10 formula, can be rewarding during the cold winter months.
Bass jigs with crawfish trailer worked slowly across bottom structure and cover, such as rocks and wood, can be a good tactic in winter. Cast the jig and allow it to settle a moment before starting your retrieve; bass sometimes will grab the bait from the bottom shortly after the fall. However, many strikes occur as the jig is on the fall. Fish the jig slowly, avoiding the temptation to retrieve the jigs quickly. Twitch and hop the bait along slowly, enticing the bass to take the bait.
Keep safety in mind when cold-water fishing, dress in layers and always wear a PFD.