Three Best Lures For Cold Water Bass Fishing
“Global Warming my butt,” I thought as I wiggled my frozen toes. Air temperature was around 40 degrees with a 15 mph north wind – much more suited to deer or duck hunting. I made another cast and started counting to 20, the depth of the shad school we were following. After a couple slow cranks the tube stopped and I set the hook on a chunky largemouth bass.
Many anglers simply quit fishing when the cold months arrive. But the bass are still there, and they’ve got to eat. Just because they don’t respond to warm weather tactics doesn’t mean they quit biting. They adjust to the cold water, and you should too.
Three lures/techniques seem to rise to the top when fishing cold water: swimming a tube or swimbait, jerking a Rogue and vertical jigging. Working a jig in slow motion is another option, but I don’t have the patience for that. Here are some tips on each of these productive wintertime bass fishing techniques.
When bass are relatively active, swimming a new YUM F2 2ube can produce plenty of action. Tubes can be Texas-rigged with a pegged sinker or with an internal weight, or on a internal jighead. This technique shines when you see those bigger marks on your electronics that indicate bass near concentrations of baitfish.
Baitfish is the key to success swimming a tube. Locate the biggest schools of baitfish and slowly move around the perimeter to check for bass before making a cast.
Lure designer and big-bass enthusiast Mitch Looper perfected this technique for catching cold-water bass and has some advice on the retrieve.
“Count it down to the level of the fish, then slowly begin your retrieve,” he said. “Think slow, but make three pulls leaving some slack in your line after every pull. The slack is important because it causes the tube to turn left or right. After three pulls you’ve pulled the tube up about 5 feet, so count to five to let it get back down before slowly repeating the pulls.”
Instead of the typical green pumpkin or watermelon red flake tube that gets the nod when fishing other techniques, Looper recommends a more baitfish color pattern for his swimming technique.
The other technique that depends on baitfish is vertical jigging a CC Spoon. This is a pinpoint presentation in which the lure is dropped through the school of baitfish and repeatedly snapped upward.
Beginning process for this technique is the same as for swimming a tube – locate the baitfish before casting. Vertical jigging is a great option when bass are less active and won’t take the tube.
Vertical jigging the spoon can be successful by simply following the baitfish and working the water just below them, but is best when the baitfish are positioned close to a piece of structure such as a ridge, creek channel intersection, hump or cover on the edge of a channel. Often, bass will hold on this cover/structure while inactive, then take the short trip to the baitfish when feeding. Drop a vertical jig on their heads, though, and you often can force-feed them.
The third technique for cold water is working a jerkbait over steeply sloping banks in very cold water and long points during a warming trend. Using a Smithwick Rogue or XCalibur Jerkbait or Twitch Bait, make long casts, crank the bait down and begin a jerk-jerk-pause retrieve.
Many pros say that it’s the pause, not the jerks or twitches, that is the key to this technique. Do not get in a hurry. Vary the duration of your pauses from just a second or two to excruciatingly long waits of up to a minute.
One pro told this story about jerking a Rogue. “My partner seemed to have a cigarette in his mouth the whole day, and he was whipping me. He was catching bass after bass while I was using the same lure and not doing much. I finally made a cast and cranked it down, then stopped and got my cigarettes out of my pocket, got one out, dug around for my lighter and finally lit it. Bam! Fish on. It was those terribly long pauses that were key.”
Here are a couple more tips on jerkbaiting. After a few days of warming weather, bass often hold shallow over deeper water. In this instance, a floating jerkbait will stay in the strike zone. Same goes if throwing a jerkbait in shallow water, such as that in an isolated cove with warmer water than the rest of the lake. When bass are lethargic and the water extremely cold, a deeper-running model that suspends is best. But always remember, it’s the pause that counts.