Bass Fishing – Best Tactics And Lures

Many anglers are of the opinion that there is not a better time of year for fishing than in the fall once the water temperature drops and the bite is on, under most circumstances the bass in much of North America cooperate right on through winter. The transition between the seasons of fall and winter has witnessed many trophy bass on mild afternoons.  There are some things that cold water anglers must consider to be successful, first of all understanding how the metabolism of a cold-blooded bass slows down as the waters get colder slowing digestion and their need to eat as frequently. This understanding will bring presentation and lure selection into perspective, improving the angler’s ability to catch cold water bass. Angler must however keep a positive attitude, and keep safety in mind       

 It is a fact that bass can be caught in cold water. Bass feed in preparation for winter instinctively when the water temperature drops until it is low enough to slow down their digestion and activity, but even then they must maintain strength and size.  Anglers have perfected several successful patterns which are based on the conditions of the weather, water temperature and structure. I will review some of these cold water tactics anglers have proven to work.  

Crankbaits

By Konjushenko Vladimir/shutterstock

As fall water temperatures drop bass are in a migration toward shallow water. Anglers can find bass along the edges of feeder tributary channels, most often near the bottom. The depth of the channel edge determines the depth for anglers to use crankbaits for fishing the productive areas such as the outer edges of weed beds and stump fields. If bass are not produced soon in the cover, anglers try keeping the lure near the bottom. Vary retrieve speeds with a crankbait keeping contact with the bottom along weed edges and bumping the stumps along the edge of the stump field to some big fall bass. The newer square billed deep divers by Bomber transition well from hard bottoms to rocks and to brush and stumps.

Spinnerbaits

The areas with shallow cover will hold large numbers of bass when fall weather conditions are stable for a few days. Often bass in these conditions are active and aggressive. Spinnerbaits with a fast retrieve excel in this environment producing very nice bass. Custom lures, like this one made by Bionic Custom Baits can change the game when they match the local forage in a lake like manufactured lures cannot compare to.  

Tandem rigs

In the fall when the bass start busting on bait fish, there is a presentation that resembles stray bait much better than an Umbrella Rig, and that is a tandem rig like the one here by Logic Lures. Just cast past the school and retrieve as it sinks below to where the big bass are waiting for the strays. The natural schooling action of this rig by Logic Lures is so lifelike it is amazing. The tungsten weights provide the right amount of weight and clicking sound to turn the head of feeding bass.  

Top Water

Top water schooling activity in bass can reach its pinnacle in the middle of the fall. Anglers use top water lures to call bass up at break points, ledges and points with amazing results. Poppers and chuggers like the Smack-N-Shad by Redemption Outdoors can call fish from many feet below. When the bass stay deep Redemption also offers the Depth Charge that will go deep to get the bass with it’s fluttering fall that cold water bass find appealing.  

Jigs

Breaks and Drop offs beyond shallow cover will hold bass if the weather conditions have been unstable. Bass in these areas can be inactive. Keeping a jig on the bottom and using a slow retrieve can provide the best results.    

Shaky Head Rigs

By KrakenRoll/shutterstock

A hot tactic for cold water is working deep structure with shaky-head worm. After the water temperature drops, largemouth bass will seek out steep rocky banks of a reservoir. An Attack Pak 6″ trick worm on a jig probes the depths of the steep rock bank keeping the lure in the strike zone. Cast the shaky head near the bank and slowly into the deeper water, as the jig falls, pause it allowing it to come to rest on each shelf layer. Cold water strikes are light; you must carefully watch the line always ready to set the hook.

Drop Shot Rigs

 It won’t be long before the water temperature will be dropping into the 40’s, and bass will move from the flats and creeks as they relate to vertical structures. Steep break edges give bass rapid access from deep to shallow water without using much stored energy. On warmer day’s the bass move shallow to feed along the upper ledge of the break. Cold fronts and bad weather will move them back to deep water. For fishing these areas, a drop-shot rig with a softbait such as this custom 3.5″ Dropperz is difficult to beat. This bait is a custom hand poured minnow from BassGrubb. When fished on a “Recoil Rig” by Secret Weapon Lures, these baits can come alive.  

Grubs

 As the water cools down closer to winter, schooled bass will be relating to deep structure. A slow vertical presentation with a 3 inch smoke or pearl grub like this one by PowerTeam Lures, fished like you would a spoon can result in a lunker. The transition from fall to winter has proven to provide some of the best big bass of the year. A slow presentation is the secret, and remember that even the big bites are light in cold waters in America so watch the line carefully.

By Shibinvk/shutterstock

Tubes

 The onset of fall provokes bass in rivers to feed in perpetration for the coming winter. The bass forage much to store protein for energy for the long winter ahead. Anglers take advantage of the fall bite by targeting ambush points in feeder creeks and in the backwaters, where bass school up and feed. In shallow water pitch soft plastic worms or tube baits into the deeper ends of lay down trees, rock piles and to weeds overhanging the water’s edge. These baits are Attack pack Lures.

Jerkbaits

 For successful cold water bass fishing, many anglers rely on a jerkbait for late fall and early winter bass. By varying the speed of the jerk and pause cadence, lethargic bass will respond when faster baits are ignored. The technique of jerking once, then twice then three times while varying the length of the pause can be productive. At times a longer pause will be productive. The flash and roll of quality baits enhance the action like these baits featured here made by FishHouse Lures.

Blade baits

 Classic blade baits are a very effective fall technique for cold water bass. These baits feature unique line tie holes in three places that allow adjustment of the running depth and action to suit the situation that you are fishing. The front hole is for shallow fishing with high vibration. The rear hole is for deep running and a wide, slow wobble. The center hole is the one to use for jigging in the cold water for lethargic bass. Blade baits are an often overlooked lure that can be cast or jigged. Bass Pro Shops Lazer Blade Lure, the silver buddy and other baits of this style perform well in cold water.

Float and Fly

To get the suspended bass in cold water the float –n-fly can be the last winter tactic that will catch bass in water below 45 degrees. The small hair jig suspended beneath a bobber can be a great way to catch bass after winter has set in. Punisher Lures owned by the Smallmouth Guru Stephen Headrick is ahead of the game with their small hair jigs that cold water bass cannot resist.  

By Kwanza Henderson/shutterstock

Scent

With the understanding of the olfactory systems (sense of smell) of fish. Baitfish and crawfish that bass feed on are composed of amino acids, and as we learned in biology these amino acids are the building blocks of all protein. Each fish contains differing proportions of these amino acids. An injury of a baitfish will release more of the amino acids into the water and triggers searching behavior from the bass. This is why some of the quality scents that contain amino acids are more effective than others. This is nature’s reaction to the release of amino acids. Bass and other fish have a pair of nostrils, called nares, on each side of its head they use to locate food as far away as 25 feet.  Juiced Up Bait’s Formula is making a noticeable difference in the industry and is continuing to improve the science of scent and amino acids. Attack Pak Fishing’s products that are enhanced with the Juiced Up Bait’s Formula. Several other companies are continuing to improve the science of scent in their products as well.  

Sound

Sound at times can be one of the most important factors for a lure presentation. Anglers use rattles for many types of bait from jigs to tube baits and soft plastic worms on a shaky head jigs. Many of the hard plastic lures have some type of noise. When fishing at night, in clouded water after rain or after the fall turn over can be the best time to add a rattle to your lure presentation.    

The transition from fall into winter can produce some big bass if the proper tactic is utilized for the correct condition and cover. Bass anglers take advantage of these opportunities at this time of the year. As always when fishing in cold weather on cold water wear a PFD and stay dry and warm by dressing in layers. Being safe and comfortable makes winter fishing much more pleasurable and productive.    

Happy Fishing!

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Jack Bollinger
Jack Bollinger
Born in Massachusetts, Jack is an avid fisherman most of his life. He is currently a fishing guide in the bay of California. He has been fishing for more than 40 years and fly-fishing for more than 30. His favorite fish to catch is the rainbow trout and small-mouth bass. He has earned many top places in different lake fishing competitions.

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