The last serious cold front is upon us, at least in most parts of our country. That can be intimidating, but only if you let it. In truth, it’s not that hard to find and catch bass right now if you approach things correctly.
Before we talk about fishing, however, I want to say a quick word about safety at this time of the year. If you fall out of the boat, you’re going to be in real trouble. So, watch your step, put everything away and don’t get in a hurry. Wear your life vest at all times — no matter how young you are, how strong you are or how well you can swim.
Now, let’s go fishing. Think about this spell of cold, nasty weather not as a cold front but as the beginning of winter. The shad are moving — or have moved — out of the creeks. Those that survived the temperature change and the journey are out in deep water near vertical structure. And, for the most part that’s where you’ll find the bass.
Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that just because you’re looking at winter areas you’re going to find the bass really deep. Most of the time you won’t. Over the years I’ve found that early winter bass will move to their winter spots but won’t necessarily drop down into the deepest water.
They’re not yet ready for serious winter habitat. They just want to be near it. I think about it as their security blanket. Most of the time you’ll find them in the 5 to 6 foot range. That’s not a hard and fast rule, though. If you’re fishing a good spot and not getting bites don’t be afraid to go deeper, or even shallower.
My favorite places are bluff walls over deep water and vertical timber along some other kind of structure, usually a creek channel or a series of ledges. You’re looking for something that forms a right angle at the bottom but that goes straight up through the water. Mostly it should end close to, or above, the surface.
My favorite lures are spinnerbaits, small, flat-sided crankbaits and jigs. My spinnerbait choice is a 1/2 or 5/8-ounce Terminator spinnerbait in chartreuse and white with one Colorado blade and one willow leaf. I always slow roll it through the strike zone. It’s a horizontal presentation through vertical structure.
My most productive early winter crankbait is a Koppers Live Target. They have several models, and they all work. Pick one that looks like the local forage and that runs around 5 or 6 feet deep, but don’t be afraid to change if you’re not getting the action you think you should.
A small (3/8-ounce) finesse style Terminator jig will also produce at times. Pick whatever color you like. Swim it along and bounce it off whatever you can find in the water. Do not get fancy. The water’s cold. All your baits should move slow and steady. Think slow roll with everything.
As long as you can stay comfortable and safe, I suggest you ignore the weather and fish when you can. Right now they’ll bite if it’s sunny, if it’s cloudy, if it’s raining, if it’s snowing or if it’s blowing.
Don’t let the cold weather get you down. Go fishing!
Originally published December 2011.