The chill is on!

Seigo Saito
2011 Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam

I'm continually surprised at how aggressive bass are in cold water.

For years, we've been told that we have to slow down and fish finesse baits to have any hope of catching bass late in the season. The more I fish, the more I discover that's not the case.

Our water temperatures in Michigan have fallen into the low 50s and will be in the 40s soon. Although the southern part of our country hasn't gotten there, it's coming.

I know bass will hit crankbaits and spinnerbaits when the water is in the mid to lower 40s. I've even had success when the water temperatures were in the 30s!

Yes, dragging a jig or fishing a more finesse style works well. But if fishing crankbaits and spinnerbaits allows you to cover more water in a shorter period of time, isn't that a more efficient way to fish?

One thing that made me realize how aggressive bass are in cold water is catching them through the ice in northern climates. We use a lot of jigging techniques with a variety of baits, and moving that lure fast to trigger the strike is by far the best technique.

I realize that our northern bass may be a little more aggressive because they're more accustomed to colder water. But as I travel the country and fish southern climates during cold-water periods, I'm finding the same can hold true there as well.

Of course, it's all relative. For example, cold water at Sam Rayburn, Texas, is more like 45 degrees, but I'm telling you those fish will still bite fast-moving lures.

That doesn't mean you can fish them as fast as you do during warmer periods. You may have to slow roll a spinnerbait or use a steady retrieve for a crankbait. Keep the baits on or near the bottom for the longest period because that's where the bass will be.

For example, I like a Strike King Red Eye Shad in cold water, but rather than fish it over the top of cover or the bottom, I try to make frequent contact with the bottom. I like to yo-yo it on the retrieve to trigger that reactionary strike.

One key is to position the boat so that you're presenting lures parallel to the edges of dropoffs or structure and keeping the bait where the fish are for a longer period of time. That's true whenever you fish, but it's very important when the water is cold.

Also, don't discount shallow water or blustery days. I used to believe that only unseasonably warm, sunny days warmed the water enough to get winter bass to bite, deep or shallow. To the contrary, I find a lot of fish shallow and very aggressive when it's windy, raining or even snowing. Water clarity will dictate how shallow they are, but those nasty days seem to invigorate them in water shallower than most people realize.

So, don't be afraid to experiment when temps plunge. You may discover a new way to catch bass that other anglers are overlooking.

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