If you’re like me, you’re targeting bass all year, no matter the season. Some seasons are fruitful, but some are incredibly tough. Tough seasons are generally marked by colder water that is brought upon by fall and winter. Although it can be hard to keep motivated during seasons of cold water and less active bass, we can alter our approach and still trick bass into eating. Let’s dive into some of the best baits for cold water bass fishing.
This is a very common question heard during the winter months. Let’s get this out of the way - bass do bite in cold conditions! When I say cold conditions - I mean water temperatures of between 20-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
They just eat less. Their metabolism reacts to the cold water and they exert less energy in feeding. There is still the chance to catch bass in cold conditions - we just have to fine-tune our bait selection.
Bass will generally migrate to deeper waters in colder conditions. Temperatures are more stable here and they’ll follow food/bait which also move deeper.
However, bass won’t always stay deep during the winter months. Sunny days will bring bass up from the depths to gather the warmth that the sun brings. This means that we don’t always have to fish deep during the cold months of the year.
5 of the Best Cold Water Bass Baits: Winter Lures That Work
Bait selection changes considerably during the colder months. Bass become sluggish and the bites are generally more subtle. We need to present our bait in a slower, more gentle fashion to entice bass to get an easy meal.
Some of the best cold water bass baits are jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, football jigs, crankbaits, and shaky heads.
Jerksbaits are all-season reaction baits that are a favorite for many bass anglers during the cold water seasons. They’re extremely versatile and can be fished in various depths as well as various forms of cover.
The reason jerkbaits work better than other reaction baits during the winter is the action they possess. The erratic, crazy motion they create imitates a dying or injured baitfish and that can often be seen as an easy meal for a bass that isn’t feeding too actively because of the colder water.
Jerkbaits should be fished with longer pauses and aggressive rod twitches. Remember, bass will be less willing to chase down prey in the cold. A slower cadence with an erratic but lifelike movement may entice a bass to eat your bait.
I love fishing jerkbaits in deeper water in the winter in and around rocks. The closer I can get to the bottom, the better.
"The more erratic the action, the better" - Kevin VanDam
We’ve spoken about the spinnerbait often and it makes the list of ‘best baits’ pretty much every time. There’s a reason for that. It’s quite simply the most consistent wire bait in bass fishing.
Spinnerbait fishing is also incredibly versatile. It can be fished in various forms of cover whether it’s rocks or vegetation, but it can also function in all kinds of depths based on your selection.
The spinnerbait can also be fished in various ways. Colder conditions generally require a slower retrieve - this will again look like an easier meal for a bass that may not be in the mood for feeding.
I love fishing a spinnerbait offshore as well. Ledges that bridge deeper channels to shallow flats are a prime area to throw a spinnerbait with a slow retrieve. Getting as close to the bottom is important as bouncing off any form of cover will add to the natural presentation of your lure.
3. Football Jigs
Jig fishing is very common during the winter months because they can be fished in a very slow manner. This slow, but the bulky presentation will often lead to a bass taking the opportunity to get an easy meal.
The reason why I say football jigs specifically here is because they’re the ideal jigs for fishing deeper water offshore. They’re perfect for fishing rocky cover as well as various cover transitions.
The bulkier head keeps the bait on the bottom consistently, and the flatter shape of the head helps will move along rocks and other hard surfaces comfortably. Do note - a slower retrieve will always be better when fishing a football fig in colder water - as for everything winter presentation.
A trailer is a great option for football jigs in winter. Adding bulk and slowing down your presentation is a classic method in the cold months, so I’ll often throw a Z-Man Palmetto BugZ or a Yamamoto Cowboy.
Let’s throw in one more hard bait - the crankbait. The crankbait is a well-known winter weapon. It can trigger more subtle reaction bites from big fish, and we can cover more water than other winter techniques.
Like the jerkbait, I love fishing a deep-diving crankbait (20+) around offshore rocky cover. Ideally, you want your crankbait nudging or bouncing off this cover, changing its direction and giving it that natural variation that catches any bass’s eye.
A slower cadence/retrieval is crucial here and this will greatly increase your chances of getting a bite. Giving your bait the odd rod twitch will also give it a more erratic motion.
5. Shaky Head
Sometimes we have to go more finesse during the winter, and I’ve gone with the shaky head rig to close things off. This is definitely a more shallow water application, and I’ll explain why this might work in some parts of the day during the cold season.
Winter will still see sunny periods of the day. Bass will often hug deep areas that are close to shallower flats in the winter, giving them the option to move shallower to get access to the warmth that the sun provides. This means that shallower cover and shore-based points are definitely fishable in certain parts of the day - typically when the sun in shining and it’s warmer.
The shaky head is a great option for these periods in the day. It’s a subtle, natural presentation that is hard to resist for any bass. The action is enhanced by the lighter line and the buoyant soft plastic.
It’s important to focus on shallow areas that have deeper channels nearby. This is often a hotspot for bass during the winter. They have deep stable temperatures, but they also have the option of sun bathing when the sun is out.
I love straight-tail worms on a shaky head. A natural color works best as bass still aren’t quite in their most aggressive feeding state of mind.
Why Go Bass Fishing in the Winter?
Winter and cold conditions test us as anglers. Many believe that bass simply turn off during this season, but they simply just are less active.
Cold water gives us the opportunity to improve our skills in techniques we’re not quite comfortable with, but it also improves out patience and our ability to get better when the fishing isn’t easy.
Slow down your retrieve, focus on the key areas, and be patient. I guarantee you will find a pattern that fits you best.
Have the latest bass fishing insights and tackle reviews delivered straight to your inbox.