1. Characteristics of winter bass fishing
The beginning of fall is a heavy eating season for Bass. It is generally understood that, in the winter, when the water temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, is the time when Bass are the hardest to catch. When this occurs, the movement of the Bass slows down, making it more difficult to get them to actively chase lures. Winter Bass also have a lower metabolism, and because they are binge eaters, they accumulate a lot of food in their stomachs, which makes it extremely difficult to eat more. During winter, most bass migrate to areas where the water temperature is stable and relatively high, such as deep areas . However, Bass have not completely stopped predatory activities, but they are definitely predatory in short ‘bursts’. For this reason, when winter Bass fishing, it’s important to be able to get the bait close enough to induce reaction strikes that make the Bass bite at just about anything, regardless of their normal diet. Based on the movement of the Bass in winter, let's determine the location of these fickle foragers…
2. Bass location in winter
Although the cold water makes the Bass less active, it doesn't mean that the Bass have stopped eating. You need only determine what they WILL eat. In other words, let's catch winter Bass by accurately identifying where the Bass are and attacking them according to each particular situation!
(1) Areas with stable/high water temperature
In winter, Bass tend to accumulate in specific areas. Deep areas where there is little water temperature difference and no water movement are always a good bet, as are areas with tetra or an area with a stone bottom. Relatively high-water temperature weed areas and warm drainage areas provide good oxygen that reduce fatigue for winter Bass. Once you identify these areas, keep attacking by using the three points of winter:
The first is an area with a SUNNY LOCATION. Even in places where the water is several tens of meters deep, such as a dam lake, water temperatures vary greatly between areas that are exposed to the sun and areas that are not. Therefore, in winter, Bass tend to accumulate in sunny areas where the water temperature is higher.
The second is an area SHELTERED FROM THE WIND. Even in dam lakes and wild ponds, there are places where the wind blows freely, and places where the wind does not. The blowing of the wind not only creates currents on the surface of the water, but the blowing of colder wind than the water temperature also lowers the water temperature. Even if the water is deep and sunlight is plentiful, the water temperature tends to drop on the side hit by a cold north wind. This will drive Bass elsewhere.
The third is an area where the WATER TEMPERATURE CHANGES VERY LITTLE. As poikilothermic animals, Bass are much more sensitive to temperature changes than humans. Therefore, Bass prefer places where the water temperature is stable in winter. For example, Bass tend to avoid places such as dams where the water temperature changes easily and often, such as near the backwater. Backwater can be warm or cold, and the water temperature is inconsistent, which is why fish don't like it. However, if it is an area where warmer water is consistently flowing, you may find a Bass or two. As mentioned above, even in areas where the water temperature is stable, there is a clear distinction between areas that Bass like and areas that they don’t. Even if it is a sunny place, there is little possibility that there will be a Bass in a place where the north wind hits.
(2) Shallow area
A big Bass has a larger body than a small Bass, and the physical strength to withstand the cold longer. Therefore, even when other Bass are in deep water, the big Bass may come up to the colder shallows in search of food. When fishing shallow areas, it's a good idea to keep the following three points in mind.
First of all, it should be a SUNNY AREA. The water temperature in the shallows rises quicker, due to the sun, than the deep area, so it’s a place where there is a good probability that big Bass may come in search of food.
The second is an area SHELTERED FROM THE WIND. This is also the same as the deep area, and in winter the air temperature is generally lower than the water temperature, so the water temperature tends to drop when the wind hits it. Even in areas where the sun is shining, a stiff winter wind will keep the water from warming.
The third is a SHALLOW AREA THAT DROPS OFF. No matter how many big Bass enter the shallow area, they don’t stay all day. Also, big Bass can endure the cold of winter. Therefore, if you find a shallow area with a relatively close drop off, there is a good probability that it might hold Bass. It's difficult to predict when they’ll come to the shallows, but there is a high probability that big Bass will enter the shallows early in the morning or around noon, which is when temperatures reach their highest point.
3. How to approach the bass in winter
Based on the characteristics and whereabouts of winter Bass, the selection of areas is very important because the areas where Bass are located in winter are limited. Next, based on this information, we will divide fishing tactics into "finesse fishing", that tempts slower, lethargic winter Bass and "reaction strike fishing", which runs a lure right in front of a fish. We’ll also recommend lures while describing how to actually approach the fish.
The key to catching Bass in the winter is to get the lure close! Lethargic Bass won’t chase or follow lures that are far away because, in the winter, they are so inactive that they only react to things close to them. No Bass has ever passed up an easy meal, so the trick here is to move slowly. No matter how many lures you can throw right in front of the fish, it is hard to get a winter Bass to strike a fast moving lure. If you want a winter Bass to bite, present the lure by passing it as slow as possible in front of the Bass. Certain areas of the lake lend themselves to finesse fishing, so let's see how to approach Bass in areas with high water transparency and those with obstacles and/or warm drainage.
・Finessing a clear bottom
In winter, water transparency is higher, and lures such as the ‘Soul Shad’ series by JACKALL are effective weapons. A shad lure that produces strikes when a consistent action is required at slow speed, the Soul Shad’s small, tight action is excellent on clear bottoms. For example, by pulling the Soul Shad through Tetra or an area full of stones using the rod instead of reel, you present tighter and fish more carefully. It is also an effective practice to give a pause between pulls, giving an even slower target for the Bass.
・Obstacles/warm drainage area
For weed areas, as well as Tetra or an area full of stones areas, the ‘Evoke Shad’ series by Deps provides weedless performance and low speed vibration all in one. JACKALL’s TN series, with double hook, also makes a lethal combination for winter Bass.
Bass that dislike the cold often gather near the warm drainage areas, such as around power plants or reservoirs. If you find an area where thermal drainage is occurring in the lake where you’re fishing, find the spot where warm water is coming out. Chances are the fishing pressure will be high in this area. If you do the same thing everyone else is doing, catching fish is going to be tough. Chances are, other anglers are throwing a slow, big bodied lure like the ‘Aventa Crawler RSR’ by IMAKATSU. Choose a lure (or lures!) that others aren't using, run it slow and try to land the big one.
＜Fishing for reaction bites＞
Daily feeding times of Bass in winter is very short, yet it is possible to catch Bass other than those in feeding mode simply by fishing for reaction strikes instead of finesse bites. Certain techniques, like lift and fall fishing, drops the lure vertically down in front of the Bass and then is retrieved at high-speed, hoping to induce reaction strikes. If you can't get a bite with finesse fishing, try switching to fishing aimed at reaction strikes, which can lead to good catch numbers. Let's take a look at how to approach fishing for reaction strikes and some possible lure ideas..
When you have no idea where the Bass are, it's important to search a wide range of bottom conditions at a good tempo. Using lift and fall with a lure like the Megabass’ ‘Dyna Response’ blade bait or Evergreen’s ‘Little Max’ is a good start. A fan casting pattern will allow you to cover a lot of water quickly. Also, when sinking to the bottom, count the lure down so you can locate drop offs and depth changes.
JACKALL's ‘Soul Shad’ series, which boasts ultra-high-speed winding, is an excellent product that can induce a reaction strike just by retrieving it. When rocks and branches are on the bottom, contact with this weedless lure against structure causes irregular movement and can lead to reaction strikes.
Using a vibrating lure is a mainstream practice that just rolls and lifts and falls. In particular, JACKALL's ‘TN’ series excels when dropping the lure on the bottom and then using the rod to lift and lower the lure to make it fall. You can induce a reaction strike because the lure ‘walks’ through the water till it suddenly falls in the Bass's field of vision.
IMAKATSU's ‘Bacurato Swimmer’ and Stealth Swimmer’ fitted with a heavy weight jig head (sold separately: IK-851 Stealth Swimmer Gig Head Full TG Magnum Heavy 21g) is recommended if you want to go low, slow and weedless after late fall. We’ll include it in our reaction strike list for its fall capabilities when it hits the bottom or structure on slow retrieve, and its ability to go as deep as you need it to.