|Cold Water Bass Fishing|
Where I live in the Midwest, there is always a noticeable drop-off in angling pressure when the temperature begins to fall. This can provide an excellent opportunity for some great fishing, if you know how to fish the colder water. By following a few simple rules, you can catch just as many fish in November as you can in May.
The first rule is to slow down. As the bass finish gorging themselves for the winter, and the water temperature decreases, their level of activity slows down. They’re not going to be as willing to chase a fast-moving lure as they were a couple of months ago. A slow presentation at this time of year is a must in order to entice a fish into hitting a lure. In most cases you’ll need to run the lure right past Mr. Bucketmouth if you want to catch him.
The best thing to do is to attempt to find water that has the right combination of temperature, oxygen, and structure or cover. In the real world, we know that this is not as easy as it sounds, so start with the most important characteristic—cover. Like us, fish like to feel safe. They will hang around places where they can easily escape danger, and they usually will only venture away from these areas to feed and mate. Since fish are not feeding as much during the colder months, they will stick to what they feel are safe surroundings, and they will remain there as long as they are comfortable.
The next thing is to figure out where those safe surroundings are located. This will be where the water temperature is closest to the fish’s liking; during the winter, it will usually be where the warmest water is in the lake. Another good place to begin your search is in any type of structure, such as in a drop-off or in downed trees. Having a good locator will help make your search easier, too. A temperature gauge is nice, but if I had to pick only one thing, it would be a good topographical map that shows drop-offs, points, roadbeds and anything else that might provide cover for an inactive fish.
Don’t forget that fish will suspend if they can’t find cover near water that will provide an acceptable combination of temperature and oxygen. This is more common in deeper bodies of water, and a locator can be a big help to find them. From experience, I’ve found that suspended fish are easier to spook than fish that stick close to cover.
Once you find an area that is likely to be holding fish, hammer it. As I said before, you will often have to run lures right in front of the fish, because they aren’t going to be eager to chase them. Try to use lures that mimic the natural prey in the lake. Almost always, this means imitating shad or crayfish. Bass aren’t going to bite something that they aren’t sure about this time of the year. There are always exceptions—but not many. So, I like to increase my odds by presenting something that is more likely to fool them.
Once you hook fish, get them in the boat as quickly as possible. Playing them out increases the risk that they will die later. Even a fish that looks healthy upon release can wash up dead a couple days later if it is not handled with care. This happens more often than you’d think. I prefer to release the fish I catch after a quick photo or two, but if people are going to keep the fish they catch, that’s ok, as long as they abide by whatever rules and regulations are in place for the body of water they are fishing. Releasing fish provides more fishing opportunity for the future.
So far, you should have picked up three things to help you catch more fish in cold water: the first is to slow your presentation; the second is to use some common sense to determine where the fish are; the last thing is to present the fish with the bait that they are used to, in as natural a manner as possible. By following these three simple rules, your fishing season does not have to end until the water freezes—unless you’re into ice fishing. But that’s a topic for another article.