Winter Bass Fishing Techniques For Cold Water

Person holding a largemouth bass in front of a small pond holding a rod.

Everybody loves to catch big bass in the summer or spring but a lot fewer people will opt to do it for the winter months. I have often found that there are two camps when it comes to largemouth and smallmouth fishing in cold water. There is the side that believes that winter bass fishing techniques include only finesse tactics where you are throwing a worm or a jig because “it’s the right way to catch bass at this time”. They are not wrong about that. This is true.

There at the opposite end of the spectrum, these anglers are never opposed to throwing more aggressive baits like crankbaits and blade baits to cover more water quickly in addition to your more popular finesse options. What are the winter bass fishing techniques we should use? What is the right way? There really isn’t a right way in my own personal opinion. It just has a lot to do with how patient you are, how many fish you want to catch, how big you want those fish to be, and the list goes on.

Can You Catch Bass In Cold Weather?

You cannot get spring or summer fish to bite in winter. That would be impossible. The number of times you have to hear “bass fishing is a summer sport” for it to get annoying is surprisingly low. Well, it’s annoying because fishing isn’t a summer sport. It’s a skill-based patience game. Nothing more, nothing less. The time of the year is irrelevant to the fact that you can still catch fish.

You absolutely can catch bass in winter. I’ve done it. Some of the fish may even be bigger than the ones you have caught from the rest of the year. They have had all year to fatten up on food and for you, it means a very nice picture. It is important to note this though. You likely will not be able to catch bass in the same way you did earlier on in the year. There is a very slim chance that you can get bass on big frogs or topwater.

If you only have one rod and reel, you will probably have to throw other lures on it and fish them a little slower or faster depending on what the fish want.

What Equipment Should You Use For Coldwater Bass?

Generally speaking, it’s not recommended to choose your gear and setups based on what season it is during the year. Instead, it’s always worth your time if your rod and reel setup is tailored to match the types of lures that you will be throwing on it. Realistically, you could fish every lure with a single setup but that isn’t efficient nor is it ideal. The best way to choose rods, reels and lines are easy.

For lighter baits that weigh less, use a spinning rod and always try running fluorocarbon on it if the water is clear. Use the spinning tackle to throw lures like Ned rigs, neko rigs, finesse swimbaits, and blade baits. use a baitcasting rod to throw the drop shot, big swimbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and Alabama rigs. Try to spool up with a fishing line that does well in the cold.

Winter Bass Fishing Techniques For Finesse Fishing

Drop Shot Rig

When somebody says the words drop shot to any bass angler, two things come to mind. Water clarity and big bass. This holds true regardless of when you fish. Bass just love the drop shot rig. The drop shot is a special bass rig that presents a hook adjacent to the main line with a special weight on the bottom. This allows the bait to suspend at the right depth completely horizontally every single time. Try using common bass lures on it like worms, flukes, craws, creature baits, lizards, and tubes. It will be your best friend when you need it most.

Neko Rig

The Neko rig is very similar to the wacky rig. This rig consists of a worm-shaped lure like a stick worm or trick worm. A hook attaches to the bait with the use of an O-ring. In the head end of the bait is also a Neko weight. As the fishing lure falls to the bottom, it falls quicker than a normal wacky style setup and this can make all of the difference. Fish a neko rig slower than a wacky rig and allow the slightly faster action of the bait to work for you. Throw it around the structure, cover, and balls of bait to target all sizes of fish.

Ned Rig

Ned rigs are essentially the product of bringing crappie techniques to bass fishing. The ned rig excels in cold water because its subtle in its presentation compared to other approaches. It utilizes a special jig head, a ned head, which makes the bait top-heavy as it settles to the bottom and quivers.

This is the technique you want to use when you just want a bite. You don’t care if it’s a ten-pounder, you just don’t want to leave empty-handed. The ned rig is the technique of choice for that application especially when fish are schooled up. This is the easy way to get fish to bite. They may be smaller, but they may not be. It does keep getting bit though. It’s impossible to fish it too slowly.

Finesse Swimbait

There are quite a few different swimbaits on the market to choose from. A finesse swimbait is one that attempts to represent a baitfish’s size and profile in the water. A finesse swimbait usually is thrown on spinning tackle because they are often so light. Fishing finesse swimbaits are a great way to appeal to most fish in an area because the lures are realistic and easy to fish.

These fishing lures generally have a paddle tail that displaces a small amount of water as it swims. They are also producing some of the most aggressive strikes and biggest fish of any lure in your box. Change the color to match the baitfish in your area and expect hits from fish of all sizes. These are one of the best ways to mimic the baitfish that the fish are already feeding on.

Football Jig

Football jigs are already a big part of bass fishing so it would make sense that they would also be a great winter bait for bass. The football jig provides just the right amount of sinking, swimming, and action that other types of jigs cannot provide given the circumstances.

They are also fairly weedless so they can be thrown in the nastiest trees, grass, lily pads, and other snaggy areas because this is where big ones like to hide. Tip the hook with a craw trailer to add some more action. Cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, and repeat all the way back to the boat.

Winter Bass Fishing Techniques For Power Fishing


This category of swimbaits is different from the finesse versions mentioned earlier. When we are talking about these swimbaits, we don’t mean soft plastic paddling tail versions that need a hook. We either mean realistic huge swimbaits that are already pre-rigged or hard plastic swimbaits that already come equipped with treble hooks. Yes, there is a substantial difference.

The best big swimbaits like to pair an incredible level of realism with barely any movement at all. Yes, these are generally the right way to get ten-pounders in winter and target the biggest fish in the lake. Throw it out and reel it in slowly if you want big fish. Put it in the clearest of water if you can too. This is because the need for realism has redundancy unless the fish can see it well.


Largemouth Bass with a Rapala Original Floater crankbait in its mouth held over water.

Crankbaits are one of the absolute staples for any fish in any part of the world. Yes, I caught my very first bass on a crankbait. Crankbaits are specifically designed with certain rattles and certain actions depending on what make and model you get. For cold water fishing, I suggest using a winter crankbait and yes, they are a thing. Do fish a crankbait but avoid the common crankbaits that you would throw in summer or spring because they do not work as well at this time. Always have a winter crank tied on.

It is a great way to power fish or cover water quickly. Most fish don’t mind blowing up on a winter crankbait as long as it’s the right lure and it’s fished properly. The main thing to remember is that it will be successful in more open water just because of the bait’s exposed treble hooks. If structure and cover are where you are at, try picking up another option first.

Alabama Rig

Some people know who I am and they usually remember that Alabama to me is a home sweet home. The Alabama rig or umbrella rig is a popular rig for taking bass and it’s even banned in tournaments because it works so well. The Alabama rig is an absolutely deadly technique to use in winter especially when fish are actively feeding. This rig consists of a head and a set number of wire arms that jet out from the base. On the end rests snap swivels or clips. You can attach spinner blades or swimbaits to these clips to simulate a school of fleeing baitfish.

A bait ball if you will. Bass will be after it. Bass love to hit the biggest swimbait in the school. Try equipping it with a couple of spinner blades, a few smaller swimbaits with hooks, and one bigger one with hooks. Over half the time, you will find that your bites are on the biggest one.


If you like bass fishing at all, you should be no stranger to jerkbait fishing. The popularity of the jerkbait is very high in the largemouth bass fishing community already for one reason and one reason only. It works. The jerkbait excels in the coldest of waters with the clearest water clarity. No angler would have a complete bass arsenal without a few jerkbaits on hand.

In addition, suspending jerkbaits is the key to triggering aggressive strikes from spooky fish that need to take a second look. Fishing jerkbaits properly provide a very realistic baitfish profile in the water as the anglers jerk the rod tip to impart erratic and enticing action. Yes, they catch very big bass too!

Blade Bait

The blade bait is a bait that is very underrated. Yes, they are effective but I honestly do not see many people throwing them. A blade bait is a thin piece of metal that has been stamped out of a solid piece. It is equivalent to making a lipless crankbait into a spoon. These are less aggressive on the retrieve and are very enticing in the water. They have been coined a “winter lure”. Even so, they are a lure you will want to have tied on for the entire season because they work so well. There are quite a few different blade bait designs on the market and they all work well.

You want to throw them out and reel them or let them fall to the bottom and rip them upwards. They have a very tight action and can cause fish to go into a feeding frenzy. Many enjoy the reaction strikes that they receive from them. The amount of vibration it has in the water is unmatched except for something like a Chatterbait but it is also much less obtrusive. If they are tapping crankbaits and won’t fully commit, changing to a blade bait can give them that extra push that makes them fully commit. Yes, I love blade baits. You should try them out too.

Putting It All Together

It doesn’t actually matter what camp you’re in for your bass game. Even f you prefer to be untraditional and cover water while throwing crankbaits or if you like to throw worms because it’s the way we have always done it, both mindsets will still catch largemouth bass as well as smallmouth. Winter is a cold time of year and lethargic fish can sometimes refuse to cooperate regardless of what we try to put in front of them.

I believe it’s important to be adaptable to your fishing especially since the fish have to be as well. I wouldn’t say one way is right or wrong or that one may catch you more fish than the other. Just saying that the techniques used to catch them are important on any given day. You can catch more fish during this time of year. It’s very possible. Who knows, it may even be bigger than the ones you caught earlier in the year.

Do you agree with this post? Leave a comment down below so we can hear what you think!



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