Cold Water Bass

Cold Water Bass

When most people go hunting, I go fishing. I figure it's safer, for one thing. In the woods of Michigan, where I grew up and learned how to fish for bass, I always felt challenged by cold-water periods. Most magazines and outdoor columnists, in those days, abandoned fishing in October to run stories about pheasants, hunting dogs, guns, and the behavior patterns of big bucks.

Cold water bass fishing always felt like a frontier—a place seldom explored or, at least, seldom described in print. In subsequent years, occasional pieces on late-fall and early-winter bass fishing appeared in Fishing Facts or In-Fisherman magazines. Before that, we were largely on our own.

One of the first things I learned, or thought I learned, about cold-water bass is that their world condenses into a smaller place in cold water. Venturing close to the ice in winter means enduring 33°F water, and bass typically choose not to do that. Temperature bands in the 37°F to 39°F range—the warmest generally available—are more to their liking and they don't want to chase those bands around. They want to stay in one place. That narrows the search a little further, but how big that place is becomes relative to the size and nature of the environment.

To really track down those smaller, encapsulated environments, you have to literally track them down. If you can't stay on them every day or every few days, it's easy to lose track. Early in fall, bass tend to use a much larger area than they do during the ensuing cold-water period.


One of the things it took years to understand was how areas that provide the environmental stability bass require in winter can be vast in one lake and tiny in another. Stability can begin at 12 feet deep in one lake but occur nowhere above 18 feet in a similar lake right down the road. In some of the lakes we ice fish for bass, the big ones come into 12 feet of water when active. In other lakes nearby, the active fish are always found five feet above bottom in depths of 22 to 24-feet. In other lakes, active bass might be found anywhere from 8 feet down to 28 feet. Anything that deep or deeper, I ignore, as bass begin showing signs of barotrauma.


Right now, I'm tracking cold-water bass in open water later than ever, thanks to water temperatures cooling at much slower-than-normal rates. The fact that the ramps have no ice on them helps, but the warming trend has even more interesting effects on the behavior of bass. As the same species demonstrate in more southerly climes, they can be more tolerant of current in winter where cold water isn't driven deep into the water column by algid cold spells with temperatures dipping to -20°F or -40°F.


Suddenly, smallmouths around here seem to be more tolerant of current in 40°F water temperatures than I've ever experienced.

Things that make you say hmmm.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Walleye

The Lowdown on Walleye Hardbaits

Steve Ryan - May 28, 2019

The range of walleye hardbaits encompasses multiple categories and a dizzying number of lures.

Fish Recipes

Catfish Dinner with Homemade Chips and Tartar Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with...

Accessories

Costa Baffin Sunglasses Review

Chris Schneider - April 26, 2019

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

Bug-Repellent Clothing from L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean No Fly Zone and Insect Shield apparel won't let bugs ruin a fishing trip. With Jeff Miller of L.L. Bean and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

Bass

Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

See More Stories

More Bass

Bass

Tactics for Summer Smallmouths in Big Water

Matt Straw - June 28, 2018

Great tips for catching smallies on big water.

Bass

Tips for Bass Fishing at Night

Chris Schneider - June 01, 2018

Here's how to catch some BIG bass during the twilight hours.

Bass

New Topwater Lures With Exceptional Qualities

Steve Quinn - June 04, 2018

Surface lures get old but they never die.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×