Ice Fishing Bass

Ice Fishing Bass

Ice Fishing BassThough we admittedly don't often target largemouth ice bass, they provide many of the most memorable catches of the winter. And with a little planning, numbers of largemouth bass can be caught through the ice.

SEASONAL NOTES


While largemouth and smallmouth bass can be caught all winter, the early and later periods stand out for predictable bites. During the month after ice-up, light continues to pass through the ice and snow cover, and it nourishes weedbeds. Largemouth bass continue to cruise the outer edges of weedlines under the ice, occasionally burying deeper into thick fronds of coontail or milfoil.



The best areas feature thick vegetation that lasts into late fall. Look for inside turns on shoreline structure that drop quickly into the 20-foot range with edges in about 8 to 14 feet of water. You can prospect for spots blindly or use an underwater camera that quickly reveals the status of the weedbed and if bass are occupying it.

Just as bass need a lot of coaxing to strike in late fall, so do fish under the ice. A three-fish day is good, though occasionally the fish really turn on. I catch several big ones early each winter on tip-ups baited with live shiners or suckers in the 4- to 5-inch range. Last winter, one tried to make a jump through the glassy 4-inch coating on its lake -- just as I set the hook.


Jigging small crappie-size jigs tipped with plastics or larvae like maggots, mousies, or waxworms will take bass during the late-ice period, as will live minnows, swimming baits like a Jigging Rapala, and perch-style jigging spoons. The last weeks of ice cover also seem to trigger a relative feeding spree by bass. It's hard to know if they normally feed under the ice, or if their opportunistic nature simply won't let them pass a fine, easy-to-catch morsel.


At late-ice, small offerings are the choice for icing bass. Lures weighing from 1/32 ounce down to 1/100 ounce are ideal, with active plastic tails like the Custom Jigs and Spins Ratso and Shrimpo, Tad's Lure Puddle Jumpers, and HT Enterprises Softies.

Ice Fishing Bass

Like bluegills, largemouth bass move onto shallow flats with some remaining weedgrowth in the weeks before ice-out. That's when you can watch fish as they bite, or else refuse your offerings or lure motions. During midwinter, largemouth bass tend to wander deep flats in the 18- to 30-foot range, or lake basins in shallower systems.

ABOUT BROWN BASS

According to research studies, smallmouths roam far less than their largemouth cousins in winter. They often form large winter aggregations, holding along vertical cover. Such schools have been noted in water from 25 to 60 feet deep, situated along deep rock ledges that provide a cavelike habitat.

During certain conditions they will bite jigs and small spoons jigged vertically in their midst. Though inactive, a small percent will engulf the lure, which can bring a large catch of fish, given the number in some winter sanctuaries.

Because of this vulnerability, some northern states and Canadian provinces have been restricting winter bass fishing, fearing overharvest if wintering areas are heavily targeted. If you do locate such a spot, catch a couple fish and quickly release them; avoid pounding the school for fear of causing delayed mortality by forcing undue activity in lethargic fish.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is a treat! Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

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

Here's some important crankbait lessons from the big leagues. Bass

Deep Cranking Confessions from the Pro's

John Neporadny Jr - December 18, 2017

Here's some important crankbait lessons from the big leagues.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Simms

Simms' Challenger Raingear

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products details the warm and dry features found in the new Challenger raingear being brought to market by the Bozeman, Mont. company.

Tactical Changes for Smallmouths

Tactical Changes for Smallmouths

Doug Stange deploys an one unique in-line spinnerbiat option for smallmouths.

Room Full of New Gear from L.L. Bean

Room Full of New Gear from L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean's Jeff Miller shares a room-full of new gear for 2020 with Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. 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...

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north or south, will help you pinpoint their predictable locations year after year. 

Walleyes spawn in spring, but spring may arrive in February in Mississippi, March in Walleye

Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

See More Stories

More Bass

In no particular order, here are five top-notch smallmouth destinations. Bass

Super Smallmouth Destinations

Darl Black

In no particular order, here are five top-notch smallmouth destinations.

What makes intercepting a trophy smallmouth more likely? The answers might be surprising. Bass

Catching Trophy Smallmouth Bass

Matt Straw - July 01, 2019

What makes intercepting a trophy smallmouth more likely? The answers might be surprising.

There's rarely a bad time to fish a jig. Here's why they excel for big winter bass. Bass

The Mystery & Mastery of Jigs for Winter Bass

Steve Quinn - March 15, 2019

There's rarely a bad time to fish a jig. Here's why they excel for big winter bass.

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.

×