Assuming there is unfrozen water in your neck of the woods; Late winter bass fishing can produce some of the most memorable catches of the year – particularly for trophies. Across the south, there are probably more lake records broken from January through March than any other time of the year.
Because of the cold temps, late winter bass are also notoriously fickle – and having the right presentation can be the difference between loading the boat or going home with nothing but cold feet.
Here are 5 confidence baits for late winter bass fishing, and where to fish them:
1. Hard Jerkbaits
There’s a reason the hard bodied jerkbait is number one on this list. It’s one of the most effective and productive lures in the game when the water temperature drops into the 40s and below. Jerkbaits have a baitfish profile, erratic action, and they suspend – which is a key for triggering bites from cold water bass. Work jerkbaits for late winter bass fishing with a super slow twitch, twitch, and pause cadence around docks, bluff walls, drains, and weed lines. Remember: the colder the water, the longer the pause.
2. Umbrella Rigs
Late winter bass are predominantly feeding on baitfish – and there’s nothing that replicates a school of baitfish better than a castable umbrella rig. In cold water, a bass may hesitate when confronted with a single baitfish, but the school-like profile of an umbrella rig is too much for many to resist. In the last couple years, massive limits and lake records have been falling to late winter fishing umbrella rig anglers slow rolling rigs around bluffs, submerged timber, and off the ends of secondary points.
3. Lipless Cranks
On natural lakes; or on reservoirs with vegetation and lots of shallow flats – the lipless crank is pattern numero uno for late winter bass. They produce a ton of commotion, and come through cover a lot better than you’d think for a bait with 2 massive treble hooks. Make long casts over flats, along emerging grass lines, and through stump fields until you run into active fish. Focus on slowly winding the bait so that it makes periodic contact with the grass, or bottom – and hold on.
4. Jigging Spoons
In deeper reservoirs – huge schools of bass winter along creek channel bends, under docks, and around deep points. One of the best ways to target these fish is with a jigging spoon. Jigging spoons look like dying baitfish – and they can be fished vertically right over the top of wintering bass. Try idling likely deep water haunts until you find a school of fish relating to the structure. Drop the spoon down and hop it up and down until you get a bite. Focus on being patient; because once you entice one bite, you can often get a bunch more.
5. Hair Jigs
Jigs are great any time of the year, but in cold water – the hair jig is one of the most popular options. Unlike rubber or silicone, hair has a much more subtle action that really appeals to cold water bass. Try casting a lightweight hair jig for late winter bass fishing along rip rap, around docks, and anywhere you suspect winter bass to hang out. Let it fall on semi-slack line, and then slowly drag it back to the boat. Many strikes occur on the fall, so don’t get caught off guard.
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