Riege: Cold Water Bassin’

Published 10:16 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011


There are many factors that affect our success as bass fishermen, but one of the most perplexing can be passing cold fronts or cold water conditions, such as the ones that occur in early spring. Bass will always react to these changes in their surroundings. However, you can catch big bass in spite of these negative conditions. Here are a few things I consider when pursuing bass during the cold front conditions or early spring conditions.

Slow down – A slow, deliberate lure presentation is often the only way to entice strikes under cold conditions. There is no such thing as fishing too slowly. The idea is to keep the bait in front of the fish as long as possible and to make multiple presentations to the same fish.

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Since bass are cold blooded, their metabolism is slow in the cold water. They are not capable of chasing fast moving lures. During this period a hook guard jig, like a weed sneak with pork of plastic trailer is deadly crawled slowly over the bottom. Jigs with hair and living rubber dressings are both effective, and black and brown are proven colors. I tip my jigs with Berkley Power Bait frogs or a 4-inch tail of a plastic worm. Jigs of 1/4 and 3/8 ounce will handle most situations, though you may have to use heavier jigs on windy days to keep them on the bottom.

Work your jigs down drop offs, lifting them a few inches off the bottom and letting them fall back down. Most strikes come as the jig falls, and they are extremely light, so you may not feel all of them. Watch your line closely for any slight twitch or movement. Fluorescent monofilament lines are easier to see. Whenever you lift the rod and feel a mushy sensation, as though your jig has snagged a leaf, snap the hook home hard. Chances are the lunker bass is mouthing your jig.

Jig & Pig is good but try using the lightest jig you can. Slow-rolled spinner baits are also great to use in these situations. Reel the bait as slow as you can and still make the blades spin. If you are fishing around grass or rocks, allow the bait to sink until it contacts the cover. Then reel a little faster. When you can’t feel the cover, slow down. A 1/2- or 3/4-oz. spinner bait seems to provide the right thump. Gulp finesse worms are another way to slow down in cold water conditions. Scaling down to spinning tackle and light line often works during severe cold spells. The key is keeping the bait in contact with the bottom. A slow drag-and-stop retrieve is best. Use tube jigs around rocks and in clear water, I like to fish these baits on an exposed jig head. Simply insert the lead head into the tube and fish it on 8- to 10-lb. test line. This is especially deadly for smallmouth.

Bass move less in cold water, they position themselves in an area that provides ease access to deep water, exposure to sunshine and a readily available food supply. Since most lakes have only a limited number of these textbook spots, the fish tend to concentrate in large numbers. Some likely places to find these big schools of bass include bluff banks near the mouths of major creeks, submerged roads and bridges and points near major creeks and channels

Bass burn fewer calories during cold weather because bass move less, they burn fewer calories and their need for food decreases. So, we need to adjust our expectations. If you expect to get 100 bites, you are going to be disappointed. Four or five is more realistic. The good news is that big fish seem to bite better in cold water than small ones do.

Bass are more relaxed in shallow water when skies are cloudy, and that makes them easier to sneak up on. Once a fish sees you, it becomes very difficult to catch him. Therefore, I prefer to use my MotorGuide trolling motor to take myself into the shallow water, staying as far out as I can while still being able to see into the water. Good pair of polarized sunglasses are recommended. Stealth is a must in bass fishing and any shallow water fishing.

Bass react differently in cold water. Adjusting your method often makes the difference between a slow day and a good day.

Early summer brings some of the most exciting fishing of the year. Along with the warming of the air comes the warming of the water. This means it is time to break out a crankbait and head to a clear water reservoir. Some of the best clear water reservoirs can be found in the Midwest where cranking for pre-spawn bass is one of the most effective ways to find bass and catch the fish of a lifetime.

By early May, bass enter a pre-spawn pattern and start their migration from the main river channels to the spawning areas. Generally, bigger fish tend to be the first ones to move. The fish that are up shallow have already migrated and are usually very active. Some excellent places to begin the search include bluff ends, channel swings, main lakes and secondary points.

When you catch one bass, concentrate on the general area where you found it because bass tend to gather in loose groups at this time. The warming water starts bass into their springtime ritual of feeding heavily on crawfish. This feeding frenzy makes crawfish-colored crankbaits extremely effective. Three of the best colors I have found are red green and brown crawfish patterns.

A suspending lure, like a Rapala Husky Jerk, is easy to throw and produces the best results. It also allows you to slow down and even stop your retrieve.

The retrieval can be executed a variety of ways. This bait is effective whether you simply cast it out and reel it back, go at different speeds or use a stop-and-go retrieve to allow the bait to suspend. This lure works well because it stays in the strike zone longer. Change your patterns and presentation along with varying your retrieve until the fish tell you what they want.

To get the best action from your lure, I recommend using a 7′ G-Loomis rod along with a slow-retrieve reel. Line size depends on the depth of the fish and the amount of cover, generally 8- to 12-lb. test Berkley XT works great.

The cold weather and cold water conditions may make life a little tough, but you can endure cold hands and cold feet once in a while to catch the biggest bass of your life. If you are one of these people, take a few minutes and look at the fishing possibilities on Lake of the Woods. Contact Jenna Walton, Executive Director Lake of the Woods Tourism, P.O. Box 518 Baudette, Minnesota 800-382-FISH, FAX: 218-634-2915