With the days getting shorter and weekly cold fronts passing through, some of the best bass fishing of the year can be enjoyed. So what causes the fish to suddenly start feeding aggressively and become easily fooled by fishermen?
Several factors play a part in creating this positive situation for anglers looking to score on numbers of fish and possibly a trophy.
Rain, structure, water temperature and wind
With the increase amount of rain, the water becomes stained or muddy and there is an increase in water movement and current. The colored water and current causes the fish, in general, to move to shallow water and position themselves close to structure such as rocks, lay-down trees or brush, matted vegetation, piers or docks. Bass use these places as hiding places to ambush unsuspecting prey that swim by.
The lower water temperatures are like ringing the dinner bell for bass; it effects the metabolism in a positive way causing the fish to be much more active. It also causes the fish to retain nutrients, much like a bear feeding for winter hibernation, so bass will gorge on all types of prey, but most often baitfish like shade. Winter days can be windy, which can have a positive influence on fishing.
Another thing to use to your advantage in winter is the many fronts that move through this time of year. Frontal conditions affect fish is certain ways, so understanding this can aid in being able to predict where fish will be and how to catch them.
The pre-frontal days are usually warmer, windy and overcast, which almost always creates positive conditions for catching fish. Shallow water is the best place to try, as fish will be actively feeding. While a front is passing through, stay home and avoid the cold, rainy conditions. Once the weather stabilizes, fishing will be productive. Post-frontal conditions with high barometric pressure and sunny conditions make it easier to predict where fish will be located. Bass will seek the thickest cover available; like matted vegetation, brush and around docks and piers.
The best lures
During prefrontal conditions, use flashy lures that mimic bait/shad like spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, rattle baits and crankbaits. Keep colors flashy and bright in stained, dark water, and use less colorful, more shad-colored in the water. Reel in the lures at a normal to above-normal speed.
Even though the places to catch fish are easier to predict during post-frontal conditions, it can require a little more patience to catch them. Try using slow-moving baits like a heavy jig and crawfish chunk, heavy spinnerbait, shad-rap crankbait or plastic worm.
As winter continues and water temperatures fall into the 40s, fishing success will slow down. The fish will be more lethargic and less likely to chase a fast-moving lure, but you can still catch them by slowing down your presentation and technique. How slow? My father told me to fish my lure as slow as possible and then slow down some more.
It never gets too cold to fish. I have caught fish in all conditions – even when there is ice on the water. Fish have to eat to live, which means you can catch them under almost any condition, so bundle up and try your luck at those cold-weather wintertime bass.
Meet Clint Nail
Clint is one of Shoreline’s fishing experts who shares his wisdom and knowledge about fishing and the right ways to enjoy our lakes. He is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, and a consistent competitor in fishing tournaments statewide. When Clint isn’t fishing, he’s a chemist for Alabama Power.