8 Lures You Need in Your Winter Bass Fishing Box
My most productive non-ice fishing lures for winter time bass fishing
You’re scraping ice off the windshield, as the truck sputters and grumpily tries to warm its interior. Breathing in exhaust fumes as cold chills pulse down your spine as you hook the trailer to the hitch. The nose begins what will be a full day trickle as your ears already burn from the frost trying to adhear to your lobes. The allure of big lumbering sluggish bass in icy cold water fills your brain as you scramble to the cab of the truck. It’s winter time, and surprisingly some bass anglers hate it.
To an extent, all anglers probably fall victim to “rut fishing” at some point throughout the year, and winter can be the worst time to be in a rut about how you approach your fishing. A few simple facts will hopefully give you better perspective and hopefully some tips on tackle will make your quest to catch bass a little easier this winter.
First, bass don’t need to feed every day. There metabolisms slow to a crawl and they don’t need as much coal for their furnace so to speak. So they don’t have to eat as much or as often. That makes smaller baits a good option or extremely slow moving big baits that they don’t need to run down to satisfy a week’s worth of food requirements.
Second, bass group up and spend a good portion of their winter motionless. They populate an area that has food and deep water nearby and hover there until early spring. So spend time looking for deep concentrations of bait, cover and bass and realize fish use the smallest percentage of the lake of any other time of the year.
Now for the good news. Bass do eat in the winter. They stay near the bait because they need to eat. Also, they stay with their friends, so if one bass isn’t eating today, chances are a buddy right next to him is. They are very keyed into shad this time of year and the shad can be struggling to stay alive if the water temperatures are dipping into the low 40s. So while they are looking for those injured dying shad, they won’t pass up a slow crawling craw right in their face either. They are still opportunists and will seek to eat whatever they can in close proximity.
Having addressed their “tendencies,” here are my 8 choices for targeting and catching sluggish cold water bass and some tips on how to make them more effective.
Deep suspending jerkbaits
I spent a lot of time watching shad die in the winter when I fished on clear water fisheries like Table Rock and Beaver Lakes in the Ozark Mountains. These shad would kick and pause, flutter and float and sometimes sink slowly out of sight. I’ve incorporated mimicking this kick-and-float behavior into chasing winter bass with deep diving suspending jerkbaits. A Lucky Craft Staysee, a SPRO McRip, Megbass Ito Vision 110+1 and a Jackall DD Squirrel all do a great job of twitching and jerking in water 8-12 feet deep. The sound, flash and water displacement in clear water can all lead big bass out of deep haunts to grab a quick easy meal.
Tip: I sometimes weight my jerkbaits so they will slowly sink. When I know I’m fishing for bass deeper than 10 feet over much deeper water, I actually like for my jerkbait to mimic those shad I saw dying for many years on other fisheries. I will add lead golfers tape or a few extra split rings to make my deep suspending jerkbaits slowly sink after a rip or pull so they look like a shad struggling to stay afloat.
A blade bait is a dynamite lure for stair-stepping down steep 45 degree banks into the zones bass are holding. Where a spoon derives its action after the hop or pull as it flutters on the fall, a blade bait attracts on the actual rip and drop.
Tip: I will fish a blade bait like a lipless rattling bait and just slowly wind it along, hoping it bumps a rock or two. I think the subtle vibration, couple with the clinking and clacking over rocks, draws those deep bass in for a closer look and the slow crawl is easy for them to run down.
A jigging spoon has been a staple over the years for deep wintering fish. It looks like nothing, but it casts like a rock, gets to the bottom and into the strike zone with blazing speed and can be worked in place easily on a vertical presentation with a simple snap and fall on slack line.
Tip: Slack is critical so learn to drop or cast the spoon and watch your line as it falls. Think it stopped too early, reel up fast and set the hook. See your line jump, set the hook. I often cast out a few yards from the boat and hop it around to cover a small circular area where I think the bass are holding and being out away from the boat helps me watch my slack a little easier as well.
Another deep small hunk of lead with some flash, a tail spinner has been a hot ticket in Texas lake in colder years. The ability to hop it, wind it, pump it and work it various ways both near the bottom and up in the strike zone make this simple tear drop lure a dynamite presentation.
Tip: I use a lighter one a lot of the time to get a slower fall in the winter. I think a lighter weight really lets the blade work and you can keep the bait in their strike zone for a much longer period on each cast, which is critical in the winter.
Under spins with shad tails
When you are fishing deep flats, a lure you can cast and wind slowly along the bottom or up off the bottom if you find the bass suspended can be the ticket. Something like a Sworming Hornet or a Buckeye SuSpin with a small swimbait or shad tail like the Optimum Opti Shad or Basstrix can easily mimic a shad in cold water that might have a slight stain to it.
Tip: Super glue is your friend. Super glue the swim tail to the head and you can fish all day with one tail and head, well at least for a lot more fish than you would otherwise. And a pumping and stop and go retrieve can also trigger bass who might slowly lumber behind but never strike.
A grub is such a simple and old faithful lure, that many anglers totally forget about them. Fact is, this bait really shines when the water is ultra cold. I’ve caught bass in water below 40 degrees on a grub and 1/4 ounce jighead. When bass suspend in vertical cover, a grub can be a dynamite lure to catch those otherwise stationary bass. Wind it slowly and methodically and most bites will just feel like a little pressure as you wind it.
Tip: Small diameter line helps keep the lure down and swimming steady through the water. The lure doesn’t weigh much so heavier line causes it to rise too much. I like some of the new grubs like the Strike King Rage Tail grub or Zoom Fat Albert that put out a lot of vibration.
One of my favorite ways to catch smallmouths this time of year, is casting to 45 degree banks and steep points and bluffs with a casting jig. Something like a Cumberland Pro Lures Pro Caster or a Stan Sloan’s Booza Bug are ideal for this technique. I will tip the jigs with a Zoom Chunk or Zoom Super Chunk Jr.–something with flat appendages that undulate more than twist and thump.
Tip: I’m normally fishing this on fairly open rocky banks with occasional stumps or laydowns. So I will opt for very light line like 10 to 12 pound fluorocarbon. The lighter line gives the bait better depth control and I think the fish look at a jig this time of year longer than other times of the year before biting. So I want to stack the deck in my favor with very natural presentations, trimmed skirts, natural chunk colors to give the bass a real meal looking profile.
I’ve definitely built up a lot of confidence with a drop shot over the last decade. And I just smile when I hear guys tell me bass won’t bite plastics in cold water. They will bite the right plastic. Especially if presented in a very realistic manner. The bass are often tight to the bottom so I will keep my leader lengths fairly short and I will let the drop shot sit for long periods. I still want to butt it up against a rock or a stump and work it painfully slow around an isolated object. But sometimes just barely flicking the tail is all the action it needs.
A grub can be one of the most effective bass lures for cold water. A 4 inch curly tail grub on a 1/4 ounce jig head can be all that is needed. Target steep chunk-rock banks with as much as 45 degree slope. Bass prefer these areas because they can make extreme depth changes up and down the water column to feed without using conserved energy. Cast to the shallow edge of the steep bank and then allow the grub to sink, raising the rod tip as the bait reaches the bottom to lift the grub. Anglers are successful when repeating this technique until the grub is back to the boat. Bass often bite when the grub is on the fall, so be ready to set the hook.
If it is a trophy bass you’re hoping to catch during the winter, it is important to learn weather patterns. Timing your fishing trips when there is a break in the cold temperatures can help. Fronts usually bring warm rain as the temperature is rising and the barometric pressure is changing and this can be one of the most productive times to fish. A warm front in conjunction with a barometric change will cause bass to feed as the bait will migrate to the warmest areas usually in the back of creeks, then they will move out to the mouth as the water cools back down following the front. One degree in water temperature can make a huge difference. Fishing with cold water lures like a jig and trailer on the shaded banks just might land that trophy you’re looking for.
During the winter months you may read a lot of articles about jigs and spinnerbaits and how to use them for cold water bass. Both lures do well as the jig and the spinnerbait are similar in design and use similar techniques when fishing them. The difference between the two is the spinner blade and the wire it’s attached to. However, The Punisher Head Spinner is a hybrid innovation between the two and features chip resistant paint job, a Sampo ball bearing swivel to enable the blade to spin easily at any retrieve speed. Backed with a sharp hook, the Head Spinner will hook and hold any bass that bites. The Head Spinner works well when fished over deep cover like brush piles, around standing cover like bridge pilings and standing timber, and along weed edges. You can use the Head Spinner with all of your favorite soft plastics or rig it with a skirt for a unique look. Use the Punisher Head Spinner with any single or double tail grub or the Super Fluke or Super Fluke Jr. as a trailer. In winter, as the water temperature falls into the middle to low 50’s, try pitching these innovative jigs to the wooden cover and work it the same way you would a jig. Allow it to fall while maintaining a tight line as it bounces off the limbs shimmering and fluttering on the way down. Watch for subtle line movement and be ready to set the hook.
In winter as the water temperatures continues to drop and the lake turns, bass feed aggressively. Sensing that winter is close, and their metabolism will slow down bass prepare by feeding heavily on the big baits when the water temperature is in the 50s. This can be a great time to throw a soft plastic swim-bait. Concentrate in the 4- to 10-foot range near docks and remaining grass and broken mats. Under blue skies, a few days into a cold front fish deeper with a weighted swim-bait on the bottom like fishing a jig. Concentrate like a rock-pile or drop off by slowly crawling and hopping the bait across the structure. Baits like these by FishHouse Lures can quickly entice a cold water bite in winter.
A soft plastic worm worked very slowly can be one of the most effective winter bass fishing techniques. By simply allowing the worm to lie motionless on targeted structure or “dead sticking” the worm and then “shaking” the rod tip occasionally can prevail. This technique will often trigger a strike. Using a bait injected with a quality bass attracting such as Attack Pak has with the Juiced Up X10 formula can be rewarding during the cold winter months.
Bass jigs with crawfish trailer worked slowly across bottom structure and cover like rocks and wood can be a good tactic in winter. Cast the jig and allow it to settle a moment before starting your retrieve. Bass often grab the bait from the bottom. However, many strikes occur as the jig is on the fall. Fish the jig slowly, avoiding the temptation to retrieve the jigs quickly. Twitch and hop the bait along slowly, enticing the bass to take the bait.
These are more angler approved and tested methods for a cold water bass bite. Although winter fishing is somewhat limited there are many techniques suited for bass fishing in the cold water
BRIM REAPER FISHING TIPS
One of the benefits of selling the Brim Reaper is all the feedback I get from fishermen. Here are some tips that I have found and some that I have been told.
WHEN THE BREAM ARE NOT COOPERATIVE, TRY THE FOLLOWING:
- I was down at Reelfoot Lake, TN in May and fishing was slow. I could see down about 4 feet. It really helped when I added a wax worm and cast 50 feet from the boat. Obviously in clear water light line works.
Sometimes it helps to shorten the legs. I am not sure why, but sometimes they want them short.
One fellow reported that he was using the reaper and his brother was using a cricket and neither were doing much until he added a cricket to the Brim Reaper. Then the Brim Reaper with a cricket on it out caught the plain cricket two to one.
One day the fish were hitting slowly. Just nipping the bait and would not hold on. I made 6 casts into one stob and had 6 snibs. No fish so I shortened the legs and dunked it in fish formula (Crappie flavored) I then made 9 straight casts at the same stob and had 9 consecutive bream.
Another fisherman reported the same problem, which he solved by putting on a red lead-head.
Try casting the Reaper with a # 00 L-Shaped spinner in either gold or silver. This can be Deadly. Add a split shot when needed, I do. I tend to use this more often in very clear water.
The Reaper might last even longer if it does not get hot. Take it into the house when you are through rather than leave it in the car. Keep it out of the sunlight, it will last longer.
I have even used the Brim Reaper with a touch of trout dough bait and caught bluegill, crappie, and trout.
CRAPPIE AND THE BRIM REAPER
- BIG Crappie!!!! More and more fishermen are finding out every day that this bait can be Deadly on Big Slab Crappie. This summer when it was hot, the good Crappie sometimes moved into real shallow water in heavy cover in the river sloughs. Try the Brim Reaper, some people prefer to change the lead-head to one with a # 6 hook instead of the standard #8. Some people prefer a plain lead-head or painted. Depending on the water, you might want to us the Reaper with the chartreuse legs. I went out one day and did better with the chartreuse legs on both Brim and Crappie. The water was pretty dingy.
IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO PASS ALONG, JUST SEND THEM AND I WILL DO IT.
Remember how awesome the fishing was last month? Crappies were spawning, bunched in the shallows thicker than fleas on a hound. You were catching slabs off stake beds and brushpiles in every bay, cove, and flat. Then suddenly, just like somebody pulled the plug, it was over. Now you’re figuring it’s time to stash the crappie tackle until next spring.
Hold on. Even though the spawning bonanza has passed, there’s still plenty of great crappie action out there if you change your tactics. After the spawn, crappies follow submerged creek channels out of reservoir tributary arms toward the main body of the lake. Although they’re unlikely to be packed together now as they were during the spawn, they’re still in predictable places and respond eagerly to live bait and lure presentations. Here’s how to find these summer hangouts.
TROLL CRANKBAITS When lake temperatures reach about 75 degrees, postspawn crappies will be scattered along the first dropoff they encounter adjacent to their bedding areas—12 to 18 feet deep is typical. These fish will be suspending now rather than holding tight to the bottom, so your best approach is to cover a lot of water by slow-trolling small crankbaits like the Bandit 100 and Bomber Model A. Target the deep ends of gravel flats, major points at tributary mouths, and creek-channel drops [figure 1]. First scan these areas with your sonar and put marker buoys along channels and ditches to chart your route. Using soft-action baitcasting rods and 8-pound abrasion-resistant line, troll between 1.5 and 2.5 mph in a lazy S pattern, alternately sweeping the open water over the channel and banging bottom on top of the drop with your lures. When a fish strikes, don’t grab the rod and set the hook—crappies aren’t called “paper-mouths” for nothing, and a hard hookset may rip out the hook. Instead, pick up the rod and just start reeling. The strike is usually sufficient to bury the hook. Don’t forget to take along a plug knocker to retrieve crankbaits that hang up in brushy cover.
PROBE CHANNEL COVER With the lake now topping 80 degrees, crappies will most often be hanging around deep creek and river channels. Look for them to be suspending near, or holding tight to, stumps, brushpiles, and flooded standing timber adjacent to channels in 20 to 30 feet of water. Mark channel drops with buoys, then probe for crappies using a Kentucky rig [figure 2]. Use cheap 30-pound mono as leaders off of the main line. The stiff, springy leaders will keep the two lures from tangling. A bow-mounted sonar with the transducer attached to the trolling motor will help you stay on target. Lower the sinker straight down into bottom cover and s-l-o-w-l-y reel it up, repeating as you progress along the channel [figure 3]. July crappies often suspend in a tower formation, and this presentation will catch fish from 30 to 10 feet deep.
DRAG OFFSHORE HUMPS Even though the lake temperature may exceed 90 degrees now, you can still catch crappies by keying on offshore humps (submerged islands). Target those no shallower than 15 feet on top, especially if they rise out of deep water near a flowing channel. Crappies gravitate to the peak of the hump to feed on baitfish when current is being generated from the upstream dam, then drop back to suspend off its deep sides once the turbines shut down.
Idle over the structure, marking it with buoys. Move to open water, let out about 40 feet of line with a Kentucky rig on the business end, and head back to the spot with your trolling motor, dragging the rig behind your boat. When you move across the hump and feel the sinker hit bottom, speed up slightly; if you haven’t felt the sinker drag for several seconds, slow down until you do.
Crappies suspending in hot water can be maddeningly slow to bite. When you spot a school on your sonar, you may have to approach it from several different directions to entice a strike. A sudden change of speed can also trigger a bite. As the rig passes near the school, either speed up your trolling motor to quicken the presentation, or kill it so the rig sinks. Find the right combination, and you can get two hookups at once.
Follow the Forecast:
Minnows fade quickly in the heat, so switch to tube baits. Look for towers of suspending fish at dropoffs down to 30 feet and probe them vertically with a Kentucky rig.
Wave action creates cloudy water perfect for ambushes, and crappies emerge from channels to prey on bait feeding on windblown plankton. Head to banks with nearby dropoffs and slowly swim a small white or chartreuse twister jig.
Under clear skies, crappies retreat from piercing UV light in brushy cover near channel drops. Fish straight down into the thick stuff with a Kentucky rig.
Before a storm, crappies school up to bird-dog wandering baitfish. Make multiple passes over channel drops until you find them on your graph, then troll crankbaits or slow- drift jigs through the school. —DON WIRTH
Spring Crappie Spawn
Crappie Spawn is an exciting time of the year usually between March and April each year in the Southern regions when water temperatures reach 62 to 68 degrees, however this is not always true, the northern part of the region may take until May or June to reach the right temps for the crappie spawn to take place.”
Crappie Fishing Tips
Welcome to our section on crappie fishing tips. Here you’ll get a chance to learn everything you’ll ever need to know about crappies and crappie fishing. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time fishing for crappie or if you’ve been doing it for years, there is information on this web page that will help you. First, you’ll have the option to learn more about crappies and get a better understanding of what they do and why they do it. Followed by a list of crappie fishing tips, crappie fishing records, crappie facts and a list of resources to further your research into fishing for crappie. We’re confident that this article can immediately help your fishing game.
Crappie (pomoxis annularis & pomoxis nigromaculatus) is a species of fish native to North America. There are two types of species of crappie, white crappie (pomoxis annularis) and black crappie (pomoxis nigromaculatus). They live in freshwater and are one of the most popular game fish among anglers. Their habitat will usually consist of water that is moderately acidic and highly vegetated. When crappie are juveniles they feed mostly on prey that is microscopic, such as cyclops, cladocera and daphnia and when mature they will feed on aquatic insects, minnows, and fish fingerlings of other species.
Crappie are a schooling fish and will also school with other types of pan fish. They prefer underwater structures like fallen trees, weed bends and other structures that might be submerged. Generally during the day crappie tend to stay deep under water and only move to shore when feeding, mostly at dawn or dusk. However, during their spawning period they can be found in shallow water in large concentrations. They do not go into any semi-hibernation during the winter, making them a prime target of anglers that are ice fishing. Crappies, both black and white can have color variance that is affected by their habitat, age and the colors of the local breeding population.
Most likely you came to this web page for the below information, our crappie fishing tips. These tips were put together by our team by searching all over for the most effect tips used for crappie fishing. In fact, some of the below tips even came from anglers such as yourself. Feel free to submit a fishing tip if you’d like to see your own crappie fishing secret appear below.
- Use the Right Fishing Knot– If you’re fishing for crappie with a jig you should use a loop knot. This type of fishing knot will allow the jig to move more freely when casted. In addition, it provides crappie with a subtle movement that is very enticing when done vertically to the fish.
- The Best Live Bait Setup– One of the best bait setups for crappie is to use a #6 hook, a small split shot, a live minnow and a slip bobber. The slip bobber will allow you adjust for any depth while not sacrificing casting ability. Hook the minnow either through both lips or just behind the top dorsal fin.
- Fish the Right Depth– Crappie can usually be found between three and six feet of water. During the peak of summer crappie will move to deeper areas and come out to the surface during dawn and dusk to feed.
- Keep the Line Tight– Crappie are known to have a soft lip. This means that they can tear easily and shake your hook if the line isn’t kept tight enough. Luckily crappie will put up a good fight, so keeping your line tight shouldn’t be a difficult task.
- Don’t be in a Hurry– Crappie will give you more action if you are slow and steady with your jig and/or minnow. Try to avoid retrieving your cast too quickly. If you’re not getting any action and you know crappie are in the area then try slowing down.
- Use a Topographical Map– Since depth is important when trying to fish for crappie you’ll want to make sure you use a topographical map of the body of water you’re fishing. A map will at least contain depths and in some instances sunken structures like fish beds. You don’t need to pay for these, there are tons of free ones available on the internet.
Crappie Fishing Records
Below is the world record crappie caught by anglers just like yourself. This information came from the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) at the time this content was written. While these type of records do change it’s not that often, you can look up crappie records in real time by visiting the IGFA website. Their is a link to their website in the additional resources on crappie section below. Who knows, in the future we might find your name in the top anglers for crappie because you used information on this web page!
John R. Hortsman caught a black crappie in a private lake in Missouri, USA on April 21st 2006 that weighted 2.26 kg (5 lbs. 0 oz.)
Fred Bright caught a white crappie at Enid Dam in Mississippi, USA on July 31st 1957 that weighted 2.35 kg (5 lbs, 3 oz.)
We’ve put together for you some basic facts and data about crappie. This information is useful to better understand this type of popular game fish and to get an idea of what to expect when fishing for them. The maximum weight and length is from the latest all-time record at the time this information was written. It may have changed slightly, but that is only for the top 0.5% of crappie you’ll find in the wild.
- Scientific Name: Pomoxis annularis (white) & Pomoxis nigromaculatus (black)
- Nickname(s): Papermouth, Sac-a-lait, slab, speck and speckled perch
- Average Lifespan: 10 years in the wild and 12 years in captivity
- Length: Up to 20″ for white crappie and 19″ for black crappie
- Weight: Up to 5 pounds, average is quarter to half pound
- Range: North America
- Spawning Water Temperature: Black crappie 58-64 degrees and white crappie 60-65 degrees
Crappie When And Where To Catch Them