Baits for Cold Water Bass

May 3, 2018

Paul McCue FishUSA Ambassador Cold Water Bass Baits

The weekend brought moderating temperatures to most of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Finally! In the Great Lakes, the long winter looks like it’s behind us, the days are getting longer, and the air temperature is inching towards t-shirt weather. However, cool nights and water temperatures are still keeping the bass in late winter/early spring mode. After two days of fishing, the warmest water I found was 51 degrees and the bass are still a little sluggish. This makes for slow fishing most of the time, but it is a great time of year to catch a giant. As we get closer to the spawn and anglers get antsy to throw jigs and cranks for territorial fish, preparation will be the key to success.

Before casting the first line, remember that the water is cold this time of year, and can be dangerous. I wear the new Simms Challenger Jacket and Bibs to block the wind. They are waterproof, extremely comfortable, and make for a great set of outerwear when you’re fishing cold water. Something that I think many anglers forget after a long winter is that even when the sun is warm, the cold water you are fishing in can dramatically lower the air temperature around you. Be sure to wear your life jackets as well. With water temperatures in the 50's it will only take minutes for hypothermia to set in.

Baits for Cold Water Bass with FishUSA

When it comes to the business end of things, we all have our preferences. If I only had three baits for cold water bass, here is what they would be:

  • A jig. Simply put, this is one of the most versatile baits around. I like to fish them slow in cold water and keep things simple. Black and blue on dark days or stained water. Green pumpkin or brown on bright days or clear water. I also like jigs with a bulky body or paddle-tail, like the Keitech Fat Swing Impact, that can move a lot of water, even with a slow presentation.
  • A jerkbait. My top choices are the Megabass Vision Oneten (yes they are worth the money), Lucky Craft Pointer, and Smithwick Rogue. I like to mix up my retrieve, but cast to same spot several times before moving. Alternate between very short and slow jerks, moving the bait about 4-6 inches, and longer and slower jerks where the bait is moving 12-18 inches at a time.
  • A spinnerbait. With the invention of the chatterbait, I feel many anglers overlook the spinnerbait. It can be fished high or low in the water column, over weeds and brush, and fast or slow. I am a big fan of War Eagle spinnerbaits.

We’ve all experienced the tight-lipped, coldwater fish that are tough to get to bite. But those first fish of the season are some of the best. When fishing reports are scarce early in the year, it comes down to getting yourself out on the water, fishing where you know fish are hiding, and throwing the kitchen sink at them until you get bit.

Good luck and tight lines!