Bass Fishing Tips for the Backend of Cold Air
Cold fronts and great bass fishing are usually not put together in the same sentence unless it goes something like this: “Great bass fishing is over now that there is a cold front pushing through.” It is true, bass fishing after cold fronts is difficult and most anglers simply choose to keep the boat in the garage and the rods on the rack. But what makes cold fronts so challenging to fish for bass?
Understanding Cold Fronts
The first step to fishing after a cold front is understanding what it is. A cold front is a transitional area where cold air is replacing the warmer air. As the front passes, air temperatures drop with steep changes, sometimes 10- to 15-degrees, in a short period of time. Temperature is not the only change with a cold front, however, but other weather characteristics also change. For instance, barometric pressure sharply rises then continues to steadily rise after a cold front moves through and winds, often gusty, pick up as the front passes. Additionally, cold fronts in the fall and winter typically have more extreme weather associated with them, like heavy rains, blizzard-like snowfall and strong thunderstorms, than cold fronts during other times of the year.
All of these factors can turn good bass fishing bad in a relatively short period of time. Since cold fronts are harshest from October through April, they add to an already difficult time of the year to fish for bass. Catching bass after cold fronts, though, is not impossible if you recognize how bass react to the changing weather.
What Cold Fronts Do to Bass
There are numerous theories as to why bass fishing after cold fronts is tough. Some are true and others are not, but in reality it is a combination of factors that contribute to decreased fish activity.
Changing weather, especially to colder conditions, generally, means a struggle on the water bass fishing. As strong cold fronts move through, fish become less active with each degree decrease in water temperature. Bass become lethargic and less inclined to strike any bass fishing lures. Their strike zone decreases and rarely will they chase lures during these weather patterns. Instead, bass will be conserving energy and feeding less, making lure presentation and fishing location more important.
Where Are the Bass?
Even though cold fronts impact bass, they do, however, react to cold fronts in somewhat predictable ways. Bass species and where they are located determine how they will react. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are both affected by cold fronts for similar reasons. Catching bass after cold fronts is difficult because colder water reduces metabolic activity, slows digestion and forces fish to move to different water.
Largemouth bass fishing in big lakes after cold fronts is only successful if you know the lake well. Largemouths will move off the shallows to deeper areas like shoreline drop-offs or deep rip-rap ledges during the front. Largemouths will also move to heavy vegetation areas in lakes that have some left in the late fall or channel bottoms in smaller lakes. If no deeper water is around, seek out any protected areas, like shoreline structure, where water temps are more stable even during a hard cold front. Fall cold front bass fishing for largemouths only works if you can find these areas on the lake.
Smallmouth bass, although still predictable, are less predictable after a cold front than largemouth bass. Smallmouths are less affected by a passing cold front and have even been known to even pick up their feeding if the front is relatively calm. Smallmouths will stick to deep river bottoms or potentially move there if they have been feeding in the shallows during warmer fall days. Not unlike their already winter positions where you would be targeting them already.
As the front passes and warmer air moves back in, fall bass fishing will get hot again as fish seek out warmer waters to return to feeding. The best time to fish a cold front is just before it hits. Bass sense the changing barometric pressure and start picking up feeding in anticipation of the changing weather. Almost any late fall bass fishing techniques work on these aggressive fish. Plan accordingly, as this pre-cold front bite has to be timed right and it only lasts for short time.
Fall Fishing Patterns for Cold Fronts
Now that that you have a pretty good idea where to find bass after a cold front, the trick to catching them is the right bass fishing lures and presentation.
First, fishing lures do not completely change with the changing weather. If you are bass fishing in the late fall and winter, you probably already have a few rods rigged up with soft plastics and jigs. Outside a cold front you may have been throwing spinnerbaits and crankbaits to mimic baitfish or shad, but with everything slowed down it is time to stick exclusively with jigging. Worms and jigs are going to score you fish after a cold front. Pitch curly tail worms into deep structure or drop shot shaky worms off rocky drop-offs. Work them slowly and repeatedly target the same area. Often if something is not working, yet you know you are over bass or casting to where they are, try downsizing your lure. For instance, try a 3-inch worm instead of 5-inch. The smaller bass fishing lure may make a bass think twice about grabbing it since it is easier to catch and digest than the larger bait.
The top three fall bass fishing lures for catching bass after cold fronts:
- Jig-n-pig. Pair a heavier jig, like ½- to ¾-ounce, to fish the winds cold front typically bring with them and to keep the jig moving slowly in the water. For the pig part of the jig, carry a few different options such as chunks, crawdads and flat tail grubs. Mix and match until you find the combination that bass are picking up.
- Finesse worm. The go-to bait when bites get tough no matter the weather conditions and time of year. Fishing them on drop shot rigs works best in deeper water where bass will be located. Use heavy drop weights to get it down to fish and hold on the bottom. Try bass fishing with a smaller worm if you are having little success.
- Tubes. A versatile bass fishing lure, the tube can be rigged with a jig head, Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged depending on your preference and the cover you are fishing. Tubes can also be fished with scents and attractants that may add that little extra something to pull a bass in.
Next, consider how lure presentation impacts your fall fishing patterns after cold fronts. Bass fishing is approximately 20% correct lure and 80% presentation. Present lures as slow as possible. Jig worms as slow as you can. Bounce drop shot rigs ever so slightly. Bass are still going to feed during and after a cold front but only as a strong opportunistic feeder. If you want them to bite you need to put the lure on top of them and give them a reason to grab it. But remember that they are not going to chase anything and if they feel the effort to grab your bait is not worth the reward they will pass it by.
Fishing Line Considerations
Since you are slowing down your presentation, bass are going to have more time to inspect what they are about to eat. Often reducing your fishing line weight can increase bites. Downsize your line, from 10-pound test to 8-pound test, to help with concealment. Also adding a fluorocarbon leader reduces line visibility even further and it is also one of the best fishing lines for cold weather fishing.
Cold Fronts Not Only Affect the Fish
Along with lure selection and presentation, anglers should beware of how cold fronts affect them. Again, bass are somewhat predictable in these situations so you want to find cold front zones and stick to them, fishing them thoroughly. Bass are going to be reluctant to strike, so it is going to take more than just a few casts, and possibly a few lures, to hook into one. Stick to one spot, hammer it then move on if nothing happens. Try to tell yourself that the fish are there and avoid running and gunning all over the lake searching for a bite. This will be ineffective and also not keep you any warmer!
In addition, the nice thing about bass fishing after cold fronts is the angler pressure. Like bass, many anglers do not like the cold temperatures. Lakes will be mostly vacant after a cold front, leaving prime bass fishing areas open to your choosing. Of those that do not mind the cold, the rest figure with the cold front they would not catch any bass so why bother. Again, with these tips and virtually unlimited fall bass fishing spots your success should go up fishing after a cold front. Suit up in the right fishing appeal and headwear to brave the cold and show all those house sitting anglers how it is done.
Bass fishing after cold fronts is not the best fishing you are going to have this fall and winter, but that should not stop you from hitting the water. Big bass can still be caught, particularly just before a cold front, as these winter-like weather patterns move through. The good thing with cold fronts is you already know what you are getting into. The bass are going to be slow to strike, but they are going to be in predictable areas. Change up your late fall bass fishing techniques and slow your presentation to entice more bites. Catching bass after cold fronts is not impossible. Concentrate on these bass fishing techniques for fishing cold fronts and you may just warm up from landing so many fish.