Being from the great state of Texas, bass are everywhere, making them my main species to fish for. Texas is pretty warm year-round, with the lowest temperature all winter usually reaching about 30º Fahrenheit. While lots of waters are frozen in other states, Texas waters stay flowing throughout the entire winter, making fishing a year-round sport! During the colder season, lots of people decide to fish for trout or fish the saltwater because they don’t think that bass bite when it is cold, but I assure you that this is most definitely not the case. Though the bass bite slows down a bit in the winter, there are still bass to be caught!
As many know, a fish is cold-blooded. Being a cold-blooded organism means that the temperature of the water regulates body temperature. Since bass are warm water fish, the colder weather brings on a chemical change that slows their metabolism quite a bit. This metabolism change affects their feeding behaviors, thus making the bite a bit different than in the warmer months.
With their metabolism being slow, the bass eat a meal, and it takes longer than usual for their bodies to process that food, making them feel fuller longer; and being fuller longer eliminates the need to eat as many meals. This certainly does not mean that bass do not feed in the winter! Some fish may feed just as much as they do in the summer, but as a whole, bass feed less in the colder months than in the warmer ones.
During the cold weather, bass tend to seek warmer water, but this does not mean that they will confine themselves to this one area during the entire winter. A lot of times bass in ponds or lakes will travel to deeper water because deeper water is less affected by the air temperature. Sometimes bass even gather together in pockets. The bass that are in these pockets are not all experiencing the same feeding behavior, though. Some may be active while others are inactive. As goes for rivers, bass tend to seek cover in areas with more still water. The bass want to avoid fast-moving water that may have a colder temperature.
So, now that we know the tendencies of winter bass fishing, it is time to catch them! The key to catching a bass in the winter is to offer them an easy meal. A tip for catching bass in the winter would be to down-size your fly. This is mainly because bass are not looking to exert the energy to chase and devour a large meal. Smaller meals are easier to consume, so a bass may go after a smaller fly in this case. Another tip would be to use a slower retrieve. Along with wanting something small, bass may desire something slow-moving so that they don’t have to put in much energy.
Some of my favorite fly patterns that I like to use for bass in the winter include the “slump buster”, the “lunch money”, and the “peanut envy”. I like these patterns in really big sizes during the summer as well, but in the winter I like to stay around a size 6 for these patterns. There are countless numbers of flies that work great in the colder weather! Patterns that I avoid for the winter time are top water flies such as frogs, poppers or grasshopper imitations.
As it goes for bass fishing gear for winter, I like to use my weight-forward floating line and I usually use a moderate size rod since I will most likely be using a streamer, but a pretty small one. I personally like to use a 5/6 weight rod. I also like to tie on a sink-tip leader in order to get my fly down deeper into those spots where the bass are hanging out. My most important piece of gear for winter fishing is my jacket! There have been plenty of times that I get ready to go and either forget my jacket or thought I didn’t need it… But bring it just in case! That way you don’t have to cut your time on the water short.
I have heard many people say that “bass don’t bite in the winter”, but that is surely not the case. Bass are a rewarding fish to catch, and they are sure hearty! So skip the trout fishing one day and tie on a nice bass streamer- it may be worth your while!