Fishing Satellite Maps
Fishing Cold Water for Bass
By William D. Anderson
Where I live in the Midwest, there is always a noticeable drop off in angling pressure when the temperature starts to drop. This can provide an excellent opportunity for some great fishing "if" you know how to fish the colder water. By following a few simple rules, you can catch just as many fish in November as you can in May.
The first rule is SLOW DOWN. As the Bass have finished gorging themselves for the winter, and the water temperature drops, their level of activity slows down. They're not going to be as willing to chase a fast moving lure as they were a couple months ago. A slow presentation is a must in order to entice a fish into hitting a lure. In most cases you'll need to run the lure right past Mr. Bucketmouth if you want to catch him.
The best thing to do is to try to find water that has the right combination of temperature, oxygen, and structure/cover. In the real world we know that this is not as easy as it sounds so start with the most important characteristic first - cover. Like us, fish like to feel safe. They will hang around places where they can easily escape danger, and they usually will only venture away from these areas to feed and mate. Since fish are not feeding as much during the colder months, they will stick to what they feel are safe surroundings, and they will remain there as long as they are comfortable.
The next thing is to figure out where those safe surroundings are. Where is the water temperature going to be closest to their liking? During the winter, it will usually be the warmest water in the lake. If there is any type of structure such as a drop-off, downed trees, etc., this will be a good place to begin your search too. Having a good locator will help make your search easy. A temp gauge is a nice thing too, but if I had to pick only one thing, it would be a good topo map. A map will show drop-offs, points, road beds, and anything else that might provide cover for an inactive fish.
Don't forget that fish will suspend if they can't find cover near water that will provide an acceptable combination of temperature and oxygen. This is more common in deeper bodies of water and a locator can be a big help to find them. From experience, I've found that suspended fish are easier to spook than fish that are sticking close to cover.
Once you find an area that is likely to be holding fish, hammer it. As I said before, you often have to run a lure right in front of a fish because he isn't going to be too willing to chase it. Try to use lures that mimic whatever natural prey is in the lake. Almost always this is something that resembles a shad or a crayfish. A bass isn't going to bite something that he isn't sure about during this time of the year (there are always exceptions - but not many) so I like to increase my odds by presenting him with something that is more likely to fool him.
Once you hook a fish, get him in the boat as quickly as possible. Playing them out increases the risk that they will die later. Even a healthy looking fish upon release can wash up dead a couple days later if it is not handled with care. This happens more often than people think. I prefer to release the fish I catch after a quick photo or two, but if someone is going to keep the fish they catch, that's OK too as long as they abide by whatever rules and regulations are in place for the body of water they are fishing. Releasing fish provides more fishing opportunity for the future.
So far you should have picked up three things to help you catch more fish in cold water. The first is to slow your presentation. The second is to use some common sense to determine where the fish might be. The last thing is to present the fish with something that they are used to in as natural a manner as possible. By following these three simple rules, your fishing season does not have to end until the water freezes - unless you're into ice fishing.