Largemouth bass can be finicky eaters when water temperatures drop, which means you will have to carefully consider the best baits for winter fishing and the action you use when retrieving your baits or lures. Let’s learn about four of the best baits for winter fishing and why they catch bass when other baits won’t.
What is the Best Bait for Winter Fishing?
When choosing the best baits for winter fishing, it will be helpful to remember one general rule of thumb -- downsize your offerings. In other words, use smaller baits or lures than you normally would when water temperatures are warmer between late spring through early fall.
1. Hair Jig
When bass metabolism slows down due to cold water temperatures, many anglers feel that a hair jig (such as a marabou jig or bucktail jig) is the best bait to use for winter bass fishing. One of the biggest advantages of using a hair jig is that it can mimic either a baitfish or crawfish. Another benefit is that you don’t need to use much action or technique when fishing with a hair jig since the bucktail or marabou will have natural motion in the water column. A lightweight hair jig (3/16 or 1/8 ounce) is often considered to be the best bait for winter river fishing when bass are holding in areas of mild current.
2. Finesse Worm
Finesse worms are some of the best fishing baits for winter because you can rig these small, thin worms several different ways to get bass to bite. For example, you can rig a finesse worm weightless Texas-style if you’re fishing around shallow vegetation on a day without much wind or current. Alternatively, you can try rigging it drop-shot style. To rig a finesse worm drop-shot style, use a 4-inch finesse worm (drop-shot style) with a 1/0 light wire finesse hook and cast it around structure and dock pilings.
3. Underspin Jig
When winter bass are suspending over deep cover (at depths of about 10 to 20 feet), an underspin jig is often mentioned as the best fishing bait for winter. Use a heavier jig head when fishing deeper water (try a 3/8-ounce or 1/2-ounce head). If you feel bass “nipping” at the bait instead of aggressively biting it, mix up your retrieve using a series of jerks and pauses instead of just reeling the bait steady back to the boat.
4. Suspending Jerkbait
One of the best baits for winter pond fishing is a suspending jerkbait. Jerkbaits mimic an injured or dying shad in cold-water situations. Anglers have many different opinions about which type of line is best to use with a suspending jerkbait. You can experiment and form your own opinion. Two to three feet of 10-pound fluorocarbon leader material rigged to braided main line will give you the low visibility and abrasion-resistance of the fluorocarbon leader while still experiencing the “snappy action” you get when using braided main line.
What is the best bait for winter fishing when targeting bass? There is no single answer. The best bait for winter fishing depends on what depth the fish are at, the type of waterway (river, lake, pond), and what the fish are feeding on in that waterway. Get out on the water and try these baits to find out which works best for you.