Bass seem apathetic and unmotivated, and the same can be said for anglers when venturing out to the water in cold weather.
With every passing cold front, bass can clam up for days, their metabolism rate stagnates, and patience becomes the greatest asset a hardcore cold-weather angler can possess.
If you don't mind enduring the elements, however, winter bass fishing can actually be fun and productive. The key is finding the fish in deeper water, slowing down the presentation, and keeping the bait in the strike zone as long as possible.
Vertical jigging is a great way to take lethargic, winter bass in deep water. Worms, jigs, spoons, and live bait can all be fished vertical, but I like fishing heavy jigging spoons best when the fish are deep and unmotivated.
Baits that are fished horizontally, such as spinnerbaits and crankbaits move too quickly through the fish's strike zone. A big bass at this time of year is not inclined to chase anything. But a jigging spoon can be dropped vertically to where the fish are holding and fished in the strike zone much longer.
By using a vertical presentation, anglers also have better contact with a lure than they would with a long horizontal cast. That's important in the winter when strikes are much more subtle. A heavy jigging spoon presented with a tight line allows the easiest detection of strikes.
The spoon, in my opinion, has always been an underrated tool in bass fishing.
The lure was developed during bass fishing's formative years when it literally was a spoon - with its handle cut off, holes drilled on either side, and a hook attached.
The Johnson Silver Minnow, Acme Little Cleo, and Acme Kastmaster are excellent casting spoons. But for vertical jigging, the Hopkins Shorty is the ideal choice.
It's heavy, flashy, and imitates a stunned or injured baitfish when twitched up and down. Seductively dancing a Hopkins spoon in front of a big bass in deep, cold water can be deadly.
Don't be afraid to go big with your spoon or lure size at this time of year. The metabolism for a bass is at a season low now, so energy conservation is at a premium. It takes the same amount of energy for a bass to take a run at a smaller food item than a bigger one, yet the yield is lower.
The reward must be equal to or greater than the energy expended - simple biology. Leave the small baits for your fair-weather fishing buddies.
As I mentioned, patience is an important quality for an angler to possess at this time of year. It's easy to lose your patience and focus when you're uncomfortable.
Start by dressing in layered clothing, including a weatherproof outer shell. Remove or add layers as needed throughout the day. A pair of neoprene and fingerless gloves also will make a cold excursion more comfortable. A hat is not optional.
The only thing worse than fishing while cold is fishing while cold and hungry.
Bring snacks and sandwiches. Having a thermos of hot coffee or cocoa on the boat is a no-brainer. There's little chance of detecting that subtle, barely-detectable winter strike when you are shivering and hungry.
Get a late start. Don't even think about setting the alarm and getting to the lake at sunrise. The water and air temperatures are at their coldest at daybreak. The longer the sun is up and beating down on the water's surface, the better your odds of connecting with an agreeable bass.
Follow the winter weather patterns.
As mentioned earlier, cold fronts can put fish down for days. On the other hand, an approaching warm front can usher in some amazing fishing on the most miserable of winter days. This often means fishing in cold rain and even snow. Hey, no one said winter fishing would be easy.
By using vertical jigging spoons with some of the practical winter fishing advice outlined above, your next December bass-fishing trip can be a more productive and enjoyable one.