Cold fronts and cold water conditions are known to frustrate many fishermen. Preceding a cold front the wind begins to build up and the barometer pressure starts to plummet, and this triggers a brief feeding frenzy among active bass. During the night the temperatures begin to rapidly drop as much as 25 degrees or more.
The next morning you see the clouds breaking up and dissipating and at the same time the barometric pressure soars. The fishing may be decent for a while until the early morning clouds dissipate, leaving bright clear skies. Anglers call them bluebird days. Then fishing gets tough.
Winter fishing has lots of ups and downs. There can be days when you only manage to get a few bites and other days when the bass really turn on.
I remember a couple of years ago Mike Smith and I were on Lake Jacksonville trying to catch winter bass. It was the first week of February. From about 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. we were looking for bass near the dam. We spotted some shad on the graph but couldn’t locate any bass. About 4:00 p.m. we began fishing the mouth of Cat Creek on a point. Suddenly we saw a lot of bait fish near the top. For two hours, just before dark, we landed 25 bass on a 1/2 oz. Nichols, Mojo, shattered glass spoon. On the graph we could see solid bait fish from 14 to 30 feet. Many of the bass were caught near the surface in 48 degree water. I was casting the bait out over 30 feet of water and then let it flutter down about four feet and swimming it back. Bass do feed in cold water, but your timing has to be perfect.
Locating the bass can be the most difficult part. Most avid fishermen know that deep water bass (generally 15 feet and deeper) are less affected by a frontal passage than fish holding in deep water. Shallow fish will move into thick cover where available. If there is no decent cover, the fish will often move to a break line, like the drop off of a creek channel. If you can locate a creek channel close to a point like we did in Jacksonville, your chances of catching more fish are greatly enhanced.
If you decide to fish shallow, say 5 to 10 feet, be sure you stay close to deep water. In the winter I will almost never venture into a shallow cove unless we are having a real mild winter. That’s another story by itself!
If you choose to fish under bad cold front conditions the biggest thing is to slow down. Some pros like Bill Dance will switch to a very light jig or a weightless tube. Bass simply won’t strike a fast moving bait in the dead of winter. Next you need to fish real tight to cover in an area where you caught fish right before the front. Fish normally won’t leave a good area. I’ve found that if there are good grassy bushes or logs or other good cover where the fish have been, they won’t leave it when a cold front arrives. So concentrate on the thickest cover and really work it over.
Even for the best fishermen cold fronts and winter fishing are a challenge. To help solve the cold water dilemma, you ought to head for one of our nearby power plant lakes where you can find plenty of warm, stable water. Ironically, the best fishing on a power plant lake is during the worst cold fronts. You may nearly freeze to death, but you can really catch some big strings of black bass under these conditions.
Jerry Miller can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Solving The Cold Front Blues
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