10 of the Best Winter Bass Baits That You Should Be Using
By: Paul Glass
Bass fishing in the wintertime is cold and demanding to say the least, but with some motivation and the right equipment, you don’t have to sit these months out. Fishermen all over the country are catching bass right now, and you could be one of them.
The first step to any successful bass fishing trip is knowing what you should have tied on the end of your line. We can help with that.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the absolute best winter bass baits that we’re using to catch more fish this winter.
Jerkbaits have long been a favorite for cold water bass fishing. This is a wildly useful bait that can be fished at a slew of different depths, speeds, and cadences.
In the winter, the slower the retrieve, the better when fishing a jerk bait. A long, drawn out, jerk-jerk-pause is the best retrieve, sometimes letting it pause for up to 30 seconds.
These baits are Oscar-worthy dying baitfish imitators, and colors should be matched to the forage in your local lake, river, or reservoir. Jerkbaits excel around rip rap banks, bridges, steep drops, and points. They can also be fished over deep water for suspended wintering bass.
A favorite winter lure of highland impoundment fishermen, the jigging spoon is a great lure to use for those suspended, deep water baitfish eaters.
This subtle lure with lots of flash is designed to dangle in front of a finicky bass’ face for long periods of time, coaxing them to bite -- what a tease!
These baits are almost exclusively fished vertically below the boat, and use of good finders to locate suspending schools of bass is recommended to harness the full potential of this awesome winter lure.
Anglers like to fish these baits on spinning rods over tree tops, on long points, and over deep brush piles to mimic an easy meal for sluggish winter bass.
Jigs are a staple any time of the bass fishing season, but they especially shine when the water is cold, and the fish are slow.
Fished slow and on the bottom, these baits excel when crawled and hopped around and through thick cover. These weedless baits easily come through deep brush piles and around big boulders that big bass call home.
These baits should always be tipped with a plastic chunk or crawfish to add an even more tantalizing movement to your presentation.
You are definitely going to want a jig or two in your arsenal this year. Top picks in the winter include ball-head type finesse jigs, and bulkier profile baits for those larger southern bass.
Finesse crankbaits -- long skinny crankbaits made of light plastic or balsa wood -- have long been a secret of pros everywhere when the bite gets tough.
Often used to mimic a slow-moving shad, these baits are worked along rip rap banks when the water is cold. Finesse crankbaits are pretty light, so your best bet is to tie them on a spinning rod with a light line to cast them the furthest.
While often used as baitfish imitators, do not overlook crawfish-colored baits like red and brown as well. Crawfish are a main forage in the cold-water season and bass look at them as an easy snack to help them bulk up for the spring spawn ahead (much like most of us do during the winter).
Parallel your boat along a long rocky bank and reel this bait right along it on a sunny winter day -- this should put a few bass in the boat before your thermos gets cold.
Loud and proud, lipless crankbaits are one of the best ways to trigger that reaction strike all winter long.
These baits are heavy and can be cast a long way over large weed flats. Filled with metal beads, these baits make a lot of noise and can be detected from a long ways away by a hungry bass.
The key to fishing these baits is adding some rod tip movement to cause the bait to speed up and slow down erratically, which will trigger strikes from following bass. Lipless crankbaits are great lures for stained to even muddy water for their ability to call in fish with their rattles.
A lot of winter bass tournaments have been won on this lure, and it’s many pro’s go-to lure for triggering cold water bites.
Vibrating jigs burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s and quickly became one of the best baits anglers could have on their deck when the water gets chilly.
Much like the lipless crankbaits mentioned above, these baits are loud and provide a ton of vibration, which triggers reaction strikes. These lures are generally tipped with a plastic swimbait for crawfish for a trailer.
The advantage vibrating jigs have over their lipless crankbait counterparts is the ability to be worked slower and through thicker weed cover without becoming fouled. This allows you to pop the bait through emerging grass and trigger the more lethargic fish into biting the bait.
Plus, they are fitted with a large, sharp, wide-gap hook that keeps an acrobatic bass hooked up when they decide to go airborne to throw the lure. There is a reason vibrating jigs are some of our favorite lures to use all year, but they do have a special place in our icy hearts.
Similar to the jigging spoon, the underspin is one that has been a mainstay in anglers’ winter tackle boxes for decades.
Although a simple lure, it’s not much more than a jig head with a small willow leaf blade attached to the bottom of it, but it’s a big-time bass catcher when you run into deep suspended wintering fish.
This lure is generally set up with a swimbait for a trailer to mimic a shad or herring. It can be counted down and fished through the schools of bass in water as deep as 30 feet. It can also trigger bites when fished through the tops of submerged trees and over deep brush piles.
This bait has just enough flash and vibration to lure up a hungry bass who is foraging on baitfish.
Long a lure only found in walleye fishermen’s tackle boxes up north, hair jigs have now found a home in bass anglers’ boxes everywhere. With the subtle way these furry lures wiggle with the lightest move of the rod tip, they are an excellent bait to mimic the slow and deliberate movements of a cold-water crawfish or baitfish.
This bait is also extremely versatile in the ways that it can be fished. You can hop and drag it along bottom, or slowly swim it around and through hard cover like rock and trees. For extremely tough winter bites, don’t hesitate to tip with a live minnow for that little somethin’ somethin’ that bass won’t be able to resist.
When most people think about bass fishing, a spinnerbait is probably the first lure that comes to mind. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, and for good reason -- it’s one of the most versatile lures in an angler’s tackle box.
It can be fished all year, and the winter is no different. One of the best baits for slow rolling is a big Colorado blade spinnerbait. With plenty of flash and vibration, fish can’t resist this big baitfish imitator.
The lure comes easily through almost any type of cover, allowing it to be fished in a wide range of scenarios. From weeds to rip rap to wood, this lure will get it done more days than not.
Football Head Jigs
These odd-shaped lures are among the pros’ favorite winter bass fishing baits of all time.
Footballs are awesome lures for both covering water and fishing slowly. Designed to be cast out a long way and dragged slowly along a rock bottom, unsuspecting bass can’t help but take a swipe when these lures shimmy on by. The oblong shape of the head creates a subtle, but erratic action as it crawls and bounces off the gravel.
These lures can be fished in a skirted version with a chunk, or used as a jig head with your favorite plastic crawfish imitators.
Football head jigs thrive around bluff walls and big boulders found in many highland reservoirs, as well as main lake shoals and humps where bass are wintering.
There you have it folks, the 10 best bass lures that you need to be throwing this winter.
All of these baits are relatively simple in nature, but definitely are time tested, proven lures. Try to target bass wintering areas on your lake, often found around the deepest water, large creek arm basins, and steep bluff walls on the main lake.
So what are you waiting for? Fill up your tackle box, hook up the boat, and head to the lake to give these lures a try -- just don’t forget your gloves, you’ll need ‘em.