What do you do when it gets cold? You find a place to get warm. I’m writing this article in a cold room where I’m huddled up next to the fireplace! Fish do this too when cold fronts pass. This article is about where the bass find comfort and warmth after a cold front and how to make your lure look like a hot bowl of chili on a bitter day!
Remember that fish are cold blooded, meaning their metabolism speeds up or slows down according to the surrounding temperatures. If a cold front lowers the water temperatures, bass either find warmer water or become more sluggish. Let’s address each situation separately.
When Bass Move to Warmer Water
When a front rolls in, most fish pack up and head to deeper, warmer water. Say for example we just had two solid weeks of sun, then a cold front comes through and it rains for two days. This rain and cold weather has made the top 4-5 feet of water temperature change significantly. However, down at 10 feet the temperature remains unchanged. Deeper water after a cold front is not affected as much as the top layer. A natural question is, “Well if the deeper water remains unchanged, why don’t bass act normal in deeper water during cold front?” Good question, my best answer is that bass are out of their comfortable feeding zone and pattern in those conditions. When bass get forced out of their natural pattern and go deep, they usually are sitting it out on the sidelines.
When Bass Stay Put in the Shallows
A percentage of the population of bass on any given lake are not going to move when a front rolls in. It is important to realize that not all fish are acting the same way on a lake. Patterns can change and numerous fishing patterns can exist at the same time! The bass who do not go deep usually find refuge in the weeds. Weeds, though sometimes in shallow water, serve as the bass’ security blanket from cold weather. It is just their nature. Look for the thickest of thick weeds. These weeds are usually nearby to feeding flats and the bass will hunker down in the middle of the weedbed and pseudo-hibernate until temperatures rise. These fish can get quite sluggish, but thick weeds are often easier to locate then deep water haunts.
Techniques to Catch Bass After a Cold Front
I remember my first cold front fishing lesson. A buddy and I got an itch to go fishing on a nice day after a cold front. Our first mistake was assuming the fishing would be normal just because it was a nice day. The reality was we were fishing the first nice day after a 3 day front. Accordingly, we fished far too fast. And accordingly, not a bite. I was casting a senko around some docks and accidentally rat-nested my reel. I sat there for a few minutes untangling the line as my senko laid on the bottom out where I casted. I finally untangled the line, reeled in, and something was pulling back! I reeled in a three pound bass and averted being skunked on the day. My rat-nest allowed my lure to sit in front of the fish much longer than usual. The sluggish cold front bass finally got what he wanted: an easy bite!
Lesson: Slow down…then slow down some more.
The second tendency of cold front fish is a loss of appetite. Cold fronts generally put fish a funk, they don’t feed as usual. Similarly, think of when the last time you had the flu. Did you decide to tackle that 12oz sirloin at the local steakhouse for dinner or did you nibble on some crackers instead? Downsize your offering to the fish. Make that 6″ plastic 4″ instead. Lighter line also helps as well as fish tend to sluggishly study the lures in cold fronts and therefore have a higher likelihood to see your fishing line.
Lesson: Smaller and more discrete.
I recommend small plastics. Drop-shots are turning into a very popular fishing technique for finicky bass. Pick a plastic that has less action than more. In cold fronts all organisms slow down, so a high action lure will look unnatural and fake. Keep things simple in a cold front. The key here is getting your lure in the fish’s “strike zone.” Tube’s are also one of my favorites for stubborn cold front bass. Here’s a great article on when and where to use one.This strike zone gets very small with cold front bass. I recommend vertical presentations and jigging. Keep the cranks and topwaters at home today!