Cold Water Fishing Tips

By: Randy Phillips, AR Lures U.S., 2009 BassMaster Federation Nation Champion, on behalf of Tackle Grab for Live 2 Fish

Though spring has officially sprung as of March 20th, many anglers in the U.S. and Canada are well aware that cold temperatures can still pose a problem for fishing throughout the entire season. A few tips and tricks:

Keep yourself warm

You can always remove layers to stay comfortable, but if you don’t dress warm enough you will become stiff, less mobile, and even run the risk of frost bite or hypothermia. It’s critical to bring food to keep your body burning calories and keeping you energized. Beyond physically prepping your body itself for the cold temperatures, it’s critical to stay warm in order to stay sensitive to the feel of a fish taking your bait. In cold temperatures, the bite is much less aggressive than normal. You need to be on top off your game due to the bite being so sensitive. Always watch for a twitch in your line – often times you will not feel a fish hit, rather you will see your line jump.

Let your bait sit, and be patient!

Cold weather fishing is much different than the summer hot days. In the summer there is vegetation, plenty of food around, and shaded areas for bass to hang around in. These are all visible areas that produce fish. In the colder months, fish hold tighter to the bottom, as bottom rocks hold some extra heat. In the colder days the fish become lethargic. So the ultimate tool in fishing in the cold is patience. Let your bait sit. I let my bait sit for 15 seconds to 2 minutes depending what I’m using.

All about the baits

My go-to baits for cold weather fishing include jerk baits, silvery buddies, or jigs.

A jerk bait represents a bait fish that is injured or extremely cold or even dying do to the colder water. When fishing with this bait, it’s all about the cadence in which you fish. You need to find out how the fish want the bait. Nine out of ten bites are going to come when the bait is not moving. You want to cast and use a twitch twitch, pause cadence. The key is the pause – be patient. Let the bait sit for 30 seconds to a minute before repeating.


A silver buddy is representing dying baitfish. With this bait you are fishing deeper pockets. Cast and let the bait sink to the bottom. Keeping bottom contact on each fall is critical. Once you have felt that the bait is on the bottom it is a yo-yo type retrieve. So lift the rod up to 12 o’clock and then go back to 9 o’clock. A lot of the bites are going to come on the fall or the fish picking it right up off the bottom.

Next is a jig. With this bait it’s about patience. Cast and let it sit. You do not need to move it much. Most bites will come by letting the jig sit and they will eat it right of the bottom.

Lighter line

Beyond specific baits for cold weather fishing, another technique for colder days is using a lighter line – typically an 8-10 pound test. The water is much clearer in the colder months due to minimal algae and vegetation in the water, so it is critical to downsize your line.

Bundle up and fish on! Summer will here before we know it.

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