Winter Bass Fly Fishing: Your Comprehensive Guide

winter bass fly fishing

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Venturing into the great outdoors for a spot of winter bass fishing may not seem like the most tempting proposition. But with a bit of insider knowledge, you’ll soon find it can be a highly rewarding experience.

Though the chilly temperatures may deter some, those who choose to brave the cold will find that winter is a time of abundant opportunities for bass fishing. Yes, the smallmouth bass behave and eat differently in winter, but once you’ve figured out their patterns, you’ll be in for a real treat. Let’s dive into the key things you need to know before you head out.

Understanding Winter Bass Behavior

Both smallmouth and largemouth bass remain active feeders in winter, despite the cold weather and water temperatures. As cold-blooded species, their metabolism slows down in colder water, leading to less activity compared to warmer months.

However, these bass still need to feed in winter, but they’ll minimize the energy used to do so. This means you’ll find them in deeper underwater structures more often than in shallow water areas. So, next time you’re out on the boat, focus your efforts on the deeper parts of the lake.

Where to Find Winter Bass

When targeting winter bass, look out for deep tailouts with substantial structure. Smallmouth bass are likely to be in the lower water column where deep water can provide some warmth. Overhanging banks or trees providing security and a constant food source are also prime locations. Start by fishing water deeper than 10 feet, paying particular attention to any deep pools or ledges.

Remember, bass fishing is all about working structure. Sunken logs or debris are the best types of structures, especially for winter bass fishing. They’re deep, warmer, and provide security. Plus, bass have a great predatory advantage over any aquatic animals passing by. If you can’t find or reach this type of structure with a fly fishing rod, rocky ledges are your next best option.

Monitoring Water Temperature

Water temperature plays a crucial role in bass fishing – more so than in trout fishing. The cold water affects bass more than it does trout, making them lethargic. However, don’t let this deter you from venturing out in the winter months.


Target waters that aren’t colder than 40°F. If you find water above 50°F, you’re in for some real fun. The time of day can also significantly influence your fishing success. As water has had the whole day to warm up, sunset sessions often prove the most productive.

Choosing the Right Gear

Gear needed when fly fishing for winter bass

The gear needed for winter bass fishing isn’t much different from summer fishing. You can use the same weight fly rods and reels, 5wt -7wt setups, but switch from a WF floating line to a WF fly fishing sinking line. You’ll be focusing on deep water, so you need to get down fast and retrieve the fly through the column.

When it comes to choosing flies, start with smaller ones. Bass want to use the least amount of energy to feed, so smaller prey would be an easy meal. Spend a limited amount of time in one spot. If you haven’t had any interest, move on. Covering as much water as possible on the lake or reservoir will increase your chances of success.

How to Catch Winter Bass

Fly fishermen use their surroundings and environment to influence their decisions on flies and tactics. Catching bass in winter can be tricky but can become a regular occurrence with a bit of extra knowledge.

Once you’ve located a potential holding area, choose the right fly to pull through. Check out our post here on the best bass flies for more patterns to choose from. Small baitfish patterns are a great choice as most baitfish die out over winter, making the remaining fish a prime target for bass.

Shad and crawfish imitations are great flies to start with, in colors like red, orange, and white. If you tie your own winter patterns, then combination colors are perfect.

Remember, bass have a slower metabolism in winter, so slow down your retrieve. Start with a few short, fast strips with long pauses, followed by a few slow retrieves and pauses. Pay attention to the drop between each pause as this is when bass love to take, and many eats can be missed.

The slow approach demands more patience and awareness, but once you get into the swing of things, you can expect to land some impressive catches.


Structure Bass Fly Fishing

What’s the Best Bait for Bass Fishing in Winter?

Popular baits for winter bass fishing include jigs, jerk baits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics, depending on the location.

What Colors are Best for Winter Bass Fishing?

Darker colors like black, brown, and purple are the most popular for winter bass fishing. Bright colors such as chartreuse and white can also be effective.

Are Bass Less Active in Winter?

Yes, bass are less active in the winter months due to the cold temperatures. However, they can still be caught with the right techniques and bait.

Do Bass Go Deep or Shallow in Winter?

Bass typically go deep in the winter, seeking out deeper, warmer water. However, they can also be found in shallow water if the temperature is right.

Do Bass Bite More When It’s Cold?

As long as there is some activity in the water (such as baitfish), bass can bite more when it’s cold. In general, they tend to be slower to bite in colder temperatures.


How to catch bass in winter

Winter bass fishing can be a blast once you’ve adjusted your approach. Forego the shallow areas and concentrate on the slow, deep, structured waters. A slow, sinking line and slow retrieve are the best ways to get the fly down to the bass.

The slow retrieve is key, as the fish don’t want to expend much energy feeding. Start with a smaller fly and gradually increase in size until you find what works. Once you have zeroed in on the best retrieve and flies, you will be in for a great session.

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