It appears we are into the silly season of bass fishing. The time of year where you would love the weather to do one thing or the other just to have some consistency. However, the month of January is anything but consistent. As we have seen so far, the needle on the thermometer can have a pretty wide swing from day to day.
Weather plays a huge factor in how we decide to fish for bass. Wind and temperature changes can make planning your strategy to catch bass pretty tough. As I write this, we’re a day removed from a cold front settling in, taking the overnight temperature down to the low 40s or upper 30s, depending on what part of the state you are living in.
Will it stay that way? Nope. The second day of the front starts cold but promises temperature back up into the 70s by midday.
That temperature swing and the effect it has on water temperature will keep bass from getting into one area and staying there for any length of time. As the mercury drops on the thermometer, the bass head out to deeper haunts. And it takes more than one day to reheat that water and get those bass back to even think about moving shallow.
Right now, my guess is the bass don’t know if they should move in to start their spawning ritual or hang out and feed some more and wait for something stable. And don’t look now, but we are headed for another blast of cold air in four days. Another run back down into the 40s — which once again will put the bass on their heels and keep them confused as to what they should be doing.
Temperature isn’t the only thing that’s far from stable. The wind will switch from coming out of the north to a southeast blow. That means the water will get dirtied up on the north end of the lake if it blows too hard, which is a shame because I like to fish the north end of most lakes after a front passes.
On any given lake, the north end of the lake is usually warmer in winter. Why? When a cold front pushes through, the chilly winds blow from a northern direction. The lake generally stays calmer at that end, with the strongest wave action at the south end. That water movement will release some heat from the water.
Also, the areas where the waves were roughest will usually be dirtiest. Dirty water doesn’t let sunlight reach the bottom, so it heats up slower on those bright and sunny post-front days.
So, here’s my general post-front game plan. I head to the north side of the lake and look for any type of feeder creek or canals to see if I can find a place where the water will be moving, which is a great place to find the bass feeding.
In moving water, I prefer a bait that moves but won’t get hung up if there is some vegetation around. Points of vegetation around the moving water are always key to locate. It gives the bass a place to set up out of the actual moving water but flash in to feed on bait that is around that moving water. If the weeds are deep and I can get a lipless crankbait over them, that is my first choice. Otherwise, I’ll go to a swim jig or a swimbait.
As I head into a canal, I search out the docks. The wood, concrete and metal hold heat, so the water temperature is a degree or two higher. Plus, bass love the structure. They will often start dusting beds in these locations — the water being just a degree or so warmer may get them into that spawning pattern sooner.
In this location, I like a bait I can pitch or flip. The bass can be spooky in close quarters, so try to make long pitches to some likely-looking target spots while staying as far away from them as possible. You can gradually drift or troll in, but keep any movement to a minimum so you don’t scare the fish away.
The farther you go back into a canal, the warmer the water will usually be. But it will also get more stagnant. Water that’s murky and muddy and really shallow won’t hold much oxygen, which will deter the bass from going in there. So look for vegetation and other life to make sure you aren’t chasing something that won’t be there.
Keep an eye on the weather through February. The next couple months can bring some really ugly cold fronts through our area that will mess the fishing all up. When that happens, stay versatile. Keep the boat moving until you get a bite or two and then concentrate on that area. Persistence will get you fish!
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.