When our lakes in the Inland Northwest start to thaw, water temperatures vary between 36 and 38 degrees. Even though our lakes still may have ice present on the top, largemouth and smallmouth bass can still be caught. The best way I know how to catch these icy cold fish are by dead-sticking jerkbaits or by using a shallow running crankbaits and fishing it ultra-slow. This is casting out a jerkbait and letting it sit suspended for a minute or more, or taking more than three minutes to reel in a crankbait. The slowest retrieve is your goal.
I’ll be honest, it’s not a very fun or action-packed way to fish. Your hands are most likely frozen. Your line guides on your rod will start to freeze. But the payoff can be huge. Here’s my first fish of 2015, a 4-pound largemouth bass from Spokane, Washington. Here’s a few of my favorite lures to catch cold water smallmouth and largemouth bass:
And don’t forget to slow down on your retrieve. While bass can still move fairly fast in 39-degree water, they will not move fast and out of the way to get a bait that seems unnatural. The best way to catch fish is to slow down and dissect an area of the lake you know to be holding fish. You must present the lure directly in front of their face to get bit -and in order to find them, you need to spend countless hours fishing your particular body of water until you get that first bite. Once you do, continue fishing the area to cover it thoroughly.
Good luck out there!