Fishing through the winter months, contrary to popular belief, can bring some great days on the water. Most anglers stay clear because of the frigid temperatures and hunting season pulls even the greatest enthusiasts off the water and in to the woods. Winter is also when most freshwater species group up. All of that being said, preparation and gear make all of the difference during the winter months.
One of the biggest parts of preparation is finding the right time to go. Depending on where you live, obstacles may include: snow, ice, heavy rain or just out right bitter awful cold. As the graphic below points out, weather fronts can be a tell all for fish activity. In short, fish are generally more active prior to a front and less active after it.
Most anglers are limited to fishing on the weekends, where they could care less about conditions but for those who want to try some science on for size, the above tips and tricks will get you on the water during the prime times.
During the winter months fish are slow moving and lethargic. What gets their attention? Action, action and more action. What baits have the most action? Live bait. Who has live bait readily available? Not many. Artificial baits with hair and/or feathers are going to be your friend because their action is not affected by the cold water temperatures. In addition, high action and detailed hard body swimbaits, imitation lures and soft plastics that have colors that mimic the winter forage (anything white, silver or transparent) are going to be the next best options.
There are two trains of thought when it comes to the best baits for winter fishing: throw big baits, get big fish or reduce bait sizes due to their slowed metabolism. What do we think? Yes. Like most aspects of fishing, do whatever works. I would start out with a small hard body swimbait like the SPRO BBZ-1 Baby Shad 2 1/2 inch Swimbait and if I am hitting, throw the Savage Gear 3D Shine Swimming Glide Bait Hard Body Swimbait and see if I can bring the hogs out of their holes.
While winter fishing isn't for everybody, it should be something that everybody tries. Planning and mindfulness of the conditions, solid equipment and the proper baits will make winter fishing a treat, rather than just an opportunity to freeze your ***** off.