Ice Fishing for Bass: 10 BEST Tips of All Time!

Ice Fishing for Bass Tips

Bass is one of the most popular game fish species and one of the best things about it is that it can be caught year-round!

Same as any other fish, bass will behave differently in winter, so if you are planning ice fishing for bass, you have to change your approach.

This is why I decided to make this short guide that will help you avoid some common mistakes and help you catch a big one! From lure selection to techniques, here are the best tips and tricks for catching bass in winter!

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Tip #1: Get to Know Your Bass

These exciting predators are not all the same. Ice fishing for smallmouth bass is not necessarily the same as ice fishing for largemouth bass. The same goes if you are ice fishing for striped bass!

These differences are mostly related to their winter behavior. Largemouth bass tend to spend time in schools and if you found one, there is a very high chance that you actually found all of them! This mostly happens if there are small portions of weed beds that are still alive in winter.

Smallmouth bass tends to move more than largemouth under ice, and you can find them swimming above the bottom and actually covering some noticeable distances.

Striped bass may be the biggest challenge out of these three species. When you ask anglers where and how to find them, they will all give you different answers. The truth is that striped bass can be quite unpredictable in winter. One day it will bite hard, and the next day there won`t be any activity at all!

Tip #2: Be Very Patient

Anglers that fish during warm months only see bass as a fast and aggressive predator. And it really is, but that changes in winter. Bass will become slower, more cautious, and less interested in feeding.

It can happen that due to cold water, they are not interested in lures at all. There are days when only live bait works. This requires you to plan ahead, come to the ice well prepared, and with various lures and baits. You may have to change one or two before you actually find a good one.

If using lures, work them slower, and try not to spook the fish. It may take a while before you are able to make a fish interested in your baits.

Ice Fishing for Bass Tips - Catch

Tip #3: Learn the Best Technique

In summer, you can catch bass in many ways, but in winter, there is just one that will bring the best results. Jigging for bass ice fishing is the technique that should be practiced.

Of course, you will have to slow down your presentation, and gradually speed up if necessary. Work your lure shortly up, around 8 to 10 inches, and then let it fall naturally.

To make it a bit more effective, add a piece of worm to your lure, because of natural scent that will attract inactive bass.

Make variations and don’t make repetitive motion. Play with the lure until you find the best option for given conditions. Bass is often unpredictable, and what worked yesterday may not work today.

Tip #4: Downsize Everything

Ice fishing for bass requires short rods, thinner lines, and smaller lures. Naturally, you want to use smaller hooks too. All of this is important not to scare bass.

Less active fish is not interested in chasing a large prey. It wants an easy prey that doesn’t require a lot of effort. Unfortunately, this means that bass will spend time checking out the bait, and it will have time to see that something is out of order. So, thinner lines are a must.

But, what when a big one gets hooked? Well, you have to be gentle but determined. Any kind of harsh pulling and sudden movements are a big no-no! You have to use extremely sharp hooks and invest in a reel that has very smooth and dependable drag.

Tip #5: Use Live Bait

No matter how good artificial lures are, or how skilled you are in lure presentation, there will be days when bass will bite nothing but natural, live, prey!

Minnows are the best option, but if you have non, shiners are good too. Hook them on the base of their dorsal fin, lower them down to the desired depth and be prepared for a bite! This often works great over weed beds. Small fish will naturally hide in weeds, so your injured bait won’t seem suspicious!

I already mentioned worms, and that it is a good idea to add them to artificial lures, especially wax worms. Using only worms may not be as good as minnows or jigs spiced with pieces of worms. Avoid them in winter, and use them when the ice melts.

Tip #6: Check the Weather Forecast

Bass will be active during stable weather, and warmer winter days. During those days, they will come out of their hideouts, move around, and even come to shallower parts od the water.

If you can, check the weather and go fishing during oddly warm days, which are not “normal” winter days.

Unstable weather, extreme cold, and similar conditions are not good, and fishing during those days will bring nothing but disappointment.

Luckily, the best conditions for bass are also the best ones for anglers. Sunny and warm winter day will make your experience pleasant too.

Tip #7: Find a Perfect Location

I already mentioned behavioral differences among species of bass, but here I will tell you how these differences affect bass location.

Bays are generally good places to start when it comes to any bass. But, as already mentioned, largemouth like weed basins that are not more than 30ft deep. Present your bait near deeper edges of weed.

Smallmouths will be in shallower water more often, 10-25ft, and around rocky structures. Piles of rocks are their prime spot.

All of them will slowly swim about 1 to 5 ft above bottom when active.

If ice fishing for bass in ponds, these depths may be shallower, depending on a pond maximum depth. When it comes to areas that bass will spend time in, they are the same as in lakes.

Tip #8: Have a variety of lures

Best ice fishing lures for bass are the ones that make them bite, and unfortunately, that can vary a lot.

I would advise you to have a set of tungsten jigs, ranging from 1/12 to 1/64 oz. Rattles and spoons are an excellent option, but spiced with worms.

This may seem a bit small for bass, but it is not. Lures that would get overlooked in summer, are the ones that bass will gladly bite in winter. Ice fishing lures for bass should also include soft plastic. Natural colors are the best, and you can’t go wrong with those.

If you notice that there is no activity, don’t wait for a long time before you switch to another lure.

Ice Fishing for Bass Tips - Lures

Tip #9: Invest in Fishing Electronics

Among ice fishing for bass tips, I have to mention electronic devices. No, they are not for lazy people, and can help you a lot. I definitely advise you not to rely completely on them, especially if you are a beginner, because you will never learn about fish behavior. But, using them occasionally is not bad.

Flashers are excellent for ice fishing, and can give you precise images of what is below the ice. Fish finders are a bit more versatile, and can be used year-round. Some even have chart plotters and similar functions. Lake maps can also be used to find underwater structures and flat weed beds.

And lastly, there are cameras. Those are great if you want to observe real footage of bass and observe their behavior. Cameras are great for learning purposes too, and are not just for finding fish.

Tip #10: Fish in the Warmest Time of Day

I already told you that bass will feed during warm days with stable weather. Even in days like that, it will not be active all day long. The best thing about bass activity period in winter is that it will be most active from midday to evening.

Forget early mornings because it is still too cold. You can sleep long, get up, get to the lake, drill holes, and drink warm coffee. You have a lot of time to get ready, study your surroundings, talk to other anglers, and do whatever you want, before it is time to present your bait.

Light conditions are not very important for ice fishing for bass, as they are for many other fish. Bass is different, and that is why many inexperienced anglers make mistakes when trying to catch it.

Conclusion

Ice fishing for bass is very adventurous, but it can also be very hard. This aggressive predator changes its behavior in winter and slows down a lot.

It can also be very unpredictable. You have to expect that, and be prepared for various scenarios. By following given tips, you will increase your chances for success.

Be patient, downsize, and slow down your presentation. Adapt to your specific situation, adjust your approach, and you will most definitely catch bass!

And don’t forget about ice fishing safety. Ice hides many dangers. Don’t go alone and use proper ice fishing gear!

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I'm Sina, the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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