7 Essential Lures for Winter Bass Fishing

To catch bass twelve months a year, get familiar with these seven must-have winter bass fishing lures and tactics.

Until your local lakes freeze over, there’s no reason to put away the bass fishing gear for the winter. With the right lures and presentations, anglers can find dependable bass fishing all winter long. Get familiar with these seven lures for winter bass fishing to keep catching 12 months a year.  

(Note: On The Water is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)

Ned Rig

Z-Man Shroomz Jig Ned Rig
Z-Man Finesse Shroomz Jighead / Z-Man Finesse TRD

When selecting your top lures for winter bass fishing, small, finesse presentations are paramount, especially in the dead of winter. The subtle action and versatility of a Ned-rigged soft plastic like the Z-Man Finesse TRD on a Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jighead tempt big bass all year long. 

Generally, ned plastics measure around 3-inches and feature a slim profile that resembles an easy meal. Ned rigs can be vertically jigged, cast and retrieved through the water column, or slowly crawled and hopped along the bottom, triggering lethargic bass to bite. 

Given the slow retrieves used with this presentation, the Ned Rig isn’t the best technique for covering water, so it helps to know where the bass have balled up for the winter before breaking it out.  

Blade Bait

Bass Pro Shops Mean Eye Blade Bait

One of the deadliest lures for winter bass fishing and cold water jigging, blade baits like the Bass Pro Mean Eye Blade, Reef Runner Cicada, Bass Pro’s XPS Lazer Blade and Rapala Rap V Blade are all go-to options for bass anglers in the winter. While both largemouth and smallmouth bass eat blade baits, these lures are most often associated with deep-jigging smallies.  

These metal lures sink quickly, getting down to the bass over the deepwater humps where they winter-over, and staying there. Subtle flicks or long sweeps with the rod generate heavy vibrations that draw reaction strikes from low-lying bass, but be careful not to “overwork” the lure. Often, lifting the rod just enough to feel the blade begin to vibrate is enough to trigger strikes.  

Lipless Crankbait

Rapala Rippin’ Rap

These loud-rattling, tight-kicking lures are either irresistible to cold water bass or highly irritating. In either case, they put out heavy vibrations, and their narrow profile and forward orientation allow them to swim through wispy winter vegetation at various levels of the water column. Much like a blade bait, lures like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap, the Berkley Warpig and the original Rat-L-Trap can be cast and retrieved or vertically jigged over changing bottom contours where smallmouth and largemouth bass school during the winter months.  

To really get the most out of lipless crankbaits in winter, check out suspending lipless crankbaits, like the 6th Sense Quake 80, which will hover long enough to give lethargic fish a chance to strike.  

Suspending and Slow-Sinking Jerkbaits

Berkley Stunna

Fished along drop-offs and weed lines, suspending and slow-sinking jerkbaits are killer lures for winter bass fishing from November to March. With their neutral buoyancy, internal rattles and a mid- to deep-diving range, these hard-plastic stickbaits produce frantic action upon retrieval that is contrasted by the appearance of a stunned-baitfish on the pause. 

While there’s a wide range of effective jerkbaits on the market, the pricier suspending models like the Shimano World Minnow 115 and Megabass Vision 110 tend to suspend better in cold water, when painfully long pauses up to 60 seconds can be the key to getting bit. In deeper areas around steep ledges and underwater humps, where vegetation is scant, the slow-sink of a Berkley Stunna will draw a strike as it shimmies down toward the strike zone. 

Scaling down to a smaller suspending jerkbait, like the Lucky Craft Pointer 65 or 78 can also help tempt sluggish winter largemouths.  

Float and Fly

Kalin’s Hand-Tied Marabou Jigs

In the winter, bass are less likely to chase down a meal, but offerings that hover in their faces with subtle lifelike actions, like the Float and Fly, can be deadly.   

The key components of this rig are a sensitive float, like the Bass Pro Shops Pear Float or Thill Premium Weighted Slip Float, and a 1/32- to 1/8-ounce hair jig, like the BPS Marabou Crappie JigsKalin’s Hand-Tied Marabou Jigs or VMC Dominator Marabou Jigs. Soft plastics like the Berkley Atomic Teaser can also be very effective.  

The float and fly is fishing when it’s paused and the jig below is subtly moving as the float bobs on the surface, with the hair “breathing.” While this technique is deadly effective on lethargic bass, it’s a poor choice for covering water. It’s best employed when schooled-up bass have been located with other techniques like lipless crankbaits or jerkbaits.  

Drop Shot

Berkley PowerBait Pro Twitchtail Minnow

To suspend a bait several inches off the bottom in deep, cold water, the drop shot employs a pencil-like sinker such as BPS XPS Finesse Drop weights and slender plastics like the Berkley PowerBait Pro Twitchtail Minnow or Z-Man Trick ShotZ.

The slim sinkers are designed to slip in and out of narrow cover with ease to keep anglers free of snags and keep lures in the strike zone. A small, soft-plastic of choice is rigged 12 to 18 inches above the sinker with a specialized drop-shot hook through the nose, so it appears to wiggle enticingly in the water column, without much forward movement, keeping it in front of lethargic bass long enough for them to strike. It is the subtle, tantalizing wriggle of the plastic that make dropshot-style soft plastics one of the must-have lures for winter bass fishing.

Casting and Jigging Spoons

6th Sense Divine Jigging Spoon

Designed to sink quickly and swim like an injured or fleeing baitfish, metal spoons like the 6th Sense Divine Jigging Spoon, Acme Kastmaster, and the War Eagle Jiggin’ Spoon feature the kicking action and shimmer of a real baitfish. Their narrow, compact profiles maintain the target depth and maximize fishing time with fast drops and frequent takes when fished in clear water around schools of bait. With variable sizes, colors and weights, spoons make it easier to match the hatch and attain the desired depth, which is why they earn their spot as one of the essential lures for winter bass fishing.

Related Content

Where to Find Smallmouth Bass in the Winter

Largemouth Bass by the Calendar

11 Holiday Gifts for Bass Fishermen

3 on “7 Essential Lures for Winter Bass Fishing

  1. robert j. walters

    Live bait , crayfish (crabs) and not a restriction on quantity would sure be nice too !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *