In winter, the length of the strike zone changes with water temperature, with colder water causing a shorter strike zone. Anglers should cover water quickly and use accurate electronics to read water temperature. Bass' strike zone narrows between 40-50 degrees, increasing with temperature. Water temperature in the 70s is their preferred active temperature, especially on cloudy days.
Cold Water Bass Fishing - Mike Gerry
As the water temperature changes in the winter so does the length of the strike zone, a quick way to remember this is the colder the water temperature the shorter the strike zone. An example of this would be using the length of the fish as a guide. In cold water the length of the fish is about the distance of the strike zone and as the water warms so does the area. We as anglers especially in the winter have a tendency to cover water quickly, and this is a good thing but you must make a decision on when its time to fish an area thoroughly; and understanding the water temperature can be key. Reading your electronics and having them accurate is an important piece of winter fishing. I find that many of us have our transducer in the hull of the boat set so it reads through the hull, this is fine except it many times can distort the water temperature. Set you electronics so the water temperature is being read from an outside transducer location, like the structure scan transducer that is located outside the boat. This gives you the most accurate look at the temperature. Remember one degree of water temperature can vastly improve the fishing; if you don’t believe that turn up your thermostat at home one degree and see how much difference one degree makes.
As an example, let’s take the water temperature and set some distances for the strike zone based on temperature. My best guess is between 40 and 50 degrees the strike zone for a bass narrows down to the basically the length of the fish 12 to 17 inches. Once the water temperature reaches the 60’s their strike zone increases by just about doubling the length of the fish as you get into the 70’s now the strike zone triples the length of the fish and you start seeing more activity from bass; they chase more, they feed from longer distances and they roam more, hence you see more activity from them while your fishing the increased water temperature. The temperature of the water in the 70’s is their preferred active temperature and on the cloudy days in the winter with 70-degree temps they become really active.
Another consideration while fishing colder water temperatures is when to slow down or speed up as your covering water. There are a few keys to this type of decision but its not always black and white; some keys would be, observing moving bait fish around the area your covering or grass stems and bright sun on a cold winter midday where the oxygen level is high. It also can be just a sense that this area is really fishy; when this happens its time to slow down and cover this area inch by inch, while understanding the strike may be short forcing you to be thorough and cutting the area at different angles until you prove there is active fish there. Also, many times you have-to consider bait selection, is your bait being seen, is it big or small enough to attract a bite, is it the correct color, can it be worked slow enough so the bass will react to it. I find that one technique that can really enhance your strikes while slowing you down is to shake your bait on the bottom of the area your fishing. The rod tip is a great fishing weapon to catch fish with as its flexibility and strength are many times a great key to catching winter bass. Put it in the strike zone shake it, raise it, pop it and get your bait in front of those stingy winter bass and you will catch more fish. Be consistent and when you get that first bite in an area, don’t give up on that area until you prove to yourself there is no more bites. Bass group up in the winter and when you get one bite you will probably get many more.
Learn more with my bass fishing videos https://inthespread.com/bass-fishing-videos
Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service
Call: 256 759 2270
Capt. Mike Gerry
In The Spread is one of the world's premier sport fishing video companies and educational outlets for demonstration, explanation and insight on how to catch fish. Get inside access to our video library by becoming a member.Mike Gerry In The Spread, Instructor