The crawfish is a favorite meal for smallmouth bass everywhere they coexist, but it may not be their prime forage when the water reaches icy temperatures. At around 45-degrees, the crawfish begins to become less active and will even burrow into the ground in a hibernation-like state as it waits for warmer weather. If your home waters never get that cold, then crawfish imitating lures will be an essential part of your arsenal all year long.
Other popular forage for the smallmouth bass include perch, shad, minnows, kokanee salmon, sculpin and gobies. They have vastly different migration patterns and movements when the water gets cold and researching the prey helps a great deal in understanding where the predator will be.
Once you have a promising area and have figured out what the fish are eating, where they are, and how deep they are holding, a small selection of proven baits is all you need to find success with cold-water smallmouth.
The dropshot is a given anytime when fishing smallmouth and it will catch fish every day of the year. During the winter months, it shines and the most
significant piece of the puzzle is determining the right bait to use. Everything from small finesse worms and baitfish imitating plastics will work, but sometimes going with a larger fluke-style plastic is a reliable way to catch bigger smallmouth eating larger baitfish that will hold them over longer during their least active period of the year.
Two other necessities for fishing this time of year are jigs and swimbaits. Each of them has proven to be essential lures for smallmouth bass and work wonders for ice-cold smallmouth bass. A handful of finesse jigs and football head jigs in crawfish colors are good choices for smallmouth everywhere during the colder months.
For swimbaits, a jighead and Keitech Swing Impact FAT in sizes ranging from three to five-inches long will match a variety of different forage fish. Also, don’t be afraid to mix the two bait styles as fishing a swimbait on a football head jig or swinging football head is a solid option for cold-water smallmouth as it lets you drag the bait along the bottom slowly while still imitating a baitfish.
There is generally a point in the year when the soft plastics and swimbait bite slows, and another category of