Largemouth Bass Ice Fishing

February 7, 2009 by  

By Jerry Carlson of Ice Team


The author with a nice largemouth bass taken through the ice

The author with a nice largemouth bass taken through the ice

When it comes to winter time fishing, there is no question I spend most of my hours searching out crappies. I love the activity involved in catching these fish. I also enjoy the fact that I can be successful during the daylight hours without having to fish well after dark. And, if I want a meal of fish, crappies are hard to beat.

Over the past few years, however, I find myself spending more time thinking about another species of fish. I have discovered that my favorite summer fish is also a viable option in the winter months. I have learned that largemouth bass can be targeted through the ice as well as open water.

Although I have caught an occasional bass through the ice for many years, it was an experience that happened to me a half dozen years ago that got me thinking about winter bass fishing. While chasing crappies on one of my favorite bass fishing lakes, my fishing partner and I happened into a school of bass that was hanging on the bottom edge of a steep break.

Even though we only had our super light panfish outfits, we spent the morning working these fish. They willingly engulfed our Genz Worms and maggots just like crappies would do. When the bite finally ended we had caught and released over 40 bass between the two of us.

Last winter I got a call from an angling friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while. According to his report, he had some pretty good activity happening on an area lake and wanted me to come and share some time on the ice.

I few days later I was on his doorstep listening to the interesting angling situation that had developed for him. He had altered his permanent house to accommodate two large spearing type holes. Although he didn’t do any spearing, he enjoyed being able to sight fish while angling.

According to the story, they had been hooking a fair number of crappies and sunnies during a typical outing. The real attraction, however, was the bass that were hanging around on this weedy flat.

As it turned out, we soon lost interest in hooking panfish and concentrated on the scrappy largemouth bass. A shiner minnow worked on a Walleye Flyer was more than the bass could resist. Some of them would rip through the hole so fast you scarcely knew what happened. Others would casually mosey in, examine the bait, and inhale it in one quick gulp. We didn’t really care which way they hit, the catching was great either way!

It was on a fishing trip with angling expert, Dave Genz, that I found myself again targeting bass. This trip was also supposed to be more of a crappie-bluegill adventure than a largemouth bass escapade, but when the opportunity presented itself, bass became the focus.

The panfish we were hoping to catch had been holding in cabbage beds in 8-12 feet of water. Although we caught some bluegills, it was apparent that the congregation of panfish had attracted the bass.

By hole hopping and vigorous jigging, we landed a real mixture of fish. It turned out to be a situation where we wanted to hook bass, but would settle for the bonus bluegill or crappie that would happen along.

My winter bass fishing experiences have taught me that there are several common denominators that are usually necessary to find winter time bass action. One of these is the presence of forage food. Most of the time, the forage comes in the form of panfish. I do catch panfish without bass in the vicinity, but I rarely catch bass without panfish in the neighborhood.

Another critically important ingredient for locating winter bass is the presence of weeds. The weed that is most often associated with winter time largemouth is cabbage.

Cabbage is quite an incredible plant. It will stay green much of the winter and tolerates very low light. Just like the summer months, this plant attracts a wide variety of fish species. It offers cover, food, and oxygen.

Although you can use minnows to attract bass, a larger ice fly packed with maggots will do the same thing. As for the other equipment, I do prefer using my light panfish gear. I will switch to a rod that has three or four-pound-test, however. Anytime you are fishing in and around cabbage plants, you risk being wrapped up and broken off.

There is no question that bass angling in the winter months is not as productive as the summer. However, I am starting to realize that there is more of a winter bass opportunity than I first thought.

I have learned that anytime I am searching out panfish in weedy cover, I am in potential bass territory. By dragging along an extra rod or two, I can easily change my focus from sticking panfish to icing bucketmouths.

Article provided by the Ice Team.


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