Many anglers enjoy bass fishing in cold water -- Canada's Karl Kalonka being the most famous "Extreme Angler" to venture out into the chill to catch a bass.
However, here in the southeast, the larger lakes will often average a surface temperature in the mid-40s, making a solid freeze a rare event. And with no closed season in many places, the fun never stops.
Most anglers are confident they can catch bass if the water is warmer than 50 degrees, and expect things to slow down after the temperature drops below 45. This seems to be the magic number that begins the bass metabolism to slow down to conserve energy and to maintain size.
Does this stop some extreme anglers from going fishing? Absolutely not, this only adds to the challenge! And for a select few, this is the favorite time to trophy hunt.
These tactics have worked for many cold water anglers in extreme conditions:
Slow down -- then slow down some more
Fishing slowly is the first trick, because bass are lethargic in cold water. In water temperatures below 50 degrees, bass are less likely to chase fast food. Choose lures that you can fish slowly and can even suspend in one place -- either on the bottom or in the water column -- for as long as possible.
For a bottom-crawling presentation, a jig or tube works well. For scaling the slopes of a steep bank, a slow -moving suspending crankbait works well.
Suspending jerkbaits -- or innovative "twitch baits" -- also have caught many cold-water bass, as have finesse soft plastics.
If all else fails, spice things up with a quality scent or attractant to entice a bite from lethargic bass.
Find steep banks
Fishing steep banks can be very productive, as they are favorite cold-water haunts for bass, especially smallmouth.
If you don't have high-tech electronics, you can look at the grade of the surrounding terrain -- chances are that below the water's surface, the bank will continue the same slope.
Look for banks of thirty to fourth-degree slops. They allows bass to move from shallow to deep without expending a lot of energy to feed. Keep in mind that smallies can be found in as much as 30 to 50 feet. Do not be afraid to boldly go where no angler has gone before.
Largemouth, on the other hand, prefer relating to wooden cover. Log jams and laydowns on banks that drop into deep water may surprise you with the quality of bass you may catch in the winter.
Feel your way to success
Cold-water bites are mostly subtle, so pay close attention to what is going on beneath the surface. A slight movement of -- or slight pressure on -- your line could indicate a bite, so be ready for the hookset if you feel something unusual.
No other angling experience quiet compares to that of fishing in cold weather. Do not approach this form of extreme angling with the expectation of quantity. But with patience and perseverance, quality bass can be caught in the cold.
And be sure to dress warm, stay dry and be safe by always wearing a PFD when fishing cold water.
Mark Bilbrey is a passionate angler and an aspiring outdoors writer. His passion for fishing is what motivates him to share tips and techniques he learned growing up on Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake. Email questions for Mark to email@example.com.