Largemouth bass are America’s favorite game fish, and spring, summer, and fall, they’re the passion of legions of anglers from Minnesota to Texas, Florida to California.
But in states where the winter brings ice and snow, as well as temperatures low enough to enable hard water fishing, largemouth bass drop off the radar for the most part.
That’s understandable. Bass aren’t cold water predators, and unlike walleye, pike, musky, and lake trout, plunging temperatures make them sluggish and disinclined to feed.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t be caught, and with the right know-how, you can land a trophy largemouth in February!
Big bass are waiting under the ice - if you know how to catch them!
If that idea gets your pulse racing, keep reading!
We’ll cover the best tips and tricks to catch largemouth bass through the ice.
Table of Contents (clickable)
You'll find great tips for ice fishing bass below. If you want specific information for other species follow these links:
- Walleye Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
- Sunfish Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
- Crappie Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
- Perch Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
- Muskie Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
- Lake Trout Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques
Winter Changes Largemouth Bass Behavior
During the spawn, across the summer, and for most of autumn, bass are aggressive predators.
We’ve written extensively about catching bass across the seasons, and if you need a refresher, take a look at this article:
But in more northerly states, the end of fall and the beginning of winter brings freezing weather in tow, and as the mercury plummets, bass behavior changes radically.
Once prepared to ambush prey and chase down everything from shiners to shad, largemouth bass experience cold-driven torpor. Unsuited for frigid water, they adapt by slowing their metabolisms, going all but dormant in most cases, and ceasing to feed or hunt actively.
But some things don’t change about bass behavior, and these are part of the secret of catching largemouth bass through the ice.
Where to Find Largemouth Bass Through the Ice
Bass slow down in winter, but they still bite.
Bass key in on three things, year round.
The first is weed beds. Live aquatic plants provide a home for prey items, as well as cover for bass to use to ambush unwary fish. Even in the depths of winter, bass will continue to hold to weedbeds, forsaking the deeper holes that other fish retreat to to stay warm.
Second, bass prefer a soft bottom, whether that’s clay, sand, or mud. Anywhere on a lake where you find a soft bottom in conjunction with live weedbeds, there’s a good chance you’ll find largemouth bass there.
Finally, bass hold to the same general structure they did the rest of the year. Points, drop-offs, submerged humps, and other hunting grounds that hold aquatic vegetation will attract bass in winter, too, especially at depths of 20 to 30 feet or so.
Find Largemouth Bass Through the Ice By Doing Your Homework
Preparation is critical to catch bass through the ice.
The difference between anglers who catch and anglers who get skunked is preparation.
In the fall, as bass season is winding down, it’s time to really up your game.
Using your fishfinder, carefully mark likely locations, map the edges of the remaining healthy weed beds, and identify structure at the proper depth for mid-winter bass. Use the GPS function on your electronics to preset as many locations as you can identify, record those coordinates, and enter them into a hand-held system.
Something like Garmin’s GPSMAP 66s can be a game-changer for ice fishing, especially if it’s prepped with the coordinates of hot spots discovered during the warmer months.
Armed with the right tools, and the best locations to start drilling holes, you’ll be way ahead of the game.
Ice Fishing Tips for Catching Largemouth Bass
The right lures and technique can have you catching impressive bass though the ice.
Bass slow way down during the winter, and you need to match that with your presentations.
The first thing to consider is that the torpor they experience to survive in frigid water makes them absolutely unwilling to chase prey items. They simply won’t do it, at least as long as the water remains cold enough to ice fish.
That means two things for you.
First, slow your jigging down to a slow cadence. Rapid popping attracts bass in warm water, but when it’s cold, you need to slow that jigging to a crawl.
The second adjustment is to size down. Big bass hit big lures when the water is warm and they’re metabolism is active, but in winter, they just don’t have the energy to tackle large prey.
Instead of looking for soft plastic in the neighborhood of 3 to 5 inches, think about much smaller offerings.
About the biggest soft bait I’d drop through the ice for bass would be a 2-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow Grub.
Another soft bait on the larger end is Bobby Garland’s Crappie Baits.
Rigged on a light jig head, something between 3/16- and ⅛-ounce, you can gently jig these soft baits to produce an enticing action. You don’t need fast, hard pulses of your wrist: just a slow pulse every few seconds is enough to get a bass to recognize an easy meal.
And that’s the trick - you want to make it look easy for the fish!
I’d also consider the 2½-inch Bobby Garland’s Slab Dockt'R as it’ll be very effective on a slow fall with a light jig head.
Lighter jig heads are almost always the better option, and you really want your lure to drift toward the bottom rather than drop like a runaway elevator. That’s definitely a change in thinking for summer bass anglers, who want their lures down deep now.
Instead, you need to slow the fall as much as you can to give bass a chance to react to your lure. They’re going to be very sluggish; match that with your lure’s rate of descent.
Ice fishing for bass is an overlooked winter opportunity, and more largemouth are caught by accident than purposefully. But targeting bass through the ice is not as difficult as it may seem, especially not if you know what you’re doing.
We hope that this article has taught you something new, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below!