Photos courtesy of: The Simms Outdoors Team
The dreaded cold front, is there anything that fishermen hate more? Cold fronts can ruin a fishing vacation, tournament or just a much needed day alone on the water after a long work week. Cold fronts usually significantly slow the fishing action down for both numbers of bass and big fish as well, and they can be tough to deal with as an angler. The good news is that cold fronts don't have to be so scary. While they usually do slow the fishing action down, there are many tactics and techniques that anglers can use to shake off the effects of the dreaded cold front and still catch enough good fish to salvage the trip. We'll discuss how bass anglers can tackle cold front conditions in this article.
Many anglers don't understand when we talk about weather fronts and poor fishing, because they may have read or heard about the fantastic fishing that often occurs with the arrival of changing weather patterns. The thing to understand is that when we talk about dealing with tough fishing associated with a front, we're actually talking about what happens after the front has moved through.
When conditions are stable, anglers often experience good fishing, but when a front approaches, the fishing will many times really heat up and anglers can experience fantastic catches of big fish in a short time frame. When we talk about cold fronts having a negative effect on the fishing, this actually occurs after the front has rolled through and dropped the air temperatures. Typically, the worst situation is after a major cold front has rolled through, and that cold front has significantly dropped the air temperature and left clear skies with no wind. Usually, the more severe the cold front, the more pronounced the effect on the fishing.
Cold fronts often change fish location in either a minor or major way depending on the severity of the front. Bass usually make a locational shift to either deeper water or heavier cover. Both deep water and heavy cover provide security for bass following a major cold front.
Post cold front conditions are the toughest when combined with little or no wind and cloud cover.
When a major cold front drives bass deeper, they'll typically move further down the structure that they've been using rather than make a long distance move to a different structure in a different area. For instance, if bass are locating up on top of a shallow weed flat where they're hunting shad, they'll often move out to the first major breakline toward deeper water on the edge of the flat and drop down the edge of the break to the base of the deep weed edge. If bass are using rocky points, they'll often drop down the steepest side of the point and suspend just off of the structure.
When bass move to heavier cover following a cold front, it may be in deeper water than they were previously using or it could be shallower, wherever they can find the heaviest cover in a short distance move. If bass are actively hunting crawfish along a boulder strewn breakline, and heavy weed cover with some brush or stumps lies on a shoreline ledge just above, they will often move up right into the thick cover.
When bass activity slows down following a front, a change in presentation is often needed to get back on the fish. Sometimes a presentation change can be a small and simple adjustment or it can mean a complete reversal from what was producing. If the cold front is minor, simply making a small change in the size and color of the same type of lure may be enough to make all the difference. On the other hand, if anglers were nailing bass by burning lipless crankbaits, and a major cold front dropped the air temperature 25 degrees, dropped the water temperature and left clear skies with no wind, it's a pretty good bet that nothing resembling that pattern will work afterward.\par \par \tab Occasionally, a high speed retrieve can fool bass after a front has shut them down, as this can sometimes trigger a reaction strike by preying on the fish's instincts, but this usually only works after a minor front has rolled through. Most of the time, a slow down in retrieve speed is the ticket, and sometimes slowing a bait down to a crawl or even dead sticking will produce big results.
Colby Simms with big cold front largemouth bass taken on a Simms Baby School N Shad-HT Spinnerbait at Kinkaid Lake in Southern Illinois.
A wide variety of lures can produce bass after a cold front. It's long been thought that vertical presentations are the only good options for bass anglers during these tough conditions. While it is true that fishing vertically with soft plastics, jigs and spoons is a great approach for post cold front bass, it's far from being the only technique to employ. Floating crankbaits and minnowbaits can be highly effective for cold front bass with a slow steady swimming retrieve, and suspending versions of these baits can be even better with a slow twitching retrieve and long pauses, allowing the bait to hang in the strike zone for long periods of time. Long arm spinnerbaits are versatile lures that are excellent for taking cold front bass. Spinnerbaits with multiple willowleaf blades are great for slow rolling along deep structures, while those with colorado blades are best for fishing slowly in shallow cover.
While fishing with the author, Brian Duffey upsized to a big Lazer Eye saltwater crankbait from Bass Pro Shops and used an ultra slow retrieve to boat this chunky cold front bass.
Tackle & equipment:
Bites from sluggish cold front bass are often difficult to detect. This is especially true when it comes to fishing jigs, plastics, spoons and and other vertical presentations. This can also be a big problem when fishing suspending crankbaits and minnowbaits or when hopping spinnerbaits on and off bottom. It's absolutely critical to use an extremely sensitive rod. A sensitive rod will allow anglers to detect the most subtle of bites, to qucikly set the hooks into more light biting cold front bass. They're also extremely important for being able to feel just where your bait is in the water and what type of bottom and cover that it's coming into contact with. A rod must also be strong to wrestle big bass from heavy cover. For all of these reasons, I choose All Star Graphite Rods (allstarrods.com). These are the strongest, lightest and most sensitive graphite rods I've found, and they allow me to catch more and bigger bass. They're the best tools for tackling big cold front bass. I pair these rods with Pflueger Supreme, President and Medalist Reels (pfluegerfishing.com), and spool them up with Supreme or Cajun Lines in 6 to 14 pound tests for spinning gear and 10 to 20 pound tests for baitcasting equipment (shakespeare-fishing.com). \par \par \tab Good quality polarized sunglasses are another must have item when chasing cold front bass. They allow anglers to see deeper into the water and at greater distances by reducing glare. Optics such as the Master Angler Series from Flying Fisherman (flyingfisherman.com) help anglers to spot bass and baitfish as well as cover objects and bottom changes beneath the surface. The result is more fish in the boat. It's important to choose the right lens shade for the conditions. Amber lenses are best during the low light periods of early morning and late evening or anytime that skies are cloudy and overcast. Darker smoke colored lenses are optimum during bright sunny conditions.
Don't let a cold front ruin you're next fishing trip. Be versatile and use these techniques in these locations to score fish when everyone else gives up and heads for home.
Outdoorsmen can book guided sport fishing and hunting trips at Kinkaid, Shelbyville & Spring Lakes, Lake Of The Ozarks, The St. Francis River, The Chippewa Flowage, MO & IL Hunting Farms and many other great destinations throughout Missouri, Illinois & Wisconsin with the SIMMS OUTDOORS TEAM GUIDE SERVICE, and get the very best fishing lures and leaders from SIMMS SPORT FISHING TACKLE at www.maout.com/colbysimms.htm * 618-521-0526 / 573-358-5948 * firstname.lastname@example.org . Please support these great sponsors: JOHNNY LONDOFF CHEVROLET, PFLUEGER FISHING TACKLE, SHAKESPEARE FISHING TACKLE, ALL STAR RODS, REAL TREE CAMOUFLAGE, FLYING FISHERMAN SUNGLASSES & SPORTSWEAR, MINERAL AREA OFFICE SUPPLY, KEEPING YOU IN STITCHES EMBROIDERY, ARTCRAFT SIGNS & THE LITTLE BIG LURE COMPANY. Good luck!
Colby - www.mwbt.com/colbysimms.htm
Simms Outdoors Pro Jim Lyle with a nice post cold front largemouth and spotted bass taken on Tru-Tungsten Jigs at Missouri's Lake Of The Ozarks.