Welp, here we go again. It seems like this happens every time, doesn’t it. A great week of warm spring weather would seem to usher in shallow, active bass, but a crushing cold front rolls through the night before you head out to catch them.
It’s one of the most annoying scenarios in fishing, and there is something to be said for the timing of these things to arrive on the eve of every spring bass tournament ever, but I digress from my fatalist conjecture.
Spring cold fronts require patience from an angler because the fishing is going to slow down. The first step in catching spring post-frontal bass is to understand that you’re going to get fewer bites, and that’s just part of it.
The bass are trying to get shallow to spawn and they’ll push towards that destination as fast as the water temperature will allow them to. When the temps are suddenly rapidly moving in the wrong direction, the fish get uncomfortable pretty quickly and it puts them in a foul mood.
How do you find Spring cold front bass?
Actually locating post-frontal fish isn’t actually all that hard provided you knew where they were prior to the front hitting. When the fish establish themselves up shallow, they often will just hunker down right there when the temperatures plummet.
When this happens, you’ll find bass very tight to cover and in the thick of laydowns or whatever other amenities the shoreline offers. I personally believe this happens in most spring cold front scenarios when fish have already made the move to shallow water, with two exceptions.
- An extended period of cold weather
- An absence of shoreline cover
I’m reminded of a tournament on NC’s Kerr Lake, which is full of bushes and buck brush on the bank. The lake floods every spring and fish are typically caught from these places. I had a pretty successful practice following this extremely basic pattern, but a nasty cold front hit the night before the tournament.
It was 61 in the morning on Friday and 27 on Saturday. Despite that, the tournament was still won in those flooded bushes, just with a different approach to catching the fish.
Fast forward several years to a similar situation. I was catching fish from the same bushes in the same lake four days before a tournament at almost the same time of year. A cold front hit three days before the tournament, it stayed cold the following day, and then another front came through the day before and brought more cold weather. The tournament was won on a secondary point.
It’s my hypothesis that shallow fish like that are willing to wait out the cold provided it passes fast enough for them and there are places for them to wait it out, but if the water temperature continues to drop over an extended period, they’ll pull back to secondary structure.
That secondary structure could be a deeper bank nearby, a point, or even just isolated cover that runs a little bit deeper than where they were sitting before.
One fact, though, is that cold front afflicted bass in the spring time won’t travel far, so your search should begin right around where the fish were holding prior to the front hitting. They’re there, the hard part is just getting them to bite.
How do you catch Spring cold front bass?
There are two ways to attack inactive bass. You can slow down and try to entice them, or you can speed up and try to trigger reaction bites. Most people prefer to slow down. This means targeting cover-oriented fish with repeat casts and slow retrievals. I like to throw a jig and basically just wiggle it in place on the bottom.
You’re just trying to tempt that fish with the easiest meal possible. A weightless worm is another great option, as it sinks real slow and can just glide to the bottom right in front of their face. Some guys like a ned rig in certain situations. I don’t, but whatever.
Fish that have come off the bank can be caught with a similar approach of just a real slow retrieve, almost dead sticking the bait. A small shaky head worm or a football jig are popular approaches to tempt the finicky fish. Always use something with minimal action, though.
A less popular tactic is to speed up.
By fishing fast, you can trigger reaction bites from fish that might otherwise not have bit anything at all. I think this works best shallow, where it’s easiest to, for a lack of a better term, “surprise” a fish with a bait. Pitching the biggest jig you can find to shallow cover can trigger some of the fish up there that just have total lockjaw. I have seen this work many times and it’s a personal favorite approach for muddy water.
During one particularly nasty post-frontal tournament, I caught a 9-pounder in 10 inches of water flipping an ounce jig in the same places I had caught them before the front rolled though. The super fast fall, combined with a super quiet entry, was the key to generating a reaction bite from that fish.
Cold front bass are where the best anglers get separated from the rest. They’re hard to catch, unlike shallow spring bass on a warming trend. With the difficulty level ramped up, you have to be willing to adjust and keep an open mind, and most importantly, you have to be patient and know you’re working harder for fewer bites.
The right approach can put you in the “best” category and away from the rest.