The reason a largemouth bass has a large mouth is because it likes to eat a large amount of food. His big mouth doesn’t freeze shut in winter. Three keys to finding a cold water bucketmouth are to fish any remaining structure, use larger lures and cover a lot of water. I combine finesse fishing and reaction lures to completely cover an area. Only work a spot for 15 minutes before moving on.
Even the coldest largemouth bass can’t resist a blade bait shimmering and twitching over a grass bed or rock pile. I keep one medium-light spinning combo spooled with eight-pound monofilament and rigged with a Binsky blade bait. It is critical to drop the blade bait directly below the kayak and jig vertically and then let it sink slowly. On a trip last winter, I dropped my blade bait and immediately hooked up with a small bass. A couple more small bass and I switched to a chatterbait to look for bigger fish.
While winter bass might be lethargic, you can still make them angry. To really piss off a cold bass, throw a chatterbait at him. A chatterbait jig or soft-plastic tail with a metal blade on the jighead. I can use a steady retrieve like a crankbait, buzz it it on the surface like a spinnerbait or bounce the chatterbait off the bottom like a jig. This is great for quickly and efficiently covering the water column. I like to cast the lure out and sink to the bottom then jig it back to the kayak. This alerts bass on the bottom that a meal is in the area and suspended bass can still see it.
Everything is cold in winter. Bass and bait both take on slower, more subtle moves. Nothing imitates a frost-bitten bait better than a soft plastic on a small jig head. I look for a jig tail that floats so it sticks up when the jighead is resting on the bottom. I make very slight bounces with the rod tip to twitch the tail like a baitfish calling in a bass for a bite. When the fish strikes, it is important to set the hook immediately. Cold weather makes bass fishermen slow, too.
Every winter angler should have a selection of jerkbaits in his arsenal. This hard-plastic baitfish imitation is designed to hover in the water column and give a spastic twitch when the angler yanks the rod tip. The key is to work the lure slowly. I put five to 1 5 seconds between each twitch. Alternate the length of the pause to find where the fish are responding.