Learn more about fishing jigs for lethargic bass in cold water and see what blanks work best when building either casting or spinning rods.
Tips for Fishing Jigs in Cold Water
Picture how you feel when you wake up on a particularly cold winter day… you don’t want to get up, you barely want to move, and you definitely don’t want to work for a meal.
Well imagine how fish feel… and they’re swimming in it!
Lethargic and much slower to strike, fish in cold water aren’t looking to actively feed as much as looking for an opportunity at an easy meal. Since fish aren’t rushing to slam any lures in the cold, fishing jigs in winter takes a different presentation turn subtle strikes into successful hooksets.
The Anatomy of a Jig
First things first, take a look at this breakdown for jig components to show what makes these such lethal lures.
The Jig Head:
The jig head includes a weighted head and a hook.
While it provides the weight for the jig, the jig head can also come in different styles depending on the technique or area where it’s being used.
The Jig Skirt:
Similar to the skirt on a spinnerbait, jig skirts add some appetizing colors and actions to the jig.
The Jig Trailer:
Generally a soft plastic, jig trailers are made to mimic local bait patterns and provide different actions and colors to demand strikes.
The Jig Brush Guard:
The brush guard works to protect the jig’s hook while running it through cover, across timber, and over other similar structures.
With an understanding of the design, lets take a look at the jig tips that boost bass bags:
1. Fish the Right Jig for the Job
Acknowledging that fish in cold water are trying to conserve energy more than aggressively swallow a meal, it’s important to choose the best jig for your specific fishing scenario.
The good news is there’s no down-scaling for jigging in cold water. When done right, fish see jigs as a large yet easy meal they can’t resist.
Casting and Flipping Jigs
Casting jigs and flipping jigs are a bit different, but close enough to cover in the same conversation.
Both casting and flipping jigs are designed to bounce around objects in the water and along the bottom to create vibrations. The vibrations work to attract bass because they can’t avoid a large meal that looks easy to catch.
When paired with a thicker skirt and trailer, casting jigs make for a nice large profile that can resemble bait like bluegill and crawfish.
While both jig options can get around objects to attract fish in the water, flipping Jigs have thicker wires made to go through cover.
On the other hand, casting jigs have a thinner wire for structure with less cover around.
As the name suggests, football jigs have a football-shaped head design that helps the jig balance on the bottom. This balance helps football jigs stand up vertically along the bottom and not be snagged in rocks.
Generally used in deeper water, the stand-up profile resembles bait like crawfish that appear as easy targets slowly feeding along the bottom.
The finesse jigs ball-shaped head is perfect for more finesse style movements in the water.
Great in rocky clear water where bass are feeding on smaller bluegill and crawfish, finesse jigs are popular for bites if larger jigs just aren’t working.
Finesse Football Jigs
Why Make Your Own Jigs?
2. Pairing Jigs and Jig Trailers
In winter time, look for a slow, gliding presentation from your trailers to attract more bites.
For this movement, chunks and craw chunks bring striking results.
What Jig Colors Cause More Strikes?
Easy, the same colors that you see from bait fish where you are fishing. These will always be natural colors like variants of green, brown, orange, and red, but can also include black and blue options as well.
A general rule for choosing the trailer is to match the hatch. Matching the hatch means using what your target species such as bass are feeding on at the time.
Quick Keys to Selecting Jig Trailers
Time of Year
Warmer water brings aggressive strikes and more jig action is necessary for these bites, but in the cold, lethargic fish want less jig action in order to strike.
Depending on the clarity of the water, certain colors demand more strikes in jig skirts and trailers than others.
In winter, smaller trailers are more popular because they give off less action as well as less vibrations in order to attract more strikes.
Look for trailers with appendages that flap or flutter to slow down the jig as it falls to the bottom, but be careful, too much action in cold water will alert fish the wrong way and likely scare them away.
3. Slow Down the Retrieve for More Strikes
Besides choosing the right jig, you can also increase your jig’s attraction by simply slowing down your retrieve. Since fish are so lethargic in cold water, they aren’t as willing to strike an erratic, fast moving crankbait.
That’s why a slow retrieve is definitely the way to go for working jigs through cold water. Not only does this retrieve look more realistic in mimicking baits, but this cold water presentation also maximizes the amount of time a bass can stare and strike.
Jig fishing is very similar to worm fishing in that anglers drag jigs slowly, let it sit, hop it off the bottom, but always keep consistent contact with the bottom. In addition, you can always try the stop and go method to liven up your bites.
A slow wind and then abrupt stop causes the perfect flutter in the water to garner a bigger bite from nearby bass. Also avoid any line slack while working jigs so that you can feel true bites better.
The main thing to remember when you’re looking for more jigging strikes in the cold… is to slow down!
Try Fluorocarbon Line for Cold Water Jigs
Besides slowing down the retrieve, switching to fluorocarbon line is another good hint to improve your jigging skills.
The density of fluorocarbon line allows jigs to sink better and move more freely along the bottom as you work it back in. Plus, fluorocarbon is basically invisible in the water, which helps boost your chances since it isn’t a reaction bite and fish are more aware of braided line in this application.
4. Fish Spots Where Jigs Work
In winter, bass begin to move from deeper water towards the backs of creeks where it’s shallower. This marks the transition in which bass will soon stage up for their pre-spawn period that’s just around the corner.
From there, jigging is best for targeting: rock, timber, channel swings, secondary points, transitions between different types of rock, and bluff banks.
5. Use Rod Blanks with Superior Sensitivity for Jigs
Considering that bass taking a jig in winter water isn’t nearly as strong as its summertime strikes, the best rod blanks are going to bring more sensitivity to your fishing performance.
Fishing with a rod blank dialed into your fishing method is an easy way to get an incredible performance boost and quickly see results in your fishing. In this case, a rod blank engineered with superior sensitivity to feel softer takes on jigs will be better than any old option off the rack.
Designed with certain environments, techniques, and species in mind, MHX rod blanks are developed as solutions to optimize any angler’s performance in any given applications. Once the need is identified, MHX Rod Designers hit the drawing board to come up with best blank to get the job done.
The Best MHX Rod Blanks for Casting, Flipping, and Finessing a Jig
Outlasting and outworking other blank options, these MHX rod blanks are ultra-lightweight and sensitive, yet super durable to guarantee an unbeatable jigging performance.
At a length of 7’2″, the NEPS86MHF features a fast action and medium-heavy power for a dynamic performance that is ultra-sensitive yet packed with the power to fight fish. This blank has a line rating of 10-20lb., a lure rating of 5/16 to 13/16 oz., and a sleek satin black finish to easily become your new favorite bass rod.
MHX retooled the popular Elite Pro Series of blanks by investing in new innovative materials and the advanced Resin systems to match. This line of performance driven rod blanks utilizes 50 million modulus Toray fiber with an exceptionally high tensile strength and now incorporatea an incredible Nano Resin system.
Boasting reduced diameters without sacrificing any power, the tactical balance and dynamic performance of the MHX Elite Pro Blanks is truly unbelievable in your palm. The remarkable sensitivity in this NEPS86MHF-MHX Blank make it an extremely good rod for jigging in cold water.
Using the popularity and performance of the MHX Mag Taper Series, but now with the supreme sensitivity of a high modulus construction, this is rod blank is perfect for working jigs year round.
The HM-MB873 measures in at 7’3″ with a line rating of 10-17 lb. and a lure rating from 1/4 to 3/4 oz. This blank uses a fast action tip and a medium-heavy power to bring an excellent balance of sensitivity and fish fighting ability.
Plus, it’s naked graphite finish looks really sharp!
By utilizing state of the art materials and technology, this high modulus blank features 100% Japanese Toray Fiber and features a new hardened resin system.
MHX enhanced the engineering behind this blank’s design to achieve several goals:
- Overall smaller blank diameters
- Reducing weight where functionally possible
- Increasing durability and strength
- Boosting blank sensitivity
Feel the superior sensitivity and incredible performance of this HM-MB873-MHX Blank for yourself!
The SJ842 comes in at 7’0″ in length with a line rating of 6-12 lb., and a lure rating of 1/8 to 1/2 oz. Featuring a fast action and medium-light power, this MHX Spin Jig blank’s performance driven design makes it a dominant finesse spinning rod.
Strikingly similar in mid and butt power to the popular MHX Mag Taper rod blanks, this Spin Jig blank offers a slightly softer tip flex, a very lightweight feel with plenty of sensitivity and the perfect balance of tip flex to butt power ratio.
When it comes to throwing finesse jigs for largemouth or smallmouth bass in cold water, the SJ842-MHX Blank is great in finesse spinning applications because it has your back with a lightweight, yet durable performance you have to feel to believe.
Not to mention, the SJ842 comes in these awesome COLORS!
Catch more of these incredible MHX rod blanks and multi-option rod kits at the bottom of the page!
Rod Building Fast Facts for Cold Water Fishing
We’ve covered the basic demands of jigging in cold water to improve your hook ups in winter, but how about some fast facts to help improve your rod builds.
Shorten Your Jigging Rod’s Handle
Shorter handles are much better for cold water fishing because you get more freedom of movement in your grip without snagging sleeves, pockets, and other aspects of layered clothing in the cold.
Just think about all the layers and jackets you wear while fishing in winter, then take out any old rod with a long handle and let your fuse burn up right quick!
Instead, scale the handle down in order to keep your hands and handle out away from any snags.
Pick Rod Components for Cold Water Conditions
Here are a few more thoughts on rod building for cold weather:
- Avoid micro guides if temperatures are close to or below freezing—frozen guides are no fun
- Color code your rods to know which one’s best for jigging in a moment’s notice
- Try MHX Winn Grips for sure grips that stand up to the toughest of outdoor conditions