Photo of Tommy Sanders

Q: Have you noticed it’s been colder this winter? I wonder if the bass will survive alright?

- James Douglas, Charlotte N.C.

A: It's Sooo Cold...

Photo of tournament anglers fishing in winter
The bass certainly will survive the cold, but for anglers it can be another story. (James Overstreet photo)

Oh gosh, how did I miss that?  Colder, you say?

That would explain why I’m seeing lawyers with their hands in their own pockets. That’s why I’ve noticed stressed out drivers giving each other the mitten. It’s so cold I’m down to burning old jokes!

Yes, Jimmie, it’s been a cold one. It’s been like Chicago here in the Mid-South and in Chicago they’re getting the Winnipeg experience. My pal Zona in Michigan says that he’s happy he won a broadcasting award recently because he can use it to smash some random person over the head if one more howling subzero front passes through.

To be fair, though, history tells us that it’s actually been cold in the wintertime before. Several times, as it turns out. And the bass have seemed to survive.

As most people will tell you, “it’s because they are cold blooded,” which is certainly true. The body temperature of a bass is going to be the same as that of the water he’s in. But that doesn’t mean he can freeze solid and still survive, contrary to one old myth.

The bass appeals to us because he is the high performance muscle car of the fish world -- quick starting, fast, aggressive and willing to take down just about anything.  But when the water temps get way down there, he definitely undergoes some lifestyle changes.

For one thing, the menu suddenly shrinks. So many of the insects, reptiles, crustaceans and other delicacies go underground or elsewhere. The remaining food sources become more spread out and harder to find. There’s just a whole lot less going on up and down the food chain.

For the bass, life becomes a matter of carefully parceling out the energy available -- and the plan does not include working harder to eat more food. He actually does the opposite, eating far less and conserving the energy that fuel provides. To eat more wouldn’t work well, even if he found the mother lode of grub -- because the extremely cold temperatures cause his digestive system and metabolism to work incredibly slowly.

But the thing to remember is that it’s not a total state of suspended animation. The bass will continue to feed -- just not that often. Some say that in the flat dead of a cold winter, they may only take food two or three times in the space of a month.

That kind of slowdown usually puts off most anglers. But there are some who are still game. You can see them now and again, huddled in the boat over a deep spot in between two humps, jigging a spoon or something similar so slowly that it looks like they’re falling asleep. And occasionally they do catch a good one.

Photo of an angler fishing in winter

I’m not one who does much of that type fishing, but I will tell you this: the first time I went ice fishing many years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe a couple of crappie or a small stringer of perch. But I baited my hook, dropped it down and within two minutes I was reeling on something with a bit of heft to it. Shortly thereafter I’m pulling a 2.5-pound northern largemouth through a hole in the ice.

I felt lucky.

But it was so cold that... wait for it ... hitchhikers were holding up pictures of thumbs.

Previous Articles by Tommy Sanders

Q: What's your take on Aaron Martens?

A: Color Martens A Way Different Champion

Thumbnail photo of Bassmaster Pro Aaron Martens

Add my congrats to Aaron Martens on collecting his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.  There’s no question in my mind that he sits in that very top tier of all-time great pros.  There are just a handful of them and they are all different in so many ways.  Aaron’s just a little more different than the rest. Read More

Q: Has anything really changed in bass fishing in the past 50 years?

A: New Bass Fishing Technology

Photo of a bass boat

Let’s quickly review the things that haven’t changed in the sport of bass fishing over the last half century: 

Bass.That’s it, and I’m not so sure that the fish haven’t slipped some changes in on me as well.But everything else has changed, and in this sport, unlike football or basketball, the changes have all been about advances in technology. Read More

Q: What is the best tactic for fishing in the spring?

A: Sight fishing is the battle of the brains

Xray image of a human brain

This is the time of the year when we celebrate the opportunity to catch spawning fish. It’s an important time for bass anglers — a limited, once-a-year opportunity. In fact, I think most bass fishermen should trade in one of their holidays from other times of the year and celebrate Spawning Day in spring or late winter, as the case may be. That would be well worth giving up a Labor Day or Presidents Day or even a Valentine’s Day if you can swing it.Read More

Q: Hey Q and A, why can't I take a banana with me when I'm fishing?

A. You said the word banana. I’m throwing you out of the magazine because you are an obvious bringer of bad luck.

Photo of bananas

Here’s why:  200 years ago, sea captains in the tropics would occasionally bring crates of bananas on board to supplement the ship’s food supplies.  These crates would harbor the occasional snake or spider.  When the captain found a snake in his chest of drawers or a spider in his drawers, there would be hell to pay.  No more bananas on the boat. And that’s the origin of the famous banana superstition. Read More

We Lost A Lot: Remembering Jose Wejebe

Photo of Jose Wejebe

The human mind will go through some incredible contortions when it’s confronted with something it cannot and does not want to come to terms with.

It will grasp for things like disbelief, denial, and the hope that somehow what’s happening is all a bad dream from which you will soon awaken. That’s the way it felt for all of us who knew the one and only Jose Wejebe. That’s the way it still feels, a few weeks into the aftermath of his passing. We lost a lot.

We met Jose 20 years ago at an event called the S.L.A.M. tournament in Key West, Fla., a celebrity event that paired famous sports and media figures with a local saltwater guide to make up a two-person team..Read More