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



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Thumbnail photo of Bassmaster Pro Aaron Martens

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Photo of Jose Wejebe

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