Winter. It’s dumb. It’s long. It’s cold. I won’t even pretend to like it for the sake of an article. If you live in
the great white north like I do, you probably spend time dodging polar vortex’s, shoveling snow, and
longing for open water.
Why do we live here? Why does anyone live here? How do I make it through this as a non-ice fishing
winter-loathing bass fisherman? If I don’t fish soon, I am going to start punching strangers. Come
February each year, things like this start to creep in my head. I assure you it takes only one big
smallmouth the first time I put the boat in and I forget all about it and all is right in my world again. Yay,
Michigan! Why doesn’t everyone live here!? Hopefully that feeling will be here soon. In the meantime,
let’s get through this together with minimal anger.
We need some ideas on how to make it through winter. Let’s digress and try to keep the cabin fever at
Shorten the season: Let me explain what I mean by that. While cold weather often sets in come mid to
late October, don’t put that boat away like the majority of anglers do. Invest in the proper gear to fish in
the cold and I promise you it will be worth it. As an avid duck hunter, that gear doubles as late season
fishing gear remarkably well. Proper layering and a gortex rainsuit also fits the bill perfectly.
Basically, if there’s no lid on the lake, we fish. Take advantage of all your opportunities despite the
conditions. It can be one of those magical times of year to find a giant school of fish and catch your
biggest one of the year. I have found some of my most rewarding fishing in the very late fall, early
winter, and immediately after ice out. After some trial and error, we have discovered a number of key
areas that hold big schools of bass every year. They are consistently in the same spot and not overly
intelligent. Cold weather fishing does take some adjustment in your techniques but none of them are
very difficult to learn. Many years the larger lakes will stay open until at least Christmas time in my area.
I recall one particularly mild winter (AKA, the greatest winter ever) that we were able to catch bass in
open water from a boat each month of the year with some creativity and determination. So just go.
After 3 months of looking at ice, you’ll wish you had. And the beauty is, you’re typically the only boat on
the water. Remember that in July when that dipstick driving the wake boat full of clowns comes around
your fishing hole for the sixteenth time in an hour with his stereo cranked to eleven blasting some crap
that after hearing it enough times would get information out of terrorists. You know the guy.
Now let’s go over some ideas for sanity when the inevitable does happen.
Ice and snow: Ice fishing just isn’t my game. I’ve tried it. I suck at it and I just can’t get fired up drilling
holes and yanking panfish up. I have some friends who are phenomenal ice fisherman and I give them
credit for mastering any kind of fishing. But it’s just not my style. However, I do make a conscious effort
to just get outside. It does wonders for my mood and well-being. My son is absolutely fascinated with
plowing snow. So that has been a joy loading him up on my UTV, pushing snow around, and sledding
down our big piles. I recommend doing anything you can to spend some time outdoors every week. Just
go outside and try and enjoy whatever you can.
Tackle Prep: I am an absolute dork when it comes to tackle storage and organization. Every off-season I
come up with a new way to store a particular style of baits for the upcoming year. Whether a new storage item hits the market, I see a new idea in a video online, or I come up with it myself, my system is
constantly evolving to be more efficient. This year’s projects have been revamping terminal tackle
storage and a downsized co-angler system for hopping in partner’s boats.
Over the winters, I have slowly built myself a happy place out in my barn next to the boat. It makes it
easy to load and swap out tackle in the boat to only carry what I need that day. My bass cave is a place
where I can go through literally all of my equipment to maintain and retool for next spring. I go over
every reel on the workbench to clean, lube, and strip old line. Check rods for damaged guides, replace
treble hooks, and do inventory. I will make lists of anything I am low on, need to replace, or new tackle I
want to try. Let’s be honest, opening a box of new tackle is really fun, you all know that! So treat yo self,
you’ve earned it after surviving the arctic deep freeze. I also will make a pile of stuff to sell or give away.
There is typically an opportunity for a local swap meet each winter and if not I will post online for sale
and ship it out. Winter is the time to knock all this stuff out and regroup. Get prepared and organized.
Now is the time!
You can do this. We can do this. Serenity now! Fishing will be back and it will be awesome again. In the
meantime, breathe deep. Watch all the fishing available to us now days on TV and online. Trust me,
there’s a lot of it. With all of the live coverage of 3 pro tours, there’s more than ever. There is always
more to learn. Go to fishing and outdoor mega shows and buy some more tackle. Hit the spring open
house sales that local tackle stores put on and buy some more tackle. And lastly, if you happen see me
out in public during the heart of winter, remember to approach with caution and keep a safe distance.
Speak slowly and carefully at first, but quickly bring up fishing and we will try and get through this