The Washington OutdoorS Report - week of Nov. 20

A winter bass fishing primer

Courtesy Glenn May Glenn May fishing for winter bass.

Courtesy Glenn May Glenn May with a nice cold-water bass.

When it comes to catching bass between Thanksgiving and the end of February in the Pacific Northwest it would be fair to say, “The struggle is real”. As a matter of fact, my chances of catching a bass at this time of year are about the same as winning the lottery. I have simply not had success (in either endeavor).  
That’s why I decided to reach out to Glenn May. He is the man behind, a website he launched in 1996 that is full of articles, how-to videos and an active forum. I have been a big fan of Glenn for several years, especially since he films quite a few of his instructional videos at the place I consider to be my home water, Potholes Reservoir. attracts anglers from all over the nation but Glenn actually lives in Edmonds, Washington and has been bass fishing for 50 years. In addition to fishing for fun he has fished a number of tournaments in the Western United States and has even been a television guest on Lunkerville and the Hank Parker TV Show. Many with his wealth of knowledge and experience would be close-mouthed but Glenn is very approachable and truly wants others to succeed when it comes to catching bass. Here’s some questions I posted to Glenn along with some good advice.
WHERE DO THE BASS GO IN WINTER? Glenn says generally speaking the bass go deep, where water temperatures are warmer and more stable. The bass are also following the baitfish they prey upon that are doing the same thing to survive. Generally speaking, they are deeper than 15 feet and may be as deep as 55 feet, but under certain conditions they may come into the shallows.  
A case in point would be a reservoir where water levels are drawn down during the winter months. If crawdads are in the reservoir, they will emerge from the mud to get back into the water. The bass know this and will be waiting in the shallows to feed on them when this occurs. Another time bass may come into shallower water is after several consecutive days of warm weather. That’s when the baitfish will head to the shallows and the bass will follow them there.
WHY ARE THEY SO HARD TO CATCH IN THE WINTER? Glenn explained the metabolism of bass really slows down during the winter months. Whereas bass might feed seven times a day in the spring and summer, they may only feed once every seven to ten days in the winter. According to Glenn, that goes a long way towards explaining why bites are few and far between, even when you locate bass during the cold weather months.
SLOW DOWN: The forage base bass feed off of, bait fish, sculpins and crawdads, also lower their metabolism and barely move. That’s why you want to slow down your presentation when fishing. A prime example of this, slowly dragging your lure across the bottom, with long pauses in between each dragging movement.  
LURES AND TECHNIQUES THAT WORK:  Glenn has a number of lures he uses to catch bass in the winter. Try dragging a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce football head jig with a five-inch white grub on it along the bottom. In deep water colors don’t show up well but the white contrasts better than a dark color, making it easier for the fish to see on the bottom.  
As the water gets really cold the perch will ball up into schools and the bass will sit below them, picking off the perch that are dying off and falling out of the bait ball towards the bottom. You can take advantage of this by dropping a 1/2 ounce hair jig through the baitfish ball to where the bass are.
Try a drop shot rig with a four-inch finesse worm. Fish it on the bottom with a very slow presentation, barely moving the bait at all. As for colors, try using a pink worm which works very well this time of year. The drop shot will also work on suspending bass you locate on our fish finder. Drop the finesse worm to where the bass are and just hold it there. The small finesse worm will move around enough on its own to elicit not only attention, but oftentimes, a bite.  
If you follow all of this sage advice from Glenn May you should be able to grind out some bites and bass during the holiday season and well into the winter. If you want to find more information about catching bass through all four seasons of the year, go to

John Kruse – and

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