Proven Patterns For Hardwater LargemouthBy Jason Halfen - January 25, 2021
When most anglers think about largemouth bass, their thoughts turn to the warmth of summer, lush green growth above the water's surface and below, bone-jarring strikes and tail-walking fights. Yet, as snow blankets the landscape and open water recedes to a distant memory, those same finned adversaries continue their patrol beneath the ice-capped surface. Indeed, the hardwater season represents an excellent opportunity to tussle with largemouth bass across the Northland, and these tips will help you to bring frosty bucketmouths topside.Your search for hardwater largemouth will focus on two high-percentage areas. First, we turn our attention to weeds. Indeed, lush weedbeds are just as important for concentrating winter bass as they are during the warmer months. A particular challenge for us now is that the best weeds will be in a near-constant state of change while the lakes remain ice covered, as reduced light penetration will convert vibrant vegetation into a decaying, brown, fish-repelling mass. We want to focus exclusively on healthy, green, oxygen-producing weeds as these will hold bait throughout the season, and hence attract bass and other predators. Fish finders can't distinguish between brown and green weeds, so I rely on my Aqua-Vu underwater cameras to help me focus on healthy, green weedgrowth. The Aqua-Vu Micro series cameras are perfect for the mobile angler, fitting easily into the front pocket of your bibs and deploying (and retrieving) rapidly thanks to their integrated camera cable management system. If you plan to set up shop in a wheelhouse for the weekend, consider the Aqua-Vu Quad HD camera which provides you with a 360-degree perspective of everything happening beneath the ice - which also looks incredible when connected to your house's big-screen high-definition TV!The deep edges of healthy green weedbeds are often the key location on bright sunny days, when largemouth can use their keen eyesight to stalk prey. On cloudy days or in stained bodies of water where weedgrowth is limited, soft-bottomed flats in the 15-25' range are the place to look for consistent largemouth action. Here, bass will leisurely patrol in search of small panfish, which graze on the larval insects found in and near the mud. It's important to recognize that near the bottom, this deeper water will inherently be warmer than the water in the shallows, which will support increased metabolic and activity levels of the predators - like bass - that swim there.Two general approaches are quite effective for hardwater largemouth. First, it's hard to beat a lively shiner or sucker minnow suspended beneath a tip-up. One factor to keep in mind is that largemouth are less likely to spend time and energy chasing baits than other hardwater predators like pike and walleye. As a result, it's important to minimize the mobility of your tip-up baits. Some anglers will snip off the bottom half of the bait's tail fin to reduce its swimming ability, but I prefer to simply keep a couple of split shot pinned to my leader within 6-8" of the bait. That allows the minnow to keep swimming naturally, but in relatively tight circles close to the hole and within easy reach of the bass. If you prefer a more mobile presentation, a ¼ oz jigging spoon dressed with a whole fathead minnow will garner attention along the weedlines, while a more compact tungsten jig packed with spikes will turn heads on the deeper mudflats. No matter which presentation you prefer, largemouth bass are worthy adversaries through the ice - be sure to spend time chasing them this winter!
Dr. Jason Halfen is a long-time guide, tournament angler, and specialist in marine electronics. He owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage hi-tech tools to find and catch more fish. Learn more by visiting www.technologicalangler.com.