Mark Zona shares his three top lures for cold water bass fishing and how he prefers to rig them in the winter.
There is a common misconception that 50-degree water is cold water, but to a bass it isn’t. 50-degree temperature doesn't put them in wintertime mode, but 35 to 42 degrees does. Mark Zona has caught some of the biggest bass of his lifetime in 38-to-40-degree water.
The best lures for cold-water bass are not intrusive, they are subtle. These baits slow down to match the metabolism that the bass are in.
The number one bait is a 3.25” Rage Swimmer. This bait could be considered the cold-water version of a wacky rig Ocho because it generates so many bites. This bait can be slowed way down and can also be fished like a bottom bouncing bait. Make sure to keep bait color choices natural.
The next wintertime bite-getter is the Baby Z-Too. This bait catches big ones. Mark Zona fishes this bait differently in the winter. Instead of a dropshot, he uses a ned rig head to achieve a very subtle action and slow the bait down. A drop shot gets a lot of action, so he prefers to use the ned rig approach because of the elastic quality of a Baby Z-Too.
The third bait is a 2.75” Coffee Tube. This has much smaller profile than a standard 3.5” Coffee Tube. Mark Zona has started fishing this bait a lot more in the last two or three years, especially in cold water.
There is a common theme between these three lures. All three of these baits have a very small profile, making them bite getters. The common forage in cold water is emerald shiners, small bluegill, and small shad. These three baits mimic the size profile of this forage.
Mark Zona uses his 7’0” all-purpose version of the Lew’s Signature Series Rods for fishing all three of these baits. This rod model offers the softest tip on it, which allows him to ease into the hookset. For this setup, he uses a backing of 15lb braided line to a 6lb fluorocarbon leader.
When looking for fish in cold water, remember to focus on finding the last live vegetation in the 15 to 22 feet range of water. There is always a last outer line of living vegetation that attracts forage and bass.
An important thing to remember is that where one fish is caught in the cold water, there are a lot more nearby.