Author: Wayne Ek
you’re a tournament angler you’ve been there. After a great day of
pre-fishing for the upcoming tournament you’re sitting around
working on tackle and re-spooling reels when the weather report comes
on. You really aren’t
paying that much attention to the report until you hear, “ A large
cold front is moving in from the northwest this evening, it should
bring clear skies and cooler temperatures for the weekend.” Now they
have your undivided attention as you realize your game plan will
probably change drastically and you will be fishing for “cold
couple of things can happen at this point. You can become resigned to
a poor day of fishing, lose focus and confidence and end up losing the
tournament before you even launch the boat. Or you can think, YES!
This front has just cut the playing field in half and I can win this
look at a couple of ideas that may help you cash a check during a cold
front tournament. First believe me when I tell you “ fish bite
during post-frontal conditions.” As a guide I’ve watched my
clients catch too many fish on post-frontal days to buy into the “
fish won’t bite after a cold front” malarkey. Active or neutral
fish may become negative and their strike zone may shrink way down for
a few days, but they will bite.
You Go Deep Or Shallow?
There are a couple of different theories here. One says that
larger game fish will move deep after a cold front and hug the bottom.
The second says that game fish will become negative and move extremely
tight to heavy cover. I think both theories are accurate and here is
Most of our guide trips are for walleye. I know… I love to chase
bass and all my tournament fishing is for bass, but the walleye is the
most popular fish in our area, so we fish for walleye 90% of the time.
Prior to a cold front moving through we can slip-bobber, troll or
crank shallow breaks and be quite successful on walleye. But after a
cold front it becomes strictly a live-bait bite, mainly leeches fished
ever so slowly at the base of deep breaks, adjacent to large flats.
It’s during these times that my clients catch some very respectable
bass, from areas that normally do not hold quality bass. I have to
believe that the bass holding on the edges of the adjacent flats had
to transition to the deep breaks to weather the post- frontal
I’ve always found it hard to believe that the whole bass
population of an expansive, shallow, weedy bay would migrate out of
the bay after a cold front, looking for a deep-water sanctuary. The
pontoon boat tied up to the dock in front of our home has proven me
right time after time. Our home is located in a large, shallow,
weed-choked bay, which is loaded with panfish and small bass. You can
walk down to the dock on any warm sunny afternoon, stomp on the
pontoon boat and see good numbers of small sunfish and bass scoot out
from under it, but rarely any really large bass, until a cold front
moves through the area. Then you can stomp on the pontoon and see the
regular sunfish and small bass along with a number of large bass.
Those fish are in less than a foot of water on a mud bottom, tucked
way up under the pontoon boat. The larger bass only seem to go there
after a cold front.
Do Others Think?
Captain Chris Johnson, owner/operator of Fishcrazy guide service (www.fishcrazygs.com)
targets both smallmouth and largemouth bass around the Door County
Peninsula of Wisconsin. Chris is also a professional tournament angler
fishing the Pro side of the Bassmasters Weekend Series in Division 24
) and is on the field-staffs for Strike King Lures, Sufix Line and
chasing smallmouth on
after a cold front, Chris said he likes to target offshore humps. “
I like humps with ledges or lips, the down current side of these humps
usually produce the best when dealing with cold front conditions.”
When I asked Chris about which line he uses for tough post-frontal
bites Chris indicated that he stays with his normal 10-pound braid
with an 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. However, he does downsize his
lures and weights for cold front conditions. For largemouth Chris
said, “ I like to look for areas that draw heat, mainly rocks or
wood.” After a front
moves through the area his lures of choice for largemouth are the
Strike King Zero, fished weightless or small crankbaits dragged along
the bottom. His main
point, “ More important than the line and lures is the mind-set. You
have to force yourself to fish very slow and be patient.”
Lee is a well known tournament angler in the upper
. He is also the owner of North Star Jigs (www.northstarjigs.com).
Howie’s main point was downsizing. “ When fishing cold front
conditions I like to downsize my lures. I will stick with a jig but
tend to use a 3/16 oz like the Sump’n Sump’n. For trailer I’ve
been using the Zoom Speed Craw or a Yamamoto Twin Tail Grub.” If
confronted with an early spring cold front Howie said he liked to move
out to a little deeper water and fish a jig real slow.
Leifermann is a very well known and respected professional tournament
angler in the northern region. He fishes numerous tournaments
including the Silverado and Bassmasters Weekend Series in
Division 25. Brad won the regional championship on
in 2006. Here are some great points brought up by Brad. “The
inevitable cold front is sure to arrive on a tournament day. The key
to catching fish after a front has moved through is making the mental
adjustment before you even drop the boat in. You know the fishing is
going to be tough and it’s going to be slow fishing with light line
and small lures. When I pre-fish I always try to locate both deep and
shallow fish, then if the weather changes I have alternatives. It
seems to me that cold fronts affect deep fish less, but shallow fish
can sometimes be easier to catch if heavy weed clumps such as coontail
exist. I’ve found that
some fish will move tight to these clumps and can be caught with a jig
later in the day as the front passes. If all else fails, docks can
always produce a few fish if the angler just slows down and works the
docks with smaller baits. For
the most part, after a cold front you can forget the top-waters,
crankbaits and other fast moving baits. The drop shot, jig, senko or
dead sticking worms are my choices when confronted with post frontal
conditions. If it’s possible, I try to fish the windy side of a lake
after a front. If I’m on a river I look for current areas that will
hold fish, such as wing dams and side channels with current breaks.”
Panic, Downsize The Bait And Slow Down
All three of these professional anglers spend hundreds of hours on the
water each season and I thought it interesting that the majority of
their points on dealing with cold front conditions were similar.
when you’re confronted with the dreaded cold front don’t panic, be
prepared to make some reasonable adjustments to your game plan.
Remember, be patient and think about slow presentations.
No power fishing this time out. Put away the big baits. If
you’re chasing bass you’re going to have to go to small subtle
baits. If it’s a fun fishing day or you have kids out fishing, then
go to live bait. Even during a cold front it’s hard for a bass to
pass up a tantalizing leech. But more important than anything else is
to keep a positive mental attitude, believe that the fish will bite
and expect them to bite. This will put you ahead of half the
tournament field before the first boat is even launched.
always, stay safe and we hope to see you on the water.
Ek is a fishing guide, tournament angler and writer living in
. For more information you can contact