To keep scoring on your bass fishing sessions, you need to be consistent in paying attention to all details. And the water temperature is one of the key factors that can and will decide the fate of your fishing!
The best water temperature for bass fishing is between 50-85 degrees F. Bass prefer warmer water and are more actively feeding when the water gets above 50F.
Fish are cold-blooded organisms. This means they cannot change or hold their body temperature – it purely depends on the temperature of the surrounding water.
Knowing this, and also understanding that bass is considered a warm water species, it is somewhat straightforward to conclude that water temperature can play a key role when it comes to a successful fishing session!
But we mustn’t narrow down options thinking solely on the water temperature. Bass is considered a warm water species that thrive in the 55-85 degrees range, but it does not mean activity is locked in this (relatively big) temperature span. You can get a strike in 40 degrees, or 90 degrees water if you know what are you doing!
Also, inside the ”ideal” 55-85 degrees range, there are several seasonal differences that will affect bass behavior and ultimately your fishing success. So let’s dig into the problem!
As with all other fish, we can distinguish 4 different fishing seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Each of these seasons will bring a lot of water changes – following big temperature variations, bass will migrate both vertically and longitudinally, and engage in different feeding patterns.
Traditionally, spring, early summer, and fall bring the best opportunities, mid and late summer can be a bit tricky, while winter brings results only for the most persistent anglers.
All of these seasons offer completely different water temperatures, that will affect bass behavior, but these differences need to be put into context to understand the full picture!
As the winter coldness fades under increasing sunlight, water starts to build up the temperature. This is a sign for bass that the most important part of the year approaches – spawning season!
Shallow water will heat up far faster than the deeper parts of the lakes (especially on the northern side of the lake), so bass will be very quick to swim up to the shallow grounds. 48-50 degrees can be defined as a threshold for the ”official” pre-spawn mode, which is considered as an opening of the fishing season.
Now, this temperature can be achieved relatively fast, but as the first part of the spring season is notorious for crazy weather changes, be aware that shallow water temperature can drop 5 + degrees in a matter of a day, sending bass back in the deep (but not far from the shallow grounds)!
Although 50 degrees is considered to be a lower limit for successful bass fishing, pre-spawn fish are hungry and aggressive after winter slumber – and with the water temperature rising to 55 + degrees, spawning season will begin, and bass will just keep adding up to their appetite!
The spawning season will usually peak at 70-75 degrees, marking the beginning of summer.
Warm water is traditionally considered the best possible sign of successful bass fishing. Water is full of life, bass are done with spawning, and high temperatures are boosting their metabolism, making them hungry and eager for chasing our lures. For this reason, early summer is an extraordinary time for bass fishing!
As days pass and the heat starts building up, the water temperature will keep rising, surpassing 80, 85, and even 90 degrees in surface/shallow areas. These temperatures are not something bass prefers.
High temperatures will bring a lack of oxygen, and bass will try to avoid exposure to extreme sunlight by hiding.
For this reason, when water temperature exceeds 80 degrees, bass will focus their activity in the shallow water in the early morning and late sunset hours, spending the warmest part of the days in deeper water with stable oxygen levels – often hidden under various obstacles. Lily pads are a perfect example of natural ”umbrellas” bass will use to hide from the sun!
Also, take into account that extremely hot weather will diminish the oxygen supply in deep water – sometimes this ”life border” can be as shallow as 15 feet!
When days start getting shorter, it will mark a process of water temperatures going down. We can usually pinpoint the beginning of fall season when the water temperature drops under 70 degrees – and this is when the fun starts.
Schools of baitfish will start tightening up and going to the shallows, and bass will be right behind them! Fall fishing is very similar to summer fishing, with the same temperature range of 50-70 degrees, where bass will dwell around shallow flats feeding aggressively and getting ready for the lean winter season. The difference is in the direction of the process. This time it goes oppositely!
As the temperatures gradually drop from summer heights, bass will move to the shallow water – but when the temperature starts falling under 50 degrees, bass will again start moving to deeper water, usually down the nearest drop-offs or steep slopes.
Once the temperature starts hitting low 50 or going under it – you can rule out the shallows, and put your efforts into exploring deeper water!
Although data tells us bass have a big NO attitude when it comes to temperatures under 50 degrees, it only means that their metabolism is getting slower, and they do not need to feed often.
Also, they are slow and lethargic, but still a predator with strong hunting instincts – and they will go for the kill even when the temperature hits the lowest 40′ and below!
There are numerous reports of experienced anglers targeting huge bass specimens while ice fishing – which just proves that there is always a way to catch bass, as long as you know its behavior in given conditions.
Certainly, low water temperatures are by far the most challenging problem in bass fishing, but if you know how to find them, and present your lure patiently, precisely, and slowly, there will be no off-season in your bass fishing year!
So, in the end, what is the ideal water temperature for bass fishing?
As written, they prefer 50-85 degrees, with literature narrowing this down to ideal 60-77 degrees. But if you consider seasonal differences explained in the text above, you can see that these temperature spans are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Does it mean anything if you are hitting the bank during spawning season and the water temperature is 60 degrees? Well, frankly, it tells you the bass are most likely spawning, but if the temperature was 65 or 55 degrees, it does not change anything!
On the other hand, water temperature does play a HUGE factor if it goes outside of normal seasonal conditions! Fishing during the summer with water temperatures going over 85 degrees will chase you away from trying shallows, and fishing late winter with temperatures going over 50 will be a factor pointing to the shallows.
If you combine your knowledge of seasonal bass migration with knowledge of their temperature preference, you are one step closer to becoming a successful bass angler!