One of the easiest ways to catch more bass, day in and day out, from spring through summer and fall, is to take your lake’s temperature. Odds are you already have some sort of electronic device on your boat that can be used to determine the surface temperature of the water you’re fishing, and it’s one of the most powerful tools you have as a bass angler. Because bass are cold blooded, the temperature of the water that surrounds them largely dictates their mood and metabolism. And this means that simply reading a thermometer, combined with the bass fishing water temperature chart below, can tell you a whole lot about where to find fish and how to catch them.
It’s important to keep in mind that surface temperatures don’t tell the whole story; the temperature up top doesn’t always perfectly reflect temperatures where bass are holding, especially when they are on deeper structure. But surface temps are still one of the best assets you have when trying to determine the behavior of a bass, and they are especially reliable when the bass are in less than 5 feet of water. Even when fish are deeper water, surface temps can help point us in the right direction—as long as you know where to look and what to use at various temps. So, to that end, the bass fishing water temperature chart below, and the more detailed explanation that follows should all help you catch more fish by simply reading a thermometer.
Bass Fishing Water Temperature Chart
If you’re just after a quick and dirty reference—a basic guide at a glance—then take a screen shot of the water temperature chart below. It’s oversimplified on purpose, but if you keep this basic outline in mind, you can use the surface temperature as a starting point when trying to figure out the behavior of bass, how to locate them, and how to trick them into biting.
Bass Fishing Water Temperature Chart Breakdown
If you’re after more detailed information that what’s in the basic temperature chart above, like exactly where bass tend to hold at various water temps, how aggressive those fish are, and how you need to work the best baits to up your odds of landing fish, then you’ll want to check out this more nuanced breakdown. Here we go.
Water Temperature: 45 to 50 Degrees
Behavior: Though bass can be caught under ice and in open water colder than this, this is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to water temps that most anglers will pursue bass in. Look for fish to be very lethargic, and not willing to chase lures.
Where To Find Bass: Some bass can be found throughout the entire water column all year, but when the water temps hit their extreme highs and lows, the majority of fish will be out deep, in more than 15 feet of water, and that is certainly the case when these temps prevail.
How To Catch Them: Targeting bass in this range will require patience. Slow-moving baits fished along the bottom, like jigs, Ned rigs, and drop-shots work well. Jerkbaits that can be paused on the retrieved are also effective. If you do push shallow with squarebills and spinnerbaits, don’t be surprised if it takes repetitive casts to the same piece of cover to get bit.
Bass Fishing Water Temperature: 50 to 55 Degrees
Behavior: This is when the pre-spawn season really starts to heat up. Bass will become a little more active at the magical 52-degree mark and start to feed heavily in preparation for the spawn, when they’ll exert a lot of energy making their beds and be fairly stationary for multiple days.
Where To Find Bass: This is the season when main-lake and secondary points around creeks, coves, and pockets become the focal point. The bass are gradually making their way back toward shallow spawning grounds, and many will collect for a few weeks on these points as they wait to make their final move shallow.
How To Catch Them: The steep (45-degree) banks that separate the points from the shallows are known as transition banks, and they act as highways for bass. Continue using jerkbaits and jigs to target fish on these points and banks, but you can also start to mix in medium-diving crankbaits and small swimbaits to get bit more regularly. Spinnerbaits, squarebills, vibrating jigs, and lipless crankbaits all start to shine in less than 10 feet of water now.
Water Temperature: 55 to 60 Degrees
Behavior: This is the time frame when surface temps can be very misleading. With a couple consecutive warm nights and warm days, the water temperatures along the surface can jump 6 or 7 degrees easily. This will make the bass that are already shallow much more active, but short-lived warming trends aren’t enough to change the water temps at depths of 10 feet or more where most bass still are.
Where To Find Bass: This is the immediate pre-spawn phase, when bass really start to push shallow. Once you start to see these temps settle in across multiple days and weeks, look for bass to be in less than 10 feet of water, feeding heavily around cover like laydowns, boulders, brushpiles, docks, and submerged vegetation.
How To Catch Them: Jerkbaits and jigs are still effective, especially on the deeper winter schools that are just getting the memo to move to the mid-range pre-spawn spots. But you can go shallow and throw reaction baits with confidence now, as a large portion of the bass population will be up and aggressive.
Bass Fishing Water Temperature: 60 to 65 Degrees
Behavior: There’s the off chance that a few bass will have already made their beds by now, but the vast majority will begin to bed in this temp range. There will be lots of bass moving up into spawning areas and some even wrapping up their spawning process and starting to move out.
Where To Find Bass: Bass will push relatively shallow now, depending on the type of fishery, and make their beds on the cleanest, hardest bottoms that they can find, preferably near cover. So, seawalls, gravel bars, and flats with scattered stumps or boulders are all great places to look. If you’re on a fishery with lots of greenery, look for isolated patches of vegetation, and key in on the types that flourish in sandy bottoms.
How to Catch Them: Sight-fishing becomes a big deal now, as the bass that are on beds are often shallow enough for you to see them. The best approach is to put some sort of soft-plastic bait in their bed and try to aggravate the bass into biting, as they attempt to protect their beds. This can be done without actually seeing the fish, too, just by casting to areas where you think bass might be spawning, which is referred to as “blind bed fishing.” If you’d rather not target bedding fish, no problem. There should be plenty still in the pre-spawn phase that you can target with the tactics above.
Water Temperature: 65 to 70 Degrees
Behavior: The spawn is in full swing now. Very few bass are left to move up at this point, unless there has just been some sort of unseasonably warm trend to the weather, which will typically be followed by a late cool snap. But if the water temps have stabilized and been in this range for multiple weeks, look for the spawn to wind down and the bass to move into the post-spawn phase.
Where To Find Bass: During the early post-spawn, there will still be lots of bass shallow. These fish will be looking to rest up and feed up, positioning themselves close to cover in order to do both. Docks, vegetation, humps, riprap, and brush in less than 15 feet of water are great places to look. These are also areas where shad, herring, bluegills, and other baitfish will start to spawn in this temp range.
How to Catch Them: With the bass a little beat up from the spawn, the loners that setup on isolated cover may require a finesse approach, with wacky rigs, Neko rigs, and drop-shots being some of the best options. But if bass are grouped up shallow around bait spawns or starting to gather up offshore, they’ll be competitive with one another and aggressive. Topwater lurees really start to perform well here, as do deeper-diving crankbaits.
Bass Fishing Water Temperature: 70 Degrees and Above
Behavior: Bass will be in full-blown post-spawn mode after a couple weeks into this window. They’ll have recovered for the most part from the arduous spawning process. Looking to pack weight back on, they’ll feed aggressively. Most of the baitfish spawns start to wind down, now, with bluegill spawns lasting throughout the summer and insect hatches happening a little later as well.
Where To Find Bass: Shallow food sources will keep a decent number of bass up near the bank, but the majority will be making their trek back out deep where they’ll remain all summer. Look for a few of the late spawners to have made their way back to the mid-range brush and docks, too. Still, most bass will be around brush, rock, and other cover in more than 15 feet of water by now.
How to Catch Them: On ledge fisheries, Texas rigs, Carolina Rigs, football jigs, spoons, and deep-diving crankbaits all work well. On clearer-water highland reservoirs and Northern fisheries, look to a drop-shot to be a steady producer. For the bass that remain shallow, topwater lures are hard to beat. Buzzbaits, toads, and prop-baits all work well and let you cover lots of water in search of the occasional bluegill bed or shallow-roaming wolf pack of bass.
When Summer Turns to Fall
Surface water temperatures in some areas of the country will exceed 90 degrees before trickling back down. As the temps do begin to recede, bass will backtrack through many of the same places they moved through after the spawn. Large schools of shad in some parts of the country will move shallower as the water cools and summer fades into fall. The bass can normally be found nearby.
Topwaters and spinnerbaits are some of the best choices in the fall, as water temps drop back into the 70s and 60s, generally speaking. Once the water gets into the lower 60s and 50s, bass will shift back out a little deeper again. As winter sets in and temps fall into the upper 40s, the bass will become largely inactive and the whole process will start over. Only next time, you’ll already have your bass water fishing temperature chart ready—and be even more ready.