When people refer to bass fishing, they’re most often referring to fishing for largemouth bass, or smallmouth bass. These species are amongst the most popular fish sought after by anglers. Fisherman of all kinds have become fascinated with fishing for them because of their aggressive feeding, their thunderous strikes, and their size potential.
Although, bass are not the only fish with those characteristics. Other species that live in the same waters share similar habits, but it seems to be the on going mystery of how to catch bass in different conditions that keeps anglers in constant pursuit.
Conditions in bass fishing play such a significant role that anglers are constantly seeking out new tips, tackle, and information. Some examples of conditions would be weather, time of year, time of day, water temperature, water clarity, ect. They are all pieces of the puzzle that an angler must solve in order to get bass to react to the presentation of their lure. Figuring out what bass are looking for under certain conditions is what what bass fishing is all about.
Selecting the proper tackle for the style of bass fishing your plan to do goes a long way. With that said, you can catch bass with just about any rod, any lure, and on any given day, but zeroing in on the right tackle increases your fishing success significantly. It will also make your bass fishing experience more comfortable and more fun.
The first thing an angler needs to consider before heading out for a day of fishing is the time of year. Bass behavior changes from season to season, mainly due to increasing and decreasing water temperatures. As the seasons change bass will be found in different areas of lakes and will be feeding differently. Adapting to these changes is crucial if you want to successfully catch bass throughout the year.
As winter comes to an end, ice is melting and water temps are on the rise. Spring can be a great time of year for bass fishing since the warmer waters increase bass aggression and feeding. Its the time of year when bass spawn, which has a big affect on bass behavior.
Spring bass fishing pretty much revolves around the spawn. Bass behavior changes throughout the spring/spawn period and can be be broken down in to three stages: pre-spawn, spawn, and post spawn.
During the pre-spawn phase, male bass will begin to migrate towards the shallows where water temps are warming quickly. They’re still lethargic from the winter and begin looking for areas to nest. It’s not until the water temps hit about 55 degrees that they begin feeding aggressively.
Once the water temps get up around 65 degrees the spawn phase begins. Male bass do not feed during this period, they will attack lures but mostly to guard their nests while the females head for deeper waters to recover from spawning.
Typically, the best time for bass fishing begins about five or six weeks after the spawn. The females come back from recovery and the males are done guarding their nest and ready to feed again. Post spawn is a great time of year for quick moving lures and topwater lures.
Once summer begins, bass fishing is at its peak. Bass are completely recovered from the spawn and in their normal roles as the dominate predators of the lake. At this point it’s about finding them, in which sunlight and time of day play a major role.
In the morning, bass will be hanging in shallow waters and close to shorelines in search of food. This is a great time of day for topwater lures. Take advantage of the low light the morning gives off and fish as much shoreline as you can.
As the sun rises bass will begin to look for shade and darker water. Unlike our eyes, bass’s eyes do not adjust to the light so they will find cover to shield them. This means under weeds, logs, or in deeper water. These are the areas to target come mid-day.
As evening approaches, bass habits are similar to those of the morning. They will return to shallow water and shorelines in search of minnows and insects. Summer evenings have proven countless times to be the best time to bass fish, and the best setting for topwater fishing.
During the hot summer months the shallow waters eventually become too warm. Its not until the fall weather moves in that bass begin to hunt in the now cooling shallows again. They’re in constant pursuit of food to get their fill before the winter months roll in. Food is not as plentiful this time of year, which can help anglers find more success.
As the surface water temperature cools, eventually the depths do too. Once the entire body of water has reached just about the same overall temp, the fall turnover begins. Once the lake has reached this phase it becomes harder to locate bass.
Once water temperatures drop below 50 degrees bass get sluggish and are difficult to catch. Sometimes in winter, a few warm sunny days can make bass active and usually its big bass that are on the prowl. However, once water temps fall below 40 degrees bass become lethargic and its nearly impossible to get them to strike anything.
Structure vs Cover
One more thing about general bass behavior, bass love structure and like cover. It has been said that you may find structure without bass, but you won’t find bass without structure. Structure is any topographical change to the bottom contour of a body of water, such as a point, break, hump, flat, or drop-off. Bass will hold off different structure depending on the season, water temperature or the direction of the sun.
On the other hand, cover is generally something bass can hide under, in, or around to seek protection from the sun, other predators, or to ambush prey. Cover includes lilies, vegetation mats, docks, rocks, trees, sunken ships, and submerged weed lines. It’s critical to be mindful of structure and cover when choosing a lure; some lures work better in conjunction with specific types of cover or need to be fished according to the type of cover.
Bass Fishing Reels
There are two types of reels that most bass fisherman use: baitcasting reels and spinning reels. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in catching bass so a lot of anglers are equipped with both. There are many factors that determine which you are going to choose but the biggest is the type and weight of lure you plan to fish. Another method is fly fishing for bass, but thats an entirely different topic.
Baitcasting is the oldest method of fishing and the most popular choice among professional bass anglers. Fishing with a baitcaster takes practice because it’s a little harder than fishing with a spinning reel. If your not careful you can easily backlash the line spool, which is a tangle that can be near impossible to undo.
Once mastered though, a baitcaster can be a very efficient tool, as they deliver very accurate casts and allow for stronger and quicker retrieves. They are the choice reel for heavier lures and lines.
Most bass anglers start out fishing with a spinning reel. They are far less likely to tangle, although line twisting can be an issue. Spinning reels are often used when fishing lighter tackle. Light tackle means light line and light lures. You’ll see this uses a lot in clear water lakes and especially when fishing for smallmouth bass. They are a great tool for rubber worm fishing.
Lure selection in bass fishing is the biggest, most important piece of the puzzle. Not only selecting the right lure, but how fast you retrieve it and how you work it too. Selecting the right kind of bass lure is only the beginning, after that theres more factors to consider. This list could go on forever if you consider trimming skirts or adding rattles for instance, but the three most important determinations are weight, size, and color.
The weight of lure is going to determine how far you cast and the rate at which the lure sinks. The sink rate of a lure can literally be the deciding factor of how successful your day of fishing is. Sometimes a quick sinking bait will trigger a strike, usually tight to cover but other times a natural slow sinking bait can be just what bass are looking for: an easy meal.
Most people think that the bigger the lure, the bigger the fish. While that is partially true, bass will attack a lure that is twice the size of them and monster bass have been caught on tiny one inch grubs. Fishing a huge swimbait for instance, will definitely increase your chances of catching a trophy bass but it will also decrease the total bass you catch on the day. Smaller lures will always get you more bites, so when fishing is slow you should always downsize your lure. This is especially important in colder waters.
Selecting the right color lure is tough simply because of the insane amount of colors there are to choose from. You can start narrowing down the best color lure by the water clarity. The murkier the water the brighter the colors you want. In clearer waters you want to lean towards more natural looking colors. Many professional anglers like to “match the hatch”, meaning using similar colors to those of the natural foods that bass are eating in that body of water.
Fishing Line For Bass
Choosing the right fishing line might be one of the most undervalued metrics in selecting bass tackle. Not only is it the connection between you and your catch but it also plays a big part in how your lure performs during the retrieval.
There are three main types of fishing line used when fishing for bass: Monofilament, Braid, and Fluorocarbon. They all have their advantages and disadvantages within different styles of fishing and what lure your using.
The oldest and most popular choice of bass angers is monofilament. Its the most versatile of the three and will perform well on just about any reel and with most lures. Mono, as many anglers refer to it, is very sensitive so you can feel just about everything that goes on at the end of your line. It also has a lot of stretch, so with some lures where setting the hook is important you need to take that in to consideration and be sure theres enough power to properly set the hook. The heavier the pound test the less stretch the mono will have.
Stretch is not always bad though, with crankbaits for instance it can help keep you from yanking the lure from a fishes mouth. One disadvantage of mono is its lack of resistance to abrasion. Its very easily damaged and weakened if rubbed against rocks or timber. One other thing to keep in mind is when mono is new on a spinning reel, it tends to coil up until the line has had a chance to stretch. Once the line has absorbed water and undergone some stretch it performs like a charm and is very manageable.
If line strength is what your after then braid is the number one choice. Even with its thin diameter, braid is still much stronger than any other line. Its also super tough and abrasion resistant, making it perfect for fishing areas with lots of hard cover that could knick or scuff your line. You can also rest easy that your line won’t break when horsing a big bass out of heavily weeded areas.
Of course braid has its drawbacks, starting with its high visibility. Braid does not come in clear colors and is very visible to fish underwater, making it a poor choice in clearer waters. Its also not as sensitive as other lines so its common to miss light strikes from curious bass.
The most sensitive line available is fluorocarbon. At first glance it appears to be the same as mono but it has many advantages. Its less visible under water and is more abrasion resistant than mono, but what anglers value most about it is it sinks faster. Fluoro, as anglers call it, will get down to the appropriate depth much faster and easier. This can be a huge benefit when targeting bass in deep water with deep diving crankbaits or spinnerbaits for example.
The major drawback to fluoro is that its very unmanageable. It can be nearly impossible to keep from popping off and tangling with a spinning reel. Its best used with a baitcasting reel and only when your in need of and utilizing its advantages, like when crankbait fishing.