HOW TO CATCH BASS:The Definitive Guide To Bass Fishing
There is no denying that bass is one of the most popular species to fish, both for leisure and sport.
After all, there is nothing quite like the thrill of hooking and reeling in one of these game fish that are sure to put up a fight. Not to mention, you can find bass in freshwater and saltwater and can fish for them all year round.
Perhaps what is truly fascinating about bass fishing is that it is an activity that can be mastered as long as you have patience and the right guidance.
In this guide, you will find useful bass fishing tips on bass species, how to catch bass, where you can catch them, the equipment you should use, and many more tidbits.
So, without further ado, let’s get started…
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Bass Fishing 101- How To Identify Bass
There are certainly a large number of bass species to choose from which is why it can be difficult to identify these fish.
Technically, experts have agreed that there are nine main species of bass. However, there are also subspecies and it is not uncommon for a particular species to mate with another, creating an entirely new category.
To keep things simple, let’s first take a look at the primary nine species.
These can be further classified as either black bass or temperate bass:
Here are the species of black bass that you can come across and their distinguishing features:
- Large mouth
- Dark green upper body with white belly
- Dark colored band on sides
- Indentation between dorsal fins
- Adult size is between 12 – 38 inches
- Bronze or brown-green
- Vertical colored stripes on side
- Continuous dorsal fin
- Adult size is between 7 – 27 inches
- Green or bronze with light colored bellies
- Horizontal row below lateral line
- Continuous dorsal fin
- Second dorsal, anal fins, and caudal are red with white edges
- Adult size is between 5 – 16 inches
- Green with light bellies
- Irregular, horizontal bands on side
- Dark spot near tail
- Dorsal fin is continuous
- Adult size is between 11 – 25 inches
- Green to bronze with pale bellies
- Horizontal lines below lateral line
- Continuous dorsal fin
- Dark spot near tail
- Adult size is between 12 – 24 inches
- Cheeks, ventral parts, and breast are blue
- Diamond shaped marks along lateral line
- Dorsal fin is continuous
- Adults can grow up to 16 inches
- Irregular, broken lateral strip
- Slight indentation in dorsal fin
- Continuous dorsal fin
- Can grow up to 12 inches
There are two types of temperate bass and here is how they can be identified:
- Silvery gray to blue with light colored sides
- Horizontal stripes
- Football shaped body
- Indentation in dorsal fin
- Adults can reach between 10 – 18 inches
- Green, silver, or copper backs with light colored sides
- 6 – 9 stripes from head to tail
- Elongated body
- Can grow to 15 – 79 inches
“…Other subspecies of bass can include (but are not limited to) Bartram’s bass, Alabama bass, Altamaha bass, Chattahoochee bass, and Tallapoosa bass.”
The Best Places To Fish For Bass
Before we dive into detailed bass fishing tips, it’s important to know where are the best places to fish for bass.
You should be able to find bass in streams, reservoirs, lakes, and ponds.
Now, there is some debate at the depth at which you can find bass. The truth is, you can find them both in shallow and deep waters.
In this chapter, we will address where to fish for bass and how to do it.
First things first…
If the fish are able to find comfort and food at a certain depth, then they are more likely to stay there.
At the same time, it is not uncommon for these fish to dive a little deeper to find more favorable temperatures and conditions.
So, really, it all depends on when and where you are fishing for bass.
Bass Likes Cover
The other thing to keep in mind is that bass tend to like cover.
So, you should start by looking in areas of water that have wood, weeds, or rocks.
Many anglers will swear that weeds are the best places to go fishing for bass.
This is due to the abundance of oxygen in these areas. Therefore, you should have some luck if you head to places with reeds, floating weeds, hydrilla, grasses, and lily pads.
Wood is your next best bet. This means that hanging around areas with brush, standing or fallen timber, logs and stumps often pay off.
While rocks aren’t considered the ideal type of cover for bass fish, they often have crawfish and minnows which can attract the bass fish.
Usually, smaller rocks such as gravel will yield better results than boulders or similarly sized rocks.
Bass Fishing Gears
One of the advantages of bass fishing is that you don’t actually need a lot of gear.
However, you do need the right rods, reels, and lines if you want to be successful at catching bass.
So, here is what you should look for if you want to find the best gear for bass fishing:
Bass Fishing Rods
Here, let’s talk a bit about the kind of rod that you will need to use when bass fishing.
It is important to remember that your final decision will depend on the type of line that you are using, where you are fishing and the weight of the fish that you hope to catch.
Casting vs. Spinning Rods
The first thing you will need to do is to figure out the type of rod that you will need.
These days, most anglers going bass fishing stick with casting rods.
They tend to be popular as they are able to handle heavier lines and lures which means that tackling heavier and more aggressive bass becomes easier.
Spinning rods are used for more specialized techniques such as finesse presentation and topwater lures.
These rods also come in handy when you want to fish in spots that are difficult to reach with casting rods.
Of course, the thing to keep in mind here is that these rods are primarily for smaller bass and you will have to use lighter line and lures as well.
Rod length will depend on the casting distance as well as the line and the lure.
However, if you want something a little more versatile, a rod that is between 6’6 and 7 feet should suffice.
A shorter rod (between 6 and 7 feet) is great if you will not be casting out too far and are looking for smaller bass.
They work particularly well if you are casting from a higher point.
However, if you have a casting distance of 30 feet or greater, then a longer rod (between 7 and 9 feet) is a better option. Long rods are good for bigger fish that require heavier lures.
Action and Power
If you are after the largemouth bass, then you will find that a rod that has an extra fast or fast action will come in handy in these situations.
They have enough power and flexibility to give you better control when you are trying to control a larger, more powerful fish.
The rods that offer slow to moderate amount of action are great for smaller bass and they are easier to cast. Of course, these do require the use of lighter lines and lures.
“…For most bass fishing scenarios, a rod that has medium to heavy power will be more than enough. They are able to support heavier fishing line and are also strong enough to manage big bass that put up a fight.”
It is often best to stick with a graphite rod when bass fishing.
This is because these rods are lightweight, which make them quite comfortable to use for long periods at the same time.
The lower weight also translates to a greater sensitivity which means that you will be alerted to the presence of any bass that is interested in your bait or lure.
If you are going crankbaiting, though, you will find that a composite rod is much better suited to this situation.
While these rods have a sensitivity and lightness that is similar to graphite rods, they also offer up a little more give.
This ensures that you don’t pull the hook out of the hookset when you are working crankbaits.
Fishing Reels For Bass
There are typically three types of reels used for bass fishing:
There is no denying that spinning reels are most commonly used for bass fishing.
This is largely because these reels work well for bigger bass that like to put up a fight. As the fish begins to pull away, the spool on this reel goes backward, creating some resistance.
You can also choose to loosen or tighten the drag, depending on the size of the fish as well as the line. This can offer you a greater level of control over the fish.
The main benefit with baitcasting reels is that they allow you to use heavier line and lures. In turn, this means that you can go after heavier bass.
At the same time, using heavier gear with this reel doesn’t affect the casting distance at all. So, you can cast out farther, if you want to.
The only issue with this type of reel is that it can be rather difficult to manage. So, it is going to take some practice to get used to.
If you are only just getting started with bass fishing – or any fishing for that matter – the spincast reel is what you may want to use.
This is because it is rather simple to manage.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks as well.
For one thing, you can’t really cast out as far, especially if you are using heavier line. The drag isn’t great either, meaning that it can be difficult to reel in larger bass with this.
Fishing Line For Bass
When it comes to fishing line, your best options are either fluorocarbon line or braided line.
There are a few reasons that anglers rely on fluorocarbon for bass fishing quite so much.
To start with, this line can appear nearly invisible in the water which makes it a lot easier to trick the bass.
Also, this line has a famously high abrasion resistance which means it can withstand all the friction that you will have to deal with when fishing in heavy cover.
If you are using a spinning rod then look for fishing line with a 4 to 10-pound test. For casting rods, you can use 10 to 25-pound test line instead.
Now, braided line may not be as invisible in the water as fluorocarbon, but it does have similar advantages.
For one thing, the line has a high abrasion resistance which allows you to fish in heavy cover.
At the same time, you don’t have to use heavier line to be able to enjoy a similar pound test. If you have a spinning rod, then a 10 to 25-pound test is a good choice for you.
Most Effective Lures & Baits For Bass Fishing
Apart from the equipment that you use, the next most important aspect to focus on would be the lures and the bait that you will need.
Now, there are quite a few factors that need to be considered when choosing the right lures and bait.
This includes elements such as the type of bass that you are going after, the water depth, and the visibility.
Read this chapter to find out more.
Bass Fishing Lures
Let’s first take a look at the right lures for bass fishing:
Plastic Worms: These are certainly one of the most effective lures for bass. Not only do they look life-life, they also feel real to the bass once swallowed. The other advantage of this type of lure is that it can be fished both at a greater depth as well as closer to the surface. It is definitely one of the more versatile types of lures around.
Crankbaits: This is a great choice if you are looking for active bass. These lures work well because they allow you to cover a lot of water and also mimic some of the bass’ favorite prey. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can’t just cast and retrieve if you want the lure to be effective. You need to move it around so that the movements are inconsistent and look more realistic.
Spinnerbaits: These are yet another type of lure that let you cover more water. They are also useful as they each have a unique resistance in the water, changing how fast each lure can move. Now, the weight of this lure is largely dependent on the depth at which you are fishing. Despite this, most anglers prefer to use a 3/8 ounce lure. If you find that the bass aren’t being all that active or aggressive, make sure to jerk the rod so that you can make the lure look more enticing.
Topwater Lures: If you get a thrill out of watching a bass leap into the air as it swallows the lure, then topwater lures are definitely right for you. This type of lure is most effective when used in low-light conditions. Also, to make sure that the bass doesn’t miss it, avoid retrieving the lure too quickly. Furthermore, wait until the bass has really bitten into the lure before you set the hook.
Bass Jigs: If you want to catch larger bass and want to use the same kind of lure all year round, then bass jigs are for you. These are always paired with a trailer and you can use a soft plastic. While these are quite effective, they do require a certain amount of skill. This is because you have to be able to use certain fishing techniques like pitching and short-range Not to mention, you have to be quite focused while using this lure to be able to detect a bite.
Bass Fishing Live Baits
There are lots of anglers who prefer to use live bait in addition to lures. After all, you can virtually guarantee that a bass is going to want to take a bite out of live bait more often than not.
So, with this in mind, here are the best kinds of live bait you can use:
Crawfish: These crustaceans are definitely the favored foods of the bass and will certainly earn you a bite from a larger fish. You can either head down to your local bait shop or use a crawfish trap to get the bait that you need.
Minnows: Fatheads and golden shiners will be the best type of minnows that you can use. Look for the larger ones that are quite lively. Make sure to hook the minnow through the tail so that you are able to get a better hold on the bass when it eats the fish. Since there is a good chance that you are going to attract some large fish, look for a line with a pound test of 20 to 30 pounds. You should always wait for a beat until you are sure that the bass has really swallowed the minnow before trying to reel it in.
Expert Bass Fishing Tips
Once you know where to fish, have the gear that you need, and are all stocked up on lures and bait, there is only one thing left – the right technique.
Depending on where you are fishing, the type of bait you are using, and how the bass are behaving, you will need to find the corresponding technique.
It’s the only real way to ensure that you will be walking away with your prize.
Catch Sluggish Bass:
Pitching and Flipping Technique
When the bass are feeling shy, you need to make sure you are being as stealthy as possible to catch them.
It is in these moments that you can decide on either the pitching or flipping technique.
While they may appear to be similar, there are a few differences.
However, to master both of these techniques, you will need to use soft plastic bait attached to a rod that is about 6.5 to 7.5 feet long.
THE PITCHING TECHNIQUE
With the pitching technique, your hope is to have the lure shoot towards the water.
To do this, you will first need to let out just enough line so that it is even with your reel.
You will need to keep the reel open.
Your next move is to keep your thumb on the reel spool while lowering the tip of the rod towards the water.
At this point, you will need to grab the lure with your free hand and pull on it to create tension.
Then, let go of the lure while swinging the tip of the rod upwards.
You will then have to remove your thumb from the reel spool. It is important that you close the reel the moment that you see the bait land as the bass tend to be quick to strike.
Watch the video below to see this in action;
THE FLIPPING TECHNIQUE
You are going to find that flipping is going to require more practice than pitching.
But you will end up being be rewarded with greater accuracy.
With this technique, you will need to let out about eight to fifteen feet of line.
After doing this, you will need to close the reel. You will have to grab the line at a position between the reel and the first guide.
Then, pull on the line as you extend your arm to the side.
When you raise the rod, the lure will move towards you.
It is at this point that you will swing the bait away, to where you want it to go as you feed the line with your hand.
Afterward, it is just a matter of tightening up the slack and waiting for a bite.
Watch the video above to learn more about this technique.
FISHING AROUND HEAVY COVER?:
Use The Crankbaiting Technique
Crankbaiting is the perfect option for when you are fishing around heavy cover.
It is also great if you are looking to cover a greater expanse of water both horizontally and vertically.
When using crankbaits, it is important to focus on luring the bass out.
You can do this by reeling quickly and then suddenly stopping.
When you do this, the crankbait slowly rises. Keep repeating this action until you are able to coax out the bass.
Another important point to note when using a crankbait is that it sinks well, always stop when you feel it make contact with a hard surface.
The lure will float for a while and this combination of sound and movement is sure to tempt the bass into striking.
This video below goes into more explanation, be sure to watch it.
true, tried & tested:
The Texas Rig
If you want to use a soft plastic lure, then you will find that the Texas Rig is the way to go.
For this setup, you are going to need the lure, a hook, a bullet-shaped sinker, a hook, and a pegging device.
You will need to choose the weight of the sinker depending on the depth of the fish, the rate of the fall, and how much cover you have to contend with.
If you are fishing in shallow water and want a slow falling lure, consider the 1/8-ounce weight. If there is only a little bit of cover, consider weights that are either 1/4, 5/16, or 3/8 ounces.
For very heavy cover, look for ½ and 1.5-ounce weights.
Once you have chosen the weight, you will need to match it with a hook.
Then, it is a matter of pegging the weight so that it stays close to the lure and the hook.
If you are fishing in open water, though, you may want to leave the weight unpegged.
With the Texas rig, you have several options for presenting.
The first is the lift and drop technique.
Let the lure drop to the bottom and settle for a moment before reeling it back into the water column about one or two feet.
Then, drop the rig again and repeat.
You can also have the rig crawl across the bottom. Let it drop and then slowly drag it until your rod is at the eleven o’clock position. Then, you should lower the rod and reel in any slack line.
You should be able to feel the bottom of the lake or stream that you are fishing in, this is how you know that you are doing it correctly.
You can also use the swimming technique.
With this method, you will need to cast out the rig past where the bass may be hiding.
Then, slowly reel it back in.
Now, it is going to take some trial and error before you figure out just how quickly or slowly you should be reeling the rig in to properly entice the bass.
Check out the video below
catch the aggressive and hungry bass:
The Topwater Presentation Technique
This is a good technique when the fish are active and you know that they are hungry.
The topwater lure will create noise and movement which is going to draw the bass out.
Now, if you are using a lure like a popper, you are going to need to mimic the movements of a wounded fish. Here, you will be required to pop the lure every time it is retrieved. You will then need to hold it still for a while before so that the lure will remain steady.
If you are using a lure like a soft frog, then you may want to utilize the “walk the dog” technique.
Here, you will need to use a medium heavy rod with braided line.
The rod’s tip needs to be pointed downwards, a few inches above the water.
Once you have cast the line, twitch the tip a few inches before quickly drifting the tip towards the lure.
This will create slack in the line. After this, it is a matter of repeating the motion.
Best Time For Bass Fishing
The good news for you is that you can actually go bass fishing, regardless of the time of year.
That being said, you also need to understand the patterns of the fish so that you know where to look at what types of lures to use to entice them.
In this chapter, we will talk about the secrets to fishing bass all year long.
catch the aggressive and hungry bass:
Springtime is the Best Time for Bass Fishing
If you want to increase your chances that you catch a fish, then you are going to want to go bass fishing in the springtime.
See, during this period, the bass will move to north or west facing banks or to shallow bays. This is their best chance of catching some sunlight.
During the beginning of this season, you will find that the bass aren’t too picky about the kind of food they eat. Due to this, you will have a lot of success with larger lures.
As the season progresses, though, the bass will begin to prepare for spawning season.
During this period, they prefer to consume foods that have a high protein content. So, you will find that lures that mimic crawfish are best.
Pro Tip: The middle of the spawning season is when bass are most aggressive!
This is because the fish are focused on keeping their nests safe from common predators like salamanders, crawfish, bluegill, and gream.
So, to get the bass to come after your lure, make sure that it looks like one of these species.
After the spawning phase is over, the male and female bass will go in different directions.
The males will stay near the nests so that they can guard the fry.
The females, on the other hand, need to heal from the spawning ritual so they will head to deeper waters.
If you are targeting male bass, then use topwater lures and corresponding technique mentioned earlier above.
Female bass, on the other hand, will respond to virtually any lure that is moving slowly enough for them.
MIMIC THE PREY
Summer Time Bass Fishing
Summer typically offers a lot of opportunities for bass in terms of forage.
However, as the temperatures heat up, it is not uncommon to find these fish heading deeper.
They will often migrate using creek channels, points, ledges, and deep grass lines.
During this time, the bass are looking for shad.
So, your best option is to head to one of the locations mentioned above and use lures that are similar to that of shad.
You should then have little trouble getting the bass to bite.
FOLLOW THE SHAD
Fall Time Bass Fishing
In the fall, shad have a larger number of nutrients available to them, allowing them to grow exponentially.
This is why bass tend to follow these migrations, trying to fatten up for the colder months to come.
So, as long as you use lures that resemble shad, you will be quite successful.
As the weather gets colder, shad are unable to survive the temperatures.
So, if you are able to mimic a dying shad, the bass will definitely strike.
TAKING IT EASY
Winter Bass Fishing
When winter sets in, you can expect the bass’ metabolism to slow down considerably.
Because of this, they aren’t going to want to feed as much.
To top it off, their food options dwindle as well since only the larger fish can really survive these temperatures.
You will most likely succeed if you opt for larger bait.
However, you need to remember to move the bait as slowly as possible, if you want the bass to bite.
Insider Tips For Bass Fishing
So, at this point, you are pretty much all set with what you need to know about bass fishing.
Of course, to really improve your chances, you need some insider knowledge to put the odds firmly in your favor.
Here is what you need to be aware of:
Sharpen your hooks: This might seem like rather basic advice but it does bear repeating. This is a particularly important thing to keep in mind with bass fish, as this species have bony jaws. A sharp hook makes it more likely to get through and hook the fish.
Use the wind: Believe it or not, windy days can actually favor you when bass fishing. This is because the wind tends to stimulate the bass, increasing the chance that they will bite.
Pay attention to the weather: Bass are more likely to come out of hiding on overcast days so you can get some good strikes by using topwater lures and spinnerbaits, as these tend to move around more. However, when the sun is out, the bass are more likely to wait in the heavy cover until their prey comes to them. Here, you will be better off using a Texas rig or a jig.
Be patient: With bass, you can’t afford to give up. This is because they will often wait in their cover until a lure is presented to them in just the right way. So, instead of packing up and moving, just keep trying various techniques in the same spot. There is a good chance that you will be rewarded with a bite.
Use red to stimulate the bass: When you are fishing in shallow cover, it can be helpful to use lures that have a red or pink head. You can match this with a red hook. This tricks the bass into believing that a fish may be hurt and will encourage them to strike.
So, this is all there is to know about bass fishing.
Now, the only thing left for you to do with this information is to head out and try your hand at bass fishing.
After all, it is only with practice that you will be able to perfect your bass fishing skills.
This bass fishing guide was made possible with the help of the following resources, guides and graphics.
Featured image by: Ray F from Flickr