Humans have sought to wrangle fish fro
m lakes, rivers and other waterways for more than 40 millennia, first as a matter of survival and eventually simply for enjoyment. Records of recreational fishing date back thousands of years, and today the sport is still a great way to relax and enjoy some downtime. In particular, bass fishing is a popular pastime for newcomers and expert anglers alike. Whether you’re an aspiring pro or you’ve never fished a day in your life, this guide will walk you through all the bass fishing tips you need to know to improve your next fishing trip. With that in mind, let’s cast off!
- Why Bass Fishing?
- Meet Your Adversaries
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Spotted Bass
- Plan Your Fishing Trip
- Casting Off
- The Allure of Lures
- Soft Plastics
- Caught on Film: The Best Bass Fishing Videos
Why Bass Fishing?
While fishing has always been a go-to activity for those who enjoy the outdoors, bass fishing has exploded over the last few decades to become one of the most popular and fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the United States. One reason for the surge in popularity is the fact that bass are hearty and versatile fish, capable of living in a very wide range of habitats. Bass can be found in nearly any body of fresh water, and they’re often stocked by wildlife authorities. Their populations also thrive because they are aggressive fish, capable of squeezing out other species and overtaking new bodies of water quickly.
Bass also strike an excellent balance by providing a challenge to experienced anglers while remaining accessible to newcomers. Expensive, specialized equipment and dedicated fishing boats are not necessary – if you have some basic bass fishing tips down, most bass can be caught with a simple rod and reel and whatever bait or lures you happen to have on hand. They tend to be aggressive and are prone to strike at all sorts of objects, so getting bites isn’t challenging in a well-stocked waterway. At the same time, larger bass can put up a good fight and it can be a challenge to land them consistently.
Meet Your Adversaries
If you hope to reel in a prize fish, it helps to know what you’re up against. While there are a number of specialized species that have evolved to live in specific waterways, there are three broad classifications for freshwater bass: the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass and the spotted bass. Differentiating between them can be tricky for some people, so here are a few bass fishing tips you should keep in mind.
As the name suggests, the largemouth bass is most easily identified by its oversized mouth. Featuring a dark green body and an underside that ranges from light green to white, the largemouth bass is the only bass species in which the jaws extend beyond the location of the eyes. Their sides are adorned with dark blotches that often connect to form a single, well-defined lateral band. Largemouth bass are aggressive and strike with force, but they have also shown to be intelligent and able to avoid specific lures after as little as one encounter with them. They are also larger than their relatives, occasionally growing in size to 20 pounds or more.
One of the most sought-after game fish, smallmouth bass are best distinguished by a characteristically smaller mouth and a duller, browner body coloring. Rather than a single lateral band, smallmouth bass often display dark bar- or stripe-like markings along the length of their sides. Smallmouth bass are often seen as being sportier than largemouths, preferring deeper waters and the swift currents of streams and outlets. Smallmouths also tend to be craftier, faster and more energetic, giving a good fight relative to their body size.
Most commonly seen in the southeastern and eastern sections of the United States, spotted bass are something of a combination between largemouth and smallmouth species. In fact, they are often confused for one or the other among fishing neophytes. Spotted bass generally have a green coloration and dark lateral band similar to largemouths, but the jawline does not extend beyond the eye. Black spots can often be found below the lateral band, giving the species its name. Behaviorally, spotted bass often prefer deeper waters and gentle, slow-moving currents. They rarely grow to great sizes, but fully-grown adults can put up a respectable fight.
Plan Your Fishing Trip
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the fish you’ll be targeting, it’s time to plan out when and where you should seek to find them. Generally speaking, bass like to adjust their normal depth based on the weather. The cooler weather of fall and winter drives them to the depths and causes them to become more sedentary and lethargic, while the warmth of spring and summer draws them nearer the surface and provides anglers with more active and aggressive targets. These bass fishing tips are important to keep in mind even when considering day-to-day changes, as a simple cold front can be enough to temporarily drive bass toward the deep, open waters they call home during chilly weather.
It’s not just temperature, either. Heading out in the rain has long been one of the most popular bass fishing tips, and for good reason.
Rain pushes bass into activity, causing them to enter into the feeding mode that often leads to big strikes for the enterprising angler who doesn’t mind getting wet.It also makes the water choppier and more turbulent, which provides a sense of security for the fish and encourages them to leave their usual cover in search of food in the open water.
Wind, too, can sometimes increase activity by stirring up food sources and pushing them toward the windward side of ponds, lakes and other bodies of water. Finally, the time of day is also important. Early morning and late evening are widely considered to be the best times for bass fishing, though it’s quite possible to land a big one at any time of the day or night.
After figuring out when and where you should be fishing, the next step is the fun part: get out there and get your line in the water! One of the most appealing aspects of bass fishing is that it’s fundamentally very simple. With a bit of time and patience, you can probably catch a bass with a simple hook and line tied around a stick. Of course, you’ll probably have a better time with more modern equipment. However, no matter if you’re using a $20 rod and reel, a world-class tournament setup or anything in between, there are a few basic bass fishing tips that you should always keep in mind.
Fishing begins with the cast, and your success will depend heavily on exactly where you choose to cast your line. If you’re fishing for largemouth bass, pay close attention to weed beds, lily pads, brushy areas and other patches of heavy vegetation in shallower waters. Though they prefer clear water, they can and do adjust to murkier waters as well. Smallmouth bass greatly prefer very clear waters and are most commonly found in deeper holes and pools, near swift currents and around fallen trees and other impediments. If you’re in search of spotted bass, meanwhile, your best bet is to target rocky areas such as shoals, shorelines and bluff banks. Human structures like docks and piers are also common hiding places for most bass species.
The Allure of Lures
Of all the most frequently requested bass fishing tips, perhaps no other is as common as advice for choosing the right lure. There are many thousands of lures to pick from, as well as an assortment of different live baits, which can be broadly divided into a number of categories:
- Soft plastics
- Live baits
How do you decide which one is best? The truth is that there is no single right choice, and the ideal option may depend on a dizzying number of factors and variables. Hardcore fishermen may spend decades honing in on just the right spinners and jigs or piecing together where a live worm or frog works most effectively, but that complexity can ultimately be reduced down to a couple of key bass fishing tips for each type of lure.
One of the most effective lures for bass, crankbaits are designed to mimic the actions of live baitfish. They come in lipped and lipless variations, as well as a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and designs. Lipped crankbaits use a plastic lip at the front of the lure to cause a diving action, allowing the lure to run at a specific water depth while being reeled depending on the size and configuration of the lure. Lipless crankbaits rely more on a shimmying motion, and many are filled with small weights to create added sink and vibration. Crankbaits are often most effective when allowed to skim the bottom of shallow and intermediate waterways during times when bass are not actively feeding near the surface.
Spinnerbaits are extremely simple lures, often containing little more than a molded lead head and a hook surrounded by several shiny blades. The blades spin as the line is reeled in, creating vibration and flashing reflections that are very appealing to bass. The size and shape of the blades determine the amount and type of movement as well as the depth at which the lure will run. While larger, broader blades generally create a greater effect, they may also become more easily snagged on cover such as weeds, rocks and stumps. Spinners work best in adverse conditions such as wind and rain, as well as in deep waters during cooler weather.
Perhaps the most versatile of all bass lures, and one that is often recommended as a must-have in bass fishing tips for newcomers, the jig was originally designed to mimic a crawfish. Modern jigs can now mimic virtually any typical bass food source, and they come in a range of designs for fishing every condition from open, calm waters to rapidly flowing creeks to heavy pond and lake cover like weed beds, rocky bottoms and fallen trees. Regardless of the specific purpose and configuration, most jigs are built on the same basic design. A lead head is molded atop a hook, which is then concealed beneath a skirt made from rubber, silicon or hair. Many jigs also have a built-in weed guard to prevent snagging while fishing in heavy cover areas.
Covering everything from buzzbaits to poppers to walkers to minnows, among others, topwaters are designed to function at or near the surface of the water. Many topwater lures use specific designs which, when combined with proper technique on the part of the user, create an effect that mimics injured and vulnerable prey. Quick, erratic movement is the name of the game when using topwater lures, which is why employing them effectively takes a bit of practice. They are often preferred for locations where snagging is a major concern, and because they generally work at shallow depths, they are best used during warm weather and active feeding periods.
Named because of their resemblance to the bowl of a spoon, spoon lures are extremely simple but very effective. Spoon lures are fundamentally just a piece of curved metal with a hook attached, but there are several varieties that can be used in different ways. Traditional spoons were used in a simple cast-and-reel approach, though this has fallen out of favor among bass fishers in recent years. Jigging and flutter spoons have gained popularity for bass fishing due to their ability to mimic dying shad and other baitfish, featuring erratic movement as well as the ability to fish at varying depths depending on the conditions.
If you’ve spent any time fishing or watching bass fishing videos, you probably know that bass love worms, frogs and other live prey. When those options aren’t available, sometimes the next best thing is a soft plastic lure.
Soft plastics, as the name suggests, are soft, flexible plastic lures that are often made in the shape of worms and other live baits. They may also come in unrecognizable forms that are often simply referred to as “critters.”
Soft plastics can be rigged in a number of ways to control the depth, characteristics and behavior of the lure.
Fishing with a soft plastic lure often requires more patience and attention to subtle changes, as the most common strategy is to cast off and allow the lure to settle near the bottom, moving only enough to attract the attention of nearby bass. This can make it more difficult to feel a bite, but using such lures is a great way to hone your skills.
Caught on Film: The Best Bass Fishing Videos
While the best way to learn is to get out and go bass fishing on your own, the internet has provided aspiring anglers with an outstanding collection of bass fishing videos from which to learn. Watching experienced fishermen ply their craft can be a very informative experience for people of all ages and skill levels. If you’d like to do a little learning from the comfort of your own home, here are a few of the best bass fishing videos from around the web.
How to Find Fish – Bass Fishing
Experienced bass fisherman provides an excellent breakdown of how to find where the fish are on a given day. In addition, the video includes good tips for using crankbaits and other lures to effectively mimic the behavior of baitfish.
Fall Bass Fishing Techniques
Bass fishing professional provides a scholarly overview of how to get the most out of your fall fishing excursions. Important details covered include weather variations, lure selection and changes in fish behavior.
Bass Fishing Tips – How to Fish a Plastic Worm
Interested in using a soft plastic worm? You’d be well-served to check out this video from Andrew Flair Outdoors, which breaks down a few advanced techniques for using the versatile plastic lure to more effectively target those big fish you’re after.