One of the questions I get most often is, “what’s your number one tip for novice anglers?”
It’s a good question, but to be honest there isn’t one tip I can give anyone that will instantly turn their luck around. Fishing is actually very complicated. Bass fishing even more so. It’s likely there isn’t just one reason you aren’t catching fish. There are probably multiple.
So with that in mind, I didn’t want to limit this article to just one tip or even a handful. Instead, this is my 50 best bass fishing tips for novice anglers that will get them catching fish immediately.
Since there are 50 tips I won’t go into much detail in each, but instead just read them and take note of the few that appeal or speak to you. Almost all advanced fisherman have done these, or maybe just do them instinctually. You’ll get there too. It just takes time, practice, and patience. And of course… reading more articles like these.
Without further ado, my 50 tips for a beginner bass fisherman…
1. Use dyes and scents
Bass hunt mostly by sight, which means using dyes to make your lure more appealing or visible is an easy way to catch more fish. But don’t forget to use scents too. Even though bass don’t have a strong sense of smell, it will help mask human scent from your lure which may turn them off. Also, a dye or scent that adds taste will make a bass hold on longer to a lure giving you more time to set the hook.
2. Find offshore bass
Every fisherman has beat the banks and boat docks of your local lake. So why compete with the hundreds of lures those bass see everyday? Instead go find those bass that are offshore and never get fished for. They are usually bigger, more plentiful, and way easier to catch.
3. Learn your crankbait depths
Some fisherman just tie on a crankbait that looks good and go fishing. But actually depth rating is the most important factor when choosing a crankbait. You want a crankbait that dives just a little bit deeper than the depth you want to be fishing. That way, it digs into the ground and bounces off things on the lake bottom. It will drive bass crazy.
4. Develop a pattern
Don’t just go to the lake and toss baits around all day. Instead, try a few techniques or areas that you think will work and pay attention to the fish you catch. When you catch two fish in a similar way (same lure, same depth, same area, etc.) you have developed a pattern. Try and mimic that all day, since more than likely multiple fish will be doing the same thing.
5. Always watch your line
There isn’t much like the rush of feeling a bite on the end of your line. But bass don’t always pull hard enough you can feel it. Sometimes they take it on the fall, swim away when there is slack, or just pick it up and move towards you with it. Watching your line is the only way to detect these bites, so make sure to keep an eye out for those bites you can’t feel.
6. Find the thermocline
If you fish during the summer in a part of the world that gets relatively hot, you need to find the thermocline to know the best fishing depth. Essentially, the thermocline is the ideal depth for all lifeforms in a body of water to be in because it is cooler and more oxygenated than what is above and below it. So if you fish in just that depth, you’re much more likely to find the bass! Read this article from BoatSafe for more info on finding thermocline.
7. Check your line for kinks, knots, or abrasions
There is nothing worse than the feeling of hooking into a monster bass only to have your line break before you get him into the boat. So save yourself the heartache and periodically check your line for anything that may be prone to breaking. If you do notice anything, immediately cut your line above it and re-tie. It’s annoying but way better than missing the fish of a lifetime.
8. Don’t reel when the bass jumps
A lot of anglers get so excited when they catch a bass they just reel as fast as they can, thinking it gives the bass less time to come unhooked. However, a lot of bigger bass will jump out of the water to come unpinned. When they do, you need to not reel. You want the line taut, but you don’t want to pull the lure and fish towards you at all. Doing so is likely to pull the lure right out of the fish’s mouth.
9. Use black lures in muddy water
Bass feed mainly through sight, meaning they need to see your lure to eat it. In muddy water, it’s hard to see any natural looking colors. But extremely dark colors contrast well and are more visible than about anything else. So stick with black or very dark lures in muddy water, with the occasional chartreuse lure as well.
10. Use the right type of fishing line
Many people think that fishing line is made of one type of material and they are all the same. But in reality, there are copolymers, monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon fishing lines which all shine in certain situations. So before you hit the lake, read up on what the best fishing line for the lures you want to use is and make sure you have it tied on. If you have to pick just one, I have an article with everything you need to know.
11. Match the hatch
Maybe one of my favorite fishing expressions you’ll hear professional fisherman say is that they picked a certain size or color of lure to “match the hatch”. What they mean is they picked that lure because it best mimics the natural forage wherever they are fishing. Pick up a crawdad and look at the size and color. Or look at the bait fish size around the lake. Use lures that look like them and the bass won’t know the difference between your lure and the real thing.
12. Learn how to flip and pitch
One of the favorite places for big bass to hang out is in thick bushes, trees, or brush piles. But getting to them with normal casting is next to impossible. You have to learn how to flip and pitch to be able to successfully fish the thick stuff consistently. Watch a video on YouTube about how to flip and pitch like this one by professional John Crews, and then practice in your yard, basement, or garage.
13. Learn how to make low trajectory casts
Similarly, too many fisherman try to get the longest cast possible and throw their lures far too high in the air. This creates a loud “plop” as the bait enters the water which can actually scare away some wary bass. Practice keeping your lures closer to the water throughout the cast so you don’t get as audible of an entry. You’ll probably find you get way more bites in the first few seconds of a cast.
14. Learn the signs of bait fish
If you’re often wondering where the bass are, the first question you need to answer is where the bait fish are. Bass feed mainly on bait fish in almost any fishery. This can be shad, herring, or small panfish like bluegill. Find the areas of your fishery which have these in high populations and you will more than likely be around the bass as well looking to feed on them.
15. Look at the weather forecast
I don’t just mean to make sure it isn’t raining. Bass are affected by weather as much as any other factor. In spring, a cold front can make them retreat to deeper, warmer water. But several sustained days of warmth can drive them into the shallows. Looking at the weather for the days before and of your fishing trip can help you key in on what the bass will be doing before you even hit the water.
16. Learn from the pros
Fishing is great because it doesn’t require freakish athletic ability. Professional fishermen are great because they are knowledgeable and have a lot of practice, not because they were born better than you. So watch professional shows, look up YouTube videos, and gain all the information you can from professional fishermen that you can use to improve your next fishing trip. I have said many times I am only a decent angler because of watching almost every Flukemaster YouTube video.
17. Face the wind when you cast
Too many fisherman cast with the wind because it’s easier to get longer distances and keep your line from wrapping and knotting. But what they don’t know is that bass will notice a lure that is swimming against the wind. Have you seen a tiny fish swimming against the current? Nope, it’s easier to swim with the current. So you want to mimic that by facing the wind so that the lure is retrieved with the current it produces.
18. Pick apart fish-holding cover
If you make just a couple of casts in a fallen tree, boat dock, or brush pile then you are likely leaving fish in the water. Oftentimes bass will be sitting in a very specific spot and only will bite if you put a bait right on their nose. So when you decide to fish a piece of cover, fish it thoroughly to make sure you’ve hit all the spots a bass could be.
19. Know the spawn
Like almost all animals, bass are programmed to spawn at the same time, in the same way, in the same areas every single year. So if you learn how, when, and where the bass spawn in your fishery, you are guaranteed to know how to catch them every year while they are reproducing. And usually if you learn it in one fishery it can translate to most other fisheries in your area.
20. Learn how to tie knots in your sleep
You will change your lures out constantly when fishing. And a loose or frayed knot is a guaranteed way to lose a fish. So practicing fishing knots while watching TV can be a great way to ingrain it into your brain so you can make a great knot every time. Not to mention it will be helpful if you want to go night fishing and can’t see your fishing line.
21. Match reel gear ratio with technique
Fishing reels are produced with specific gear ratios for a reason. Some techniques require you to reel in line more quickly than others. Fishing a deep diving crankbait for example needs a reel that gets line in more quickly than say a jig. So get a higher gear ratio if you want to fish crankbaits than if you want to fish jigs.
22. Stay as silent as possible
Fishing isn’t quite like hunting in that you don’t have to remain silent at all times. Bass will not see or hear every move you make. But if you cause a commotion, cast shade out well into the water, or stomp around the bank they will sense the disturbance and may not bite. Particularly in small ponds or shallow water, try and remain as quiet and unnoticeable as possible.
23. Set the hook properly
Every technique has a hookset associated with it that is most successfully. A dropshot needs a long, slow pull up towards the sky. A jig requires a strong, quick pull up and back to cinch the hook home. So do some research on the hookset required for your fishing technique and make sure you execute it everytime. It’s the best way to make sure you catch every fish that bites. This article is a good place to start!
24. Fish points
If you don’t even know where to start looking for bass, just start fishing points. Whether you are on a huge lake or a small pond, you’ll find some bass sitting on points. They are great places for bass to be able to retreat to deep water, get into shallow water, and chase and pin bait fish when they’re hungry. The only time you might want to look elsewhere is in the middle of summer or dead of winter when bass are more likely to be around channels or channel swings.
25. Get a confidence bait
When the fishing is tough you need to have a bait that you believe will catch bass when nothing else will. If not, you will lose confidence in not knowing if you aren’t around bass or if you’re just using the wrong lure. The best way around it is to have one bait that you have practiced with so much and caught so many fish on, that you know it will catch bass if they’re in the area. Then once you do, you can experiment more.
26. Use as light of weight as you can
Bass will be able to feel the heavy weight of a lure when they bite it. So you want to keep it as light as possible so they don’t notice it’s much heavier than expected. Using lighter weights also makes most lures move in a more lifelike fashion and lets you use lighter lines – which are thinner and more invisible to fish. So always use just heavy enough of a weight to get to depth you need.
27. Learn how to use a baitcaster
I spent about 10 years bass fishing with just a spinning rod and it’s the biggest mistake I ever made. Baitcasters are more difficult to use, but well worth the time put in to learning them. You can cast more accurately, make different types of casts, and most importantly cast much more quickly than with a spinning rod. If you need to learn how to cast a baitcaster, read this article.
28. Always pay attention to water temperature
Unlike the outside temperature, water temperature varies widely from one part of a fishery to the other. One side of a lake may be 70 degrees and shallow, the other may be deep and in the low 60s. So when you catch a bass, take a look at the water temp and remember it. If you stop getting bites and the temps change, try and go back to the temp you were. Bass often have an ideal temperature they want to be in.
29. Learn how to use a fishfinder correctly
If you’re looking for bass on a fish finder then you’re using it wrong. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that isn’t it’s purpose. Fish finders are better at finding structure, cover, water temperature, bait fish, and all of the other signs that point to bass. You should almost never use them to actually find bass. You’ll end up just getting frustrated seeing fish you may or may not catch.
30. Bump into things with your lures
The number one way to get bites from bass that aren’t hungry is to create reaction strikes. This is when you make the lure quickly move in an unnatural way. It surprises the bass and they instinctively bite it even if they didn’t really want to eat it. So when fishing, try to bump into things and make your lure knock off them. It’ll make bass bite when nothing else does.
31. Carry a pair of pliers
A pair of linesman pliers with a cutter is necessary for fishing. It can help bend a spinner so it spins. It’ll straighten a hook. Or remove a hook from a catfish without risking a sting. The cutters will cut off lures and help you tie new ones. They’re just handy for a variety of reasons. You should always have them on you when fishing.
32. Organize your tackle
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the right lure when the fish are biting and you can’t figure out where it went. Keeping your tackle organized is going to save the headaches of losing lures, buying multiple, or searching around when you could be fishing. It’s a step you should take at least once a year if not more. If you want to see how I set up my tackle box, read this article.
33. Make sure your hooks are sharp
Even I’m guilty of just tying on a hook from my box without seeing if it’s sharp. A few missed fish later, I’ll test it and find I should’ve never put it on. So to make sure you catch all the bass that bite, check that all your hooks are sharp before ever tying them on. You can sharpen them yourself, but they are usually cheap enough that dull hooks can be disposed of safely and you can buy new.
34. Take care of your equipment
When it’s winter time and the bass aren’t biting, take some time to grease your reels. Clean your rod eyelets out. Restring your poles with fresh line. Or put some line protectant on your poles. These little things will keep your gear working like new and save you money in the long run from buying new equipment every few years.
35. Look for topographic maps of your fishery
Every professional fisherman will study a lake map before ever trying to fish it. When you see elevation changes, where the channel runs, and the variety of information a topographic map can provide you find the ideal spots for bass to be located. If you can’t find one of your local lake, try the Navionics Webapp which has most major US fisheries.
36. Use natural colors in clear water
There is a time and place for bubblegum lures. And sure it’s funny to use bright purple worms. But bass usually want to eat something that looks natural. So if the water is clear enough that the bass can see well, try and use browns and greens to mimic crawdads or bluegill. And white is always a good mimic of baitfish colors.
37. Buy a good pair of sunglasses
Don’t cheap out on gas station shades and you’ll be able to see a great distance out in the water. This is especially key if you plan on bed fishing. You need to stay far enough away to not spook a bass while being able to see it on the bed. But even if you aren’t bed fishing, you can gain very valuable information by just being able to see out a few feet further.
38. Always keep tension when fighting a fish
The key to not losing bass after you’ve hooked them is to never loose tension. A hook is barbed so that it cannot fall out easily, but it still can happen. As long as the line between you and the fish is tight though, that hook will never have the chance to come out. So whether you reel quickly or slowly, as long as you keep tension on the line at all times you will rarely lose a fish.
39. Pick the right rod power for your lure
Rods come in powers from light to heavy and it isn’t just personal choice. If you are using lighter lures that don’t require hard hooksets, you should opt for a medium light rod in most cases. On the other hand, if you’re using anything heavier than an ounce you want to go with a medium heavy or heavy rod. Especially if you’re fishing in thick brush or with lures that require hard hooksets. Matching the rod power to the lure will help you hook fish more consistently and make sure you never break a rod.
40. Feel the bottom
The reason that fishing is so frustrating at times is because you can’t see under the water. If so you could just put the bait right in front of each bass and wait for them to bite. Thankfully you do have one sense that will give you information on whats under the water and that is your sense of touch. So use your rod and lure to actually feel the bottom and see what information you can obtain from it. Is it hard? Soft? Are there lots of twigs or grass you can feel? Or is it bare?
41. Create reaction strikes
If you’re using something like a crankbait or spinnerbait, don’t just reel it in steadily without any changes. While you may catch a few bass this way, you’re probably leaving some in the lake. Instead, jerk it every so often and make erratic retrieves. This will create a reaction strike where a bass that otherwise would have left your lure alone bites it sheerly out of reaction to it’s unusual movement.
42. Notice the little things
Perhaps the broadest of the tips listed, but maybe also the most important. There are hundreds of factors that could cause you to catch a bass. Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they’re very minor. So try and notice minor differences when fishing, particularly in areas you’re catching bass. If there is rock, are they bigger or smaller than other ones around? Is there something different about the dock? Maybe it’s older than the rest. The grass is more spaced where other areas are clumped together. If you clue in to one of these small differences you might be able to easily tell where bass will be and where you don’t even need to waste time fishing.
43. Look for live vegetation
Most bass fisherman know to look for vegetation in the water, particularly in summer, as it produces oxygen and cover for bass to hide in. But if you paid attention in science class, you might remember that photosynthesis is what makes plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. And only living vegetation can do this – which means that bass almost always want to be around the most alive vegetation in the lake. Look for the greenest, thickest stuff first.
44. Know when to downsize lures and line
Sure, we all love throwing 6 inch swimbaits and catching giant bass. But that doesn’t always work. So if you’re having a hard time catching bass you might want to try and really downsize your presentation. Bass that aren’t hungry won’t chase a big bait but might go for a little snack like a NED rig. This lets you go with smaller line too, ensuring finnicky bass can’t see it.
45. Find local resources
As much information as there is available on the internet (and this website), nothing will replace the knowledge of a local angler who knows your fishery like the back of his hand. Anglers get a bad reputation for hiding all their good spots, but I’ve found that most experienced fisherman are very willing to give some information if asked. You also can participate in bass fishing clubs, where most anglers are friendly and very willing to help beginners.
46. Know the hook types and when to use each
A fishing hook seems simple enough, but there are actually many different types. Worm hooks have many different sizes, and then straight shank, wide gap, extra wide gap, and offset models just to name a few. So don’t just throw any old hook on your bait and assume it will work find. Try and research the lure you’re using and find the recommended hook size. Most soft plastics have a recommended hook size on the packaging as well.
47. Focus on casting accuracy over distance
Everyone wants to cast a mile, but more often than not it’s much more important to be able to pinpoint a cast. Bass don’t often roam and they often relate to very specific pieces of cover. So sometimes you have to cast in a very specific area to get a bite. Being able to cast into small windows and hit the exact spot you want will make you an infinitely better bass fisherman.
48. Know when to use lures with sounds and vibrations
Bass may feed by sight, but in dirty water you can add sound or vibration to your lures to try and intrigue them a little more. Something like a lipless crankbait has internal rattles that can alert a bass to its presence. A chatterbait vibrates which creates sound and movement that bass can feel. It makes both of them good choices when the water isn’t clear. But also makes them less ideal in crystal clear water when bass only need sight to hone in on lures.
49. Fish early in the morning and late in the evening
You’ll find most fisherman are out on the water early and back home by lunch. Or they go out for late afternoon fishing trips. This is because generally bass bite best in the early morning and late evening. So if you want to increase your likelihood of catching a bass, try to aim for those time slots. Particularly if your fishery isn’t already heavily pressured by a lot of anglers.
50. Read more about bass fishing on Go Fishing Outdoors
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve read 49 tips that I have to offer on bass fishing. But there is even more information contained in many other articles on this blog. And you can find all of the ones related to bass fishing right here including the latest and greatest lures, the equipment you need to buy, the places you’ll find bass each season and much more.