When getting into freshwater fishing you might have found that there is one species that most people target above all others – the bass.
This is for good reason. Bass are plentiful across the country, feed aggressively, fight well, and can grow to great sizes. They are an ideal species to try and fish for fun.
But catching a bass is actually pretty difficult. You can go to any lake and catch a few panfish or even catfish. But you’re going to have to be a pretty decent fisherman to go to the lake and catch multiple bass. So if you’re looking for a fish that is just easy to catch – I recommend you look elsewhere.
If you want to test your skills and catch bass on your next fish outing though, read on and I’ll give you some tips that can make your bass fishing more productive!
Knowing the water temperature is key to finding where bass are
Like most animals, bass act differently depending on the season. When it’s extremely cold or extremely hot, they are less likely to be active. Bass love temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. So finding water in that range is a good way to start a fishing trip.
This means a few things. First, it means that you probably shouldn’t fish for bass in the middle of winter. If the lake you fish is below 50 degrees throughout and has no warmth – you aren’t going to find actively feeding bass. Which means it’s going to be really hard to make them bite.
Also vice versa, if it’s the middle of summer and everything in your fishery is 80 degrees and above, you are going to have a hard time catching bass.
But it’s very seldom that an entire body of water is always hot. Maybe where the sun is shining on a hot summer day is too warm. But what about under a nice big shady dock? Or 30 feet deep in the lake where the sun doesn’t penetrate through? Chances are, the water in those places are in that range bass like. So focus there!
Spring and Fall are the best times for bass fishing because most of the water is in the water temperature range that bass like. But if you can get to the shallow water that heats up to 60 degrees first in spring, you’ll find a big wave of bass coming in to warmer water.
The same happens in Fall. Find the water that is cooling down the quickest from the hot summer and you might find a school of bass coming in to cool off.
So the name of the game when finding bass anytime of the year is knowing the water temperature and finding the water most suitable to hold bass.
Use a fishing lure that works in a variety of situations
If you have started looking at bass fishing lures, you might be a bit overwhelmed. There are hundreds of lures out there, all promising more bites or bigger fish.
If you just want to start catching bass though, there are really just a few lures you should buy and use that work well in multiple conditions. Then later on after you’ve found the type of fishing you like, you can expand into all the different types of lures that work in specific situations.
To make this simple, I recommend just taking two poles with you on your fishing trip. One with a stickbait or senko, and one with a spinnerbait.
There is maybe no one bait that catches more bass than the stickbait. Specifically, the Gary Yamamoto Senko
Maybe the best part of this lure is that it’s stupid simple. But a hook on the end of your line. Push the very center of the warm right through the barb of the hook so that either side of the worm hangs on either side of the hook. That’s it.
Now just throw it out and watch your line. As the worm sinks in the water it shimmies and sways in a way that bass just can’t resist. Once you hit the bottom, just pull it up a few feet and let it fall again.
It doesn’t seem like a method that should work as well as it does, but trust me. It’s a bass catching machine. And if you want to learn even more about the senko read this article for more in depth information.
Sometimes a bass won’t want a worm that slowly falls though. They want something that looks a little more active and something they can chase. Bass are predators after all, they like to hunt for their food.
In these cases, a spinnerbait is always a great choice. It is easy to use, works in a variety of conditions, and is very simply to tie on.
All you have to do is find the bend in the metal arm and use your favorite knot (mine is palomar) to tie it on to your line. Then you cast it out and reel it at a moderate speed back to you. The blades will spin and create a flash that looks like a small bait fish swimming in the water.
I love War Eagle Spinnerbaits and have actually caught my personal best largemouth bass on it – so it’s highly recommended from me. If you want to read more about spinnerbaits then just read this article.
Throw your baits around peculiar or different things in the water
Another one of those topics in bass fishing that can get complicated is what specific things in the water will draw in bass. Sometimes they are in grass, sometimes rock, sometimes wood, sometimes docks. It might feel like you have to cast everywhere just to find where the bass are at that day.
To keep it simple, you really only should look for one thing when knowing where to cast. Look for something that is just different than everything around it.
Bass usually hold onto things in the water because it can hide them from fish or other aquatic life they are trying to eat. It also can serve as a dead end they can pin smaller fish against to eat them. It’s very seldom that you see a bass that is hungry just sittting in the middle of the water. They’re usually close to something.
So use that knowledge to your advantage and just throw at things that you notice in the water. If there is a big rock around a big muddy bottomed lake – then throw around the rock. If there is a tree laying over an otherwise bare shoreline, throw around the tree. Even small things can hold bass sometimes like a different type of grass than what the rest of a lake has. Or a boat dock that is old instead of a nice new one.
Eventually you’ll start noticing patterns that you catch bass around a particular type of structure, vegetation, or object. Then you know to focus on that and always make multiple casts everytime you see one in your fishery!
Stay quiet whether you're in a boat or fishing from the bank
Bass are one of the fish that will be really hard to catch if you alert them to your presence. So if you make a lot of noise with your feet or a boat, chances are they won’t be biting anytime soon.
This also means if you’re bank fishing that you need to keep as low of a profile as you can. Don’t walk right up to the side of the water, making a lot of noise, and casting big shadows. Chances are a bass will notice and swim off or be too scared to bite.
A great technique is to stay several feet off the bank at all times, bend down if you’re creating large shadows so it doesn’t cast far out into the water, use dark colored clothes, and make sure you don’t touch anything connected to the water that could create vibrations.
If you are in a boat, just don’t use an outboard motor anywhere near where you’re fishing. Ideally you’ll have a trolling motor that is quiet and gets you around where you want to fish. Even then, it should be on a low setting to create minimal disturbance.
If you are bass fishing from a boat that doesn’t have a trolling motor though, you can read this article for some helpful tips.
Use live bait whenever possible
If you’ve followed all the tips above and still haven’t caught a bass, then you might want to just go ahead and start using live bait.
While artficial lures like a senko or spinnerbait can work in most conditions, nothing really competes with a live worm or fish that smells, looks, and tastes real. So when you can’t seem to catch a bite, going with the real deal is a good way to get a bass on your line.
I recommend going with smaller fish if you have the ability, as other live baits like worms will catch a lot of other smaller species. And sometimes bass won’t compete with smaller fish as well. So you might catch 50 bluegill but no bass on a nightcrawler.
If you have crayfish in your fishery though they can make excellent bass bait. They are probably my favorite live bait to use, but the most difficult to catch.
Bass fishing is not easy. As we have discussed, they have an ideal water temperature they like to feed in. They like specific baits. When you make too much noise or cast a shadow, they’ll get scared and won’t bite. There are a lot of reasons you might not be catching bass.
Even when you do start catching bass, it’s unusual to catch more than 10 or 20 bass in one full day of fishing. But those few fish you do catch will give you such a rush, it will be well worth it. And you even get some days where the conditions are just right and you’ll catch 30 or 40 bass!