You've got to love a fish like the largemouth bass, which, while it may not have the exotic draw of a flabby whalefish (yes, it does exist) nor the lip-smacking good taste of a striper, is a fierce competitor on the end of the line. They tug like brutes, jump like crazy, and have a head-shake that can bend out a wire hook. So it’s no wonder so many of us target them.
Want to catch more bass? Here's 10 tips that will guarantee an increase in your catch rate.
1. Talk less – one of the biggest fish-spooking noises we anglers make is talking. You might not think the fish can hear you, but you’d be wrong. Drop a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) into the water 50’ away and two feet deep, and you can easily hear the human voice at a regular conversational volume.
2. Make fewer vibrations –those fish also hear slamming hatches, dropped cans of soda, rifling through a tacklebox—you name it. If you can hear it, chances are the fish can sense it with their vibration-sensing lateral line. And once they know you’re there, they’re on guard.
3. Make more vibrations – You can use their vibration sensitivity to your advantage, too. Especially in situations where their vision is limited (low light, cloudy or murky water, and tannic-stained water) use lures that put out subtle vibrations the fish can hone in on. Spinnerbaits and rattling crankbaits, for example.
4. Match the hatch – keep your eyes open, and look for dominant baits. If you see lots of frogs jump into the water when you walk down the bank, try tossing a plastic frog lure. When young-of-the-year bluegills are all over the place, cast a lure with a wide profile, and so on.
5. When the bass aren't hungry, aggravate them – Sometimes the fish just don’t seem hungry. Often, however, you can still get them to strike by aggravating them. Cast the same lure at the same fish over and over again, and sooner or later they’ll usually attack out of spite.
6. Match lure color to water color – This standard fishing rule-of-thumb applies to bass, as well as most other species. In clear water try white, in tannic water go with root-beer, and in green water use chartreuse.
7. Try topwater early and late in the day – Sure, bass may smash a topwater plug at any time, but they’re most inclined to do so during ambient light. You’ll catch more fish it you try the top at first and last light, and switch to sub-surface offerings mid-day.
8. Upgrade your electronics – If your fishfinder is more than three years old, it’s practically a relic. Side-scanners, down-scanning, “spotlight” sonar, and other advancements that have taken place in the past few years are shockingly effective.
9. Slow down (when using an electric trolling motor) – Many anglers think an electric trolling motor is silent. Not so. The propeller makes noise as it spins, and this noise increases with rpm. Keep the prop turning slowly and you'll be a sneakier predator.
10. In heavily-pressured waters, switch to oddball lures – Believe it or not, plenty of bodies of water are so crowded these days that the bass can learn to recognize common lures. If you fish on a lake or reservoir where every fish has probably been caught a dozen-odd times, using a lure they’ve never seen before can make the difference between striking out and scoring big.