It would take some pretty wild arguments to disprove the assumption that bass is the most popular fishing species in the US.
American anglers love bass fishing, and their relentless pursuit of the benchmark 10 pounders contributes an estimated $115 billion to the US economy.
Bass are abundant, widely distributed, and make for awesome sportfishing, whatever their size.
While the majority of bass hunters won’t encounter a 10 pounder, they’ll still enjoy a lifetime casting at whatever pond or puddle might hold a trophy.
Bass fishing presents a lifetime of learning. There’s always something new to discover, and there’s no shortage of literature and digital media to guide you.
Experience on the water is king, however.
As a specialist ocean rock and surf angler, I feel very much the imposter writing an article on bass fishing tips. But there’s something we salties share with our freshwater brothers and sisters.
We share an understanding of how solid fishing basics will increase your chances of catching better fish, and more fish, more often.
Of course, there’s a never-ending list of nuance and peculiarities, both geographical and technical.
However, with solid fishing basics, we can bypass much of the requirements for local knowledge, employing our wits, our creative and critical thinking to catch bass wherever we fish them.
This article focuses on some of the core principles that will increase your bass catch, regardless of your experience level.
And you won’t need the latest equipment or a 90-grand bass boat to be successful.
What Are The Bass Fishing Basics?
Fishing basics can be defined as the knowledge of certain aspects of fishing that are true no matter where you fish.
Here are a few examples of bass fishing basics that should, generally speaking, underpin your approach to every bass fishing hunt.
- Bass are predators; they lie waiting in structure to ambush prey.
- Water temperature and weather can have a significant impact on fish activity
- No structure often suggests there are no fish
- When using braided lines, aggressive striking can pull hooks.
- Dark color lures are a must for murky, muddy waters.
These are just a few basics, and it doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of what you should know.
However, it does illustrate basic bass fishing truths that are universal.
There are exceptions to these trusted basics, which I will address later. However, the entire point of this article is to focus on critical basics.
For me, the most important of all basics is that you have to fish to catch fish. And that means time on the water.
The Best Bass Fishing Tip – Time on the Water
If you want to catch more fish more often, you need to spend time on the water.
Whenever you wet a line, you have a chance of catching a fish. Regardless of how poor the conditions are, you still have a chance.
This might sound obvious. And many of you might think I’m joking. But, in all honesty, there is no better bass fishing tip. Fish as much as you possibly can.
I’m very aware that most of us have ‘life’ making countless demands preventing the never-ending bass session. I get it.
And I’m no different.
Yet I also know that of all my fishing buddies, the ones who land the most fish, and catch the biggest fish, plan ahead so that they can maximize their fishing time whenever their schedule allows.
They’re always prepared, and they’ll brave whatever nasty weather conditions they have to.
Here are 2 great bass fishing tips to make this a reality.
When you get home after a session, clean your gear and have it prepped (even rigged) to walk out the door for the next session. Many of us forgo the chance of short fishing sessions because we think it will take us too long to prepare our gear for what might be a couple of hours on the water. If your gear is rigged and ready, there’s no delay.
Carry a travel rod, basic lure kit, and a couple of reels in the trunk. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the road and had a spare half hour or hour to spend on a travel break. So many times, I’ve stopped for a break by a body of water that’s been very fishable. I’m sitting there, eating my sandwich and lamenting that I didn’t have any gear for a few throws during my downtime. Carry a permanent car kit and be ready to poke lures at whatever puddle you pass. It’s amazing what you can catch in a 20-minute lunch break.
The moral of the story is discipline. It takes discipline to clean and then prep your gear when you’re tired from a long day’s fishing.
The other thing about spending more time on the water is your propensity to learn more.
The more you fish, and the more you fish in different places, and varied techniques, the more you learn.
Follow The Bass Pros
Versatility is critical. I’m guilty of throwing my favorite lure relentlessly, even though I’ve not got a touch for the last hour. But this is silly.
Look at what the pros do. These guys are on the clock. They don’t have the luxury of time to throw the same lure hopelessly over a session.
They start with a plan, and then they adapt as required.
For example, A tournament pro has a location, lure, and technique in mind. They cast the lure several times to no avail. The next step is to vary the retrieve.
They like the lure type, so change color. Several casts get no attention. The angler is still confident the spot holds fish, so a lure change from soft plastics to a hard body.
Quick change to a spinnerbait, as a last resort, as they have resulted in a smaller class fish in this spot on occasion.
Change locations. This is persistence. Persistence isn’t mindless repetition.
Persistence is thinking critically and creatively and applying a variety of techniques and approaches to a likely location before you move on.
Here’s a tip for getting efficiency from persistence.
- Have a plan and know your tactics before you hit the water. Put a time limit on it
- Have a plan B and C, or even D, if you believe in the location. Set time limits
- If your plans haven’t worked, move on. I am guilty of wasting countless hours in a spot because the spot and conditions look perfect. Don’t do this. If the location is not producing despite trying various techniques, by default, it’s not a good location at this time. Move on.
CRITICAL BASS TIP: Bass can be a pain in the butt. Sometimes a bait needs to be presented perfectly and in such a way an angler could never guess.
While you shouldn’t waste time casting an unproductive spot, you also shouldn’t be too hasty to depart either.
Moving from location to location eats up all of you valuable time. And this is time you’re NOT fishing. Give a good location the attention it deserves.
Flitting hither and thither every 10 minutes is a sure-fire method for not catching bass.
Big Baits For Big Bass. Focus The Hunt
As time marches on, I get the feeling that the 10-plus pound trophy bass is becoming increasingly rare. I don’t believe I’m Robinson Cruise here either.
Talk to an older bass hunter, and they’ll probably agree with me.
While becoming harder to find, they’re still there and they are growing more aware of your tactics. If you wish to land a trophy bass, you have to be clever how you target them.
There’s a difference between targeting big bass versus hunting any old bass. Targeting big bass requires you consider your rig, location, lure, and season.
Of course, there’s always the chance that while you’re bass fishing that you happen across a monster – and it happens.
However, if you’re looking to address that glaring big bass hole in your bucket list, the best solution is to target. Here are some tips.
Big Lures Attract Big Bass
Big swimbaits and big deep diving cranks are a great place to start. For the soft plastic crew, 10-inch worm profiles are a must-try.
Going deeply into colors, brands, and models is fraught, so I won’t go there. Let’s just say it’s locational and subjective.
So, apart from basic principles of match the hatch, darker for muddy water and lighter for clearer water, specific colors should be left to your local research.
The critical thing, aside from the mysteries of color, is the size and action. This is why my first choice will be a swimbait.
The size and articulation of a swimbait will help attract big bass from a distance. This means you are effectively working a larger area.
Generally speaking, big bass are likely to go out of their way if the meal looks worthy of its effort.
While smaller fish will also be attracted to your mega-bait, it’s less likely. And, importantly, you’ll excite the monsters.
Big lures can get a little pricey, and here’s the rub.
Getting your big hook-laden lure right into the lure-thieving structure is critical, so you’re going to have to risk losing your rig. But fortune favors the brave.
Best Weather and Season To Catch Bass
Spring and Fall are recognized as the best parts of the year to hunt bass. It’s the same for big bass.
Whatever you do, however, don’t hang up your rods in the other seasons. Unlikely events happen at unlikely times.
I’ve heard countless stories of big fish in excessive heat and cold.
The conditions are not ideal, granted, but big bass will still take a well-presented lure or bait at any time of the year, or day, for that matter.
The cooler the weather the more lethargic the fish, particularly at depth.
While fishing in the winter is certainly worth your effort, I like my chances better in the warmer months when the water temp is at least 50 degrees and better.
The older I have got, the more I’ve recognized that while time of day, weather, tide, hot and cold have an impact, a well-presented bait trumps all. More on this shortly.
But first, barometric pressure.
For much of my fishing career, I never really paid attention to isobars, which is the measure of barometric pressure.
For the most part, I still don’t, except for a rapid approach of a storm. When stable atmospheric pressure is about to drop, it’s time to fish hard.
In hindsight, most of my trophy catches have happened just ahead of a significant weather event.
For some reason, when the pressure starts to drop, fish go on the chew as if it’s going to be their last supper.
Be aware, though, once the storm hits, and following the carnage, that’s it, the fish disappear.
Following a rapid drop in pressure is the only time I believe it’s pointless to fish. Fishing at the start of the drop can bring on a bonanza. Especially big bass fish.
Well Presented Baits Trumps All
A decade ago, I watched a video from Australia with a couple of anglers fishing a local hotspot for a huge fish called mulloway. They’re similar to our black drum.
They were fishing in the middle of a hot day, which is traditionally a lousy time to fish.
I have always sworn by dawn and dusk as the best times of the day to fish. And, for the most part, it holds true.
However, these guys from Australia were making the point, with evidence, that tide, weather, and time are a distant second to well-presented baits.
They were fishing live and freshly killed squid, and the fish they targeted were eating them up.
Yes, they were right, and it seems that it also applies to catching big bass.
From my experience and anecdotal evidence, big bass can be caught outside of traditional good fishing times using well-presented baits, both live and artificial.
When it comes to presenting your bait well, technique has a lot to do with it, however, giving your lure the best chance of reaching peak action comes down to your rig.
Bass Fishing Rig Setup
For the most part, a balanced rig is all about the cast. However, when it comes to lure action, your rig plays a significant role, and there’s nothing more important than your fishing line.
As mentioned earlier, bass have this ‘thing’ about perfect presentation. Big bass won’t go out of their way unless dinner looks worthy of the effort.
This is where it gets tricky for the big bass hunter. The best way to produce peak lure action is to fish the lightest line class that you dare.
However, you’re also looking to ensure you can pull a monster from its lair.
Bass, especially big bass, hang out in hard structure. And hard structure coupled with a bass who’s very upset with the hooks in its mouth is tough on light lines.
Finding the balance is the key, and unfortunately, I don’t have a good rule of thumb, apart from an unhelpful, find the “balance.”
The reason it’s tricky is that some anglers will suggest that light line is pointless if you can’t get your fish to the boat. Others will argue, there’s nothing to pull on the boat if you don’t encourage the bite.
Plenty will sing the praise of fluoro for this very reason. Modern fluoro is now very supple, and knot strength is improved, but the key attribute is its abrasion resistance.
Fluoro has a little stretch for forgiveness and excellent abrasion resistance, so you can fish lighter with more confidence.
I like fluoro for big bass, and I think you’ll find there are plenty who feel as I do.
Keep in mind that line selection is pretty subjective. Braid and fluoro are equally as popular.
Experiment to find which suits you best.
Best Live Baits For Big Bass Results
Of all the options available, I like live baits the best for targeting big bass.
I also recommend live baits for average anglers, as delivering peak action is a simple matter of rigging your baits correctly.
The other bonus with fishing live is that it’s far more relaxing to set a couple of livies, than relentlessly casting lures and worrying about whether or not you’ve made the right lure selection.
The most popular baits for a live attack are shiners and minnows, crawfish, and bluegill.
Salamanders and frogs are common, and mice make an awesome option for targeting huge bass, where mice might be part of the local bass diet.
Bass like their dinner live, active, and fresh. A healthy shad or minnow covers this easily with no action required from you.
If you’re looking for the biggest bass, use the biggest of baits. Big Bluegill have been responsible for more than their fair share of trophy largemouth.
The key to fishing these two baitfish is to keep them alive and active as long as possible. Hooking and weighting them appropriately is important for live bait longevity.
Minnows will swim well when hooked upward through the bottom lip. Weighted with a split shot directly above the hook will allow you to fish them deep and shallow.
Shads swim well when hooked the same way. However, the largest of the species can be hooked just behind the head above the lateral line.
Bluegill are also best hooked above the lateral line, and they’re a great option for fishing deeper in the cooler months.
A bean or ball sinker heavy enough to keep them down is ideal.
Fishing bluegill under a bobber is also an ideal option for live baiting the shallow waters, around structure, and banks.
In fact, this is my preferred method for targeting the biggest of bass.
My tip is to use bluegill that is a little bigger than those the average angler would use. Remember, big fish like big baits.
One of the other benefits is that bigger baits tend to be left alone by smaller fish.
6 General Bass Tips For Sound Basics
- Check your bucket or live well when you throw in a bass. They tend to throw up, which gives you a chance to assess what they’ve been eating
- Go easy on the strike when using braids. It’s easy to pull the hooks from a bass, as braid is so unforgiving. Back off the drag a little to ensure there’s a little bit of give for an aggressive strike.
- When it’s calm, position the boat as far from the target zone as possible to avoid spooking the fish
- Get some local knowledge about the local bass seasonal diet. This way, you can catch live baits or match up lure colors to the local bass menu
- Fish harder structure around the shallows in the spring. Bass will be protecting their eggs which have been deposited on hard surfaces. Bass might not be hungry, but they’ll attack your bait aggressively to ward off intrusion. See the videos above for an example.
- When you’re struggling to find the fish on a slow day, check out places you’ve not considered before – places that don’t look perfect, such as minimal structure, or too shallow. Trophy bass have turned up in the most unlikely places.
The Bass Fishing Tips Wrap-Up
Good basics and simplicity will often deliver the best results more consistently. And that includes catching big bass.
There are countless volumes of bass fishing tips to absorb. Some are relevant and useful, others not so much.
Ultimately, the nuances and local tricks are things you learn through experience over time. In the meantime, the fastest route to awesome bass action is to apply solid bass fishing basics.
Think critically, think creatively, and fish different locations and seasons. This will add depth to your knowledge and skill base making you a versatile angler, ready to adapt to whatever conditions you encounter.