July 01, 2013
What Bass Lessons I Learned On My Salty Summer Vacation
By Dave Wolak
Now, I'm no expert saltwater fisherman, but I just spent a week in the Bahamas and have decided to give up bass forever and go full-time salty. Nah, I’m just kidding, but between stalking bonefish on the fly and casting to some monster barracudas, this trip reinforced a few important rules that matter as much in the bass world as they do in the salt. I always encourage bass anglers to deviate from the areas and methods they are most comfortable with to pursue new species, because it will only help you become a better bass angler. And even though you might not think there are similarities between catching a bass and a barracuda, you’d be surprised. Here’s what I mean.
You Should Always Be Sight Fishing: Whether you are looking for the fish themselves, the presence of forage, bottom changes, or birds diving, keeping your eyes peeled at all times gets you totally in tune with the environment.
Know Your Drag: When tackling either known or unknown waters you have to be prepared right down to the finest incremental click of your drag, or you may lose the fish you were waiting for your whole life. Granted, there are many more drag-peeling fish in the salt, but even if the average bass in your favorite pond weighs 3 pounds, your drag should be set to handle the 12 pounder you didn’t know lived there.
Practice Your Casting: Dropping a fly gently and just at the right distance ahead of a moving bonefish can make or break a hook up. As far as I’m concerned, that same level of effort and concentration should be made when flipping a bass jig. Your body has to be a trained machine when it comes to presenting baits in an attractive manner to the fish.
Current Is Everything: Being a good saltwater angler means understanding how fish use tidal current to feed and position. Guess what? This is just as important in the bass world. Bass relocate or position themselves accordingly with the slightest flow during their different annual stages, whether we’re talking river current, wind-driven current, or dam release current. The more you fish the salt, the better you’ll be able to read a bass's behavior based on minor current fluctuations.
Stained Water Makes Fish Dumber: Clear salt water, especially in the shallows, makes fish spooky. When I couldn't hook anything on the flats during my trip, all I had to do was find milky water. In the colored stuff I was able to get closer to the fish, use bigger baits, and ultimately the big bites came more often. The same theory applies to bass. Many great bass fishermen have a motto that goes something like this: “When in doubt, go up the river, find dirty water, and power fish." If you’re getting hosed in the clean water, go to the backs of tributaries or the river feeding the lake, and you’ll often find a mix of colored water, which always seems to lower bass IQ and makes them more susceptible to power fishing techniques like flipping big jigs/plastics or casting spinnerbaits and cranks.