Top Bass Guides Share Their Tips, Tricks, and Insight
Largemouth bass are america’s favorite gamefish, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to catch. Veteran Florida guide Todd Kersey knows how to hook them whether or not the bite is on.
Featured Guide: Todd Kersey, Bass Online
Number of Years Guiding: 17
Home Water: Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Biggest Personal Bass: 13.4-pound largemouth
Biggest Client Bass: 12.8-pound largemouth
On Bass Getting Conditioned: “Fishermen like to think that their bass have gotten conditioned to certain lures and presentations,” says Kersey, “and that’s why they don’t catch them. It’s a matter of angler confidence, not the fish. The average guy simply fishes history too much and doesn’t adjust to the changing conditions. The fact is, the same lure sound, flash, color, or feel used over and over in the same spot will eventually become less productive. But the same lure, presented only when the conditions match a time when that lure was on fire, will likely stay just as productive.”
On Dreaded Conditions: “Only one condition makes me second-guess what I know, and that’s cold, high pressure on the back side of a full moon. During that combination, you will earn your stripes. When this happens, you’re force-feeding more than fishing. I’ve had the most success downsizing baits and slowing the presentation down dramatically. The bite will often be very light, so you’ve got to pay attention.”
On Staple Lures: “Even though jigs continue to evolve, I really just consider them old-school lures with modern improvements. I’ve been fishing them since the early days, and I go back to them all the time. While finding confidence in jigs can be hard, once you do, it pays off. I like the fact that they catch fish of all sizes. I can reduce the profile of a jig to make it presentable on tough days, and when the bite is on I can increase the profile and target bigger fish. By changing colors of skirts and trailers, there’s almost no water color that they can’t be fished in. They’re one of the most productive lures of all time.”
On the Most Useful Innovations: “Many bass guides were hesitant to start using remote-controlled shallow-water anchors at first, but pulling rope all day gets old. The hidden reward of remote anchors is that they actually increase productivity. Instead of hitting 10 spots in a day, we fish 15. Combine a remote anchor with a modern remote-controlled trolling motor, and you’re spending much more time getting clients on fish rather than controlling or anchoring the boat.”
On Baits That Score From the Bank: “If I were limited to one lure from the bank for big bass, it would be an 11-inch Bass Assassin Worm. It’s very versatile. You can swim it on top on overcast spring days. On cold-front days, add a little weight and let it slowly fall. During the dog days of summer, add more weight and fish it deep.”
We polled 90 of the country’s best guides to get the straight dope about lures they can’t live without, taboo tactics, the secrets behind hooking trophies on a regular basis, and more.
1. Which lure style will catch the most trophy bass within a season?
Top answer: Jig
“Through all my years and travels, if I know truly large fish are around, I’ll spend a ton of time slowly crawling a jig and craw. It works everywhere.” —Jon Bondy, Jon’s Guide Service
2. How do you feel about Japanese lures?
“It’s hard to make an engineered plastic bait ‘hunt’ like a wooden squarebill. Japanese lures will catch fish in the right conditions, but I don’t cringe when a client busts off a $5 bait as opposed to a $25 lure.” —Clark Reehm, Elite Angler Academy
3. It’s been said that Senkos have made bass fishing too easy. Where do you stand?
Somewhat agree: 23.5%
Strongly disagree: 29.8%
“When fish are biting, the skill in presentation is not as big of a factor with any lure. But when the bite is tougher, it requires understanding of depth, position, and retrieve speed, even with a Senko.” —James Niggemeyer, Jamesniggemeyer.com
4. Bed fishing is a controversial topic. Where do you stand?
I try to avoid it altogether: 44.4%
I enjoy it and do it often: 33.3%
I’ll do it, but it’s not my favorite: 22.2%
“I see nothing wrong with it. The same guys who complain about it are catching bed fish; they just don’t realize it. Difference is, when you’re looking at them, you don’t have to worry about gut-hooking them.” —Chris Franks, Chris Franks Fishing
5. If you could only fish one style of topwater for an entire season, which would you choose?
“A Spook is hard to beat. It casts a mile, walks in the wind, and works on schooling bass or individual bream eaters. It’s just one of those baits that produces bites and is easy to use.” —Chris Franks, Chris Franks Fishing
6. Which type of line do you fish most often?
7. Spybaiting is creating buzz in the bass world. How do you feel about the technique?
8. Which company makes the best hard baits for the money?
Top answer: Strike King
9. Is a person who can only fish a spinning outfit really at a disadvantage in bass fishing?
They’ll struggle in certain situations: 66.7%
Not at all: 0%
“If you had to pull a buddy’s truck out of the mud with your truck, you wouldn’t mount your winch sideways. You would have no leverage. Same thing with the direction the spool sits on your reel. You won’t get bass out of heavy cover easily with spinning gear.” —James Caldemeyer, Lake Fork Trophy Bass Guide Service
10. Which of the following do you consider first when buying a new reel?
Quality of the braking system: 57.9%
Gear ratio: 21.1%
Retrieve rate: 5.3%
11. If you had to narrow it down, which color do you rely on most?
Top answer: Green pumpkin
“Based on over 30 years of bass fishing all across America, green pumpkin is without question the best color for a bait. It works in any water clarity.” —Mike Hall, Mike Hall Fishing
12. Which state has the most potential to produce the next world-record bass?
Top answer: California
“When bass eat a steady diet of trout like they do in California, they just grow bigger.” —Kurt Dove, Amistad Bass Guide
13. What bass bait is the most underutilized?
Top answer: Spinnerbait
“It seems that since the advent of the chatterbait, the dawn of the swimbait craze, and the introduction of umbrella rigs, people have forgotten about the spinnerbait. It is such a great lure for big fish, especially in fall.” —Pete Gluszek, The Bass University
14. Next to running depth, what’s the most important feature of a crankbait?
15. How much stock do you put in scented lures and attractants?
“I always use attractants in cold, muddy water, and in really heavy cover. I think the smell helps bass find the lure, and I just seem to get more bites in these situations when I’m using scent.” —Tommy Martin, Tommy Martin Guide Service
BEST & WORST
Best Reaction to Catching a Fish
“Breaking out the flask of single malt.” —Joe Demalderis, Cross Current Guide Service
“I enjoy fishing with the ladies. They hug you when they’re happy.” —James Holland, Shannon’s Fly & Tackle
“Guy had to sit down, he was shaking so bad.” —John Hynes, West Shore Outfitters
Guide photographs by Brent Humphreys. Bass photograph by Lance Krueger. Illustrations by Mikey Burton