Why You Don’t Catch Big Bass
Follow these six principles to make this the year that you land a true trophy largemouth
What constitutes a “trophy” largemouth bass? Although anglers and writers often set 10 pounds as the benchmark, that doesn’t have to be your definition. In fact, it may be a goal you’ll never reach simply because of where you live. In northern waters, where fish grow slower and rarely achieve double-digit size, a 6-pounder is a fish to be revered. And in some central states, an 8-pounder is equal to a Deep South 10-pounder. But even though the term “trophy” is relative, big bass act pretty much the same anywhere. With that in mind, here are some guidelines for catching them:
Many people who consistently catch big bass often fish only for big bass. They’re patient and don’t get bored by not regularly catching something. It doesn’t matter to them that other anglers are pounding the shoreline and landing 10 or 15 small bass in a day. Big bass devotees stay focused and don’t lose confidence. This attitude is simple to describe, but not always easy to achieve.
The major prerequisites for catching big bass in any water are cover, structure, and proximity to deep water. The actual type of cover varies from water to water. In impoundments, it is often brush and timber. In natural lakes, it is often some type of aquatic plant or a fallen tree along the shore. Structure can be a hump, an underwater point, an old roadbed, the edges of a creek channel, or some other bottom irregularity.
These features also attract smaller bass, so to target big fish you must find places that are different, where a big bass, which is an especially opportunistic, ambush-prone feeder is likely to visit or even reside. This often means a place that is fairly close to deeper water, which may be a significant bottom dropoff or just a marginally deeper trough. The proximity to deep water, or location of features in deep water, is more significant in clear lakes or those with frequently fluctuating levels.
The other key thing about “differences” is more subtle. A clump of stickups, for example, is more likely to hold a big bass than a lone, wide tree. A pod of milfoil separated from a vast mat is likely to be more attractive.
Certainly spring is a great time for catching big bass. This season is defined by warming waters and by pre-spawn or spawning activities more so than by the actual calendar month. Spring is when the greatest number of big bass are likely to be shallow, and thus more accessible to anglers.
But not every state or province in North America permits spring fishing for bass. In those regions, you can only pursue big bass in late spring, summer, and fall. Don’t think that big bass can’t be caught at other times of the year. (Savvy Florida residents have long known that big bass are just as likely or even more likely to be caught in the stable weather of summer than in spring. You just have to endure the heat and humidity.)
4. Time of Day
This is probably the most arguable aspect of catching big bass. Water temperature, light intensity, and human activity all come into play.
Most human activity occurs on a given body of water during daylight hours. It’s heaviest in the warmer weather of summer, and peaks on bright, hot days.
Also, in spring, water warms up throughout the day. In the summer there are long hours of intense overhead light. So, in summer you stand a better chance of duping big bass in periods of low light; in spring you have good opportunity during the day, especially in the afternoon.
5. Lures and Bait
Most big-bass fishermen use big lures to catch big bass. Small lures occasionally catch big bass, especially if they’re properly presented in the right location. The main thing is fishing lures in the right locations, and fishing them slowly. That’s why soft worms, jigs, and surface plugs are the best big-bass baits for most anglers; they can all be fished very slowly, and big bass are muggers, not sprinters.
Many anglers are loathe to fish live bait for bass, because they may hook the bass deeply and possibly fatally. Nonetheless, live baits, like crayfish in California and shiners in Florida, have proven track records, especially when fished deep and in heavy cover.
6. Landing Savvy
Finding and enticing big bass is obviously the major part of this game, but too many people lose big fish. To avoid this, you should keep your hooks sharp, and always tie perfect knots. Be ready to set the hook at any moment, and set the hook a second time if at all possible. And be sure to use the right rod for the circumstances. In addition to driving a hook home, you have to outmuscle a rambunctious, refuge-seeking bass.