Presentational options abound for bass. From spinnerbaiting weedlines and rattlebaiting grassflats to dredging the depths with Carolina rigs or deep-diving cranks, bass fans have a multitude of choices at their disposal. And in recent years, bass tackle and gear have advanced light years since the sport's dark ages. Be that as it may, sometimes it's the tiniest of details that make all the difference. With that in mind, we offer 10 top tips for taking more bass on every trip.
Docks are largemouth magnets. Bass hold near or under these shoreline structures throughout the year, except when ice forms. Most bass fans know the ins and outs of fishing the shade on bright days, and targeting the windward side when waves are washing in, but deciphering the complexities of large docks is more of a mystery. Bass-holding sweet spots are often hidden beneath the dock, but topside clues such as lights and pole holders are a good sign the owners planted fish-attracting brush or Christmas trees below. Look for ropes hanging into the water, which may support the woody cover. Also keep in mind that many docks incorporate horizontal steel supports two to four feet beneath the surface, and bass often suspend by these.
Feel The Power
When hungry largemouths stalk shallow water with at least 2 feet of visibility, touring pro Keith Poche's 'Power Spinner ' rig is hard to beat. The setup features a modified Senko-style stickbait decked out with a size 1 Colorado trailing spinner blade. Thread the hook halfway down the body, skin-hook it, then use a swivel, split ring, and Tru-Turn HitchHiker screw-in lock to secure the spinner blade to the tail end — but only after trimming off the last ¼-inch, so you have a blunt end to work with. The rig is versatile: Burn it just under the surface; swim it on a steady retrieve; or amp the animation with lifts, drops, and twitches.
Find Rock Bottom
Weedbeds and slop often hold bass, but don't overlook isolated offshore rocks, which can hold beefy largemouths other anglers miss. Decorated bass pro Tommy Biffle uses sonar to quickly find hard bottom in depths of 10 feet to 20 or more, then swims, bangs and drags his trademark Biffle Bug over the top of it.
Hide Your Line
When a superbraid's camo fades to milky white or other garish hues, the ultra-strong string becomes easier for skittish bass to spot. A braid's superpowers last long after its color fades, so tossing it would be a waste. Rather than respool, Scott Bonnema runs a dark magic marker along the last two to three feet to restore the line's stealth factor, without wasting an inch of it.
Hit The Road
Sunken roadbeds are largemouth superhighways on manmade impoundments — even when flooded timber and other fishy-looking cover and structure abound. Veteran bass guide Dave Parsons of Yantis, Texas, calls legendary Lake Fork his home waters. And despite the reservoir's sunken forests, he often relies on roads to put bass in the boat. One of his favorite setups includes watching for bass busting shad on the surface, above an underwater roadway. Topwater baits catch their share of these schoolies, and after the surface frenzy subsides, Parsons mops up bottom-huggers with a diving crank or soft-plastic presentation.
Rule The Slop
Hollow-bodied frogs rock when bass sit tight beneath skinny-water slop, but there's more to the game than frantically flogging the greenery. Take a cue from veteran pro Scott Bonnema, who deploys a shallow-water anchor to position his boat a long cast from the fish, then shuts down his electronics and slips into stealth mode. Firing long casts, he keeps the frog hopping — skittering it non-stop across the surface. Rod position is key: Keep your tip up, and shake it to give the frog a walking motion. When a bass blows up on the bait, drop the rodtip before setting the hook. This gives the fish time to turn with the frog, and boosts your odds of a solid set. When a bass misses the mark, Bonnema throws a 'backup punch ' — quickly flipping a ½- to ¾-ounce Terminator jig, tipped with a 4-inch Trigger X Flappin' Craw, to the scene of the eruption. More times than not, a speedy follow-up results in a strike.
Simplify Color Selection
Bass anglers have an amazing palette of patterns with which to paint our presentations. But sometimes deciding between Cooter Brown, Tennessee Shad, Foxy Momma, and a host of other promising choices can be more intimidating than picking out an outfit to wear at a fishing buddy's wedding. To speed the process, Hall of Fame guide Dick 'the Griz ' Grzywinski keeps it simple, starting his color experimentations with shades of gold and silver, with a dash of red for good measure, then expands from there when the bass show a preference. Fellow guide Billy Rosner adheres to the mantra, 'bright day, bright lure; dark day, dark lure. ' Developing similar simple strategies for your favorite lakes, or similar conditions on different lakes, can turn the task of color selection from a chore to a cinch.
Smoke A J
A J-Rig that is, courtesy of bassin' phenom Janet Parker. Her super-modified, near-weightless wacky system shines when largemouths dictate an easy-to-control, horizontal-falling softbait. Here's how she does it: Tie a 2/0 Owner Mosquito Hook on a 2- to 5-foot, 10- to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, then wrap the hook with 1 to 1½ inches of golfer's tape. Thread on a soft stickbait so the barb is covered but close to the surface. Fish the rig on a slack line, with your bail open. The weight makes the worm wiggle on the fall. If the line jumps or moves off, raise the rod; the hook practically sets itself.
Rivers, streams, and adjoining backwaters offer some of the continent's finest and most overlooked largemouth fishing. The key is finding cover without heavy current, which often guides anglers into backwaters. Given sufficient oxygen, such areas can hold bass. But one often-ignored main-river hotspot, especially in times of modest to low flows, is a logjam on the upstream side of an island. Largemouths tuck tight to the wood, particularly along current seams. To fish such a spot, position your boat downstream in the side channel and cast a jig upstream, then retrieve it quickly through the logs and limbs.
Throw A Deep Punch
When legions of anglers pummel shoreline weeds, Minnesota bassin' aces Daniel Larson and Gary Rehbein go deep. The hard-fishing team — who used this tactic to score a $10,000 Cabela's NABC win on Gull Lake in In-Fisherman's backyard — looks for offshore weedbeds, then zeroes in on the intersection of coontail and cabbage. They don't mess with the canopy, instead punching ¾-ounce Booyah jigs tipped with Yum Money Craws through the jungle and into the foot or two of freeboard along bottom. To thoroughly work prime lies, they dissect the cover in a grid pattern. The trick is making a short pitch, letting the jig fall to bottom, giving it a lift and shake or two, then reeling in and moving on until you connect.