Bass fishing is, as much as any kind of angling, all about size.
Specifics don’t always matter, though.
Sure, in traditional tournaments it’s weight in pounds and ounces that’s vital. Or, in the case of catch and release events like those favored by kayakers, it’s length in inches.
But among friends, in casual situations, getting a largemouth or smallmouth big enough to generally qualify as a “hawg” or a “pig” is good enough.
Everyone wants to land a few of those.
Certain baits increase your odds of getting into fish in certain situations, though.
So, here’s a look at what to throw and why.
Topwater baits represent perhaps the most exciting way to catch bass. There’s nothing like seeing a fish explode on a bait as you’re reeling it back in.
Poppers can be especially effective if fished correctly.
Don’t throw them directly into the thickest of weeds or grass. That’s a sure way to get hung up.
But they are proven fish catchers when used around the edges of such stuff.
Working them slow – just enough to make them plop and gurgle – is often best. There are no absolutes, though, so if the fish aren’t biting, don’t be afraid to speed things up a bit.
Choose poppers in black, brown, chartreuse and silver. When possible, get ones with feather tails. Sometimes, that little extra action they provide tempts fish to bite.
Soft, hollow-body frogs are another great topwater bait. And unlike poppers, they can be fished right in the heart of the worst matted vegetation.
Dragging one across lily pads, perhaps hesitating every time the lure finds an opening, is a good way to catch fish.
Use them, too, around rocks, logs and other structure. Cast them into the shade thrown by such objects to target bass lying in wait to ambush prey.
Frog-colored frogs work, but experiment with blacks, blues, whites and even bluegill-colored ones, as well.
The rubber worm is as synonymous with bass fishing as probably any other lure.
But there are all shapes and sizes of soft plastics to choose from these days.
Tubes are great for smallmouths, especially around rocks. You’ll hang up and lose a few in that submerged stone, but that’s sort of the price of playing the game.
To make your tube stand out – and it needs to, as fish see these all the time – try squirting a bit of scent inside the body, then plugging it up with a piece of cotton ball. Or, stick a piece of an Alka-Seltzer in there.
The former will make your lure smell; the latter will make it bubble. Both draw attention.
If you go with a plastic worm or minnow, rig it to be weedless so that you can drag it through the slop.
Spinnerbaits are a good search tool for finding bass in that they’re often best worked fast. Zipping them through and along cover leaves fish little time to debate whether to strike or not.
So it’s the most aggressive fish in a group that will hit them.
Often, catching a few bass on a spinnerbait tells you where to stay and fish slower and more thoroughly with other baits.
They can be fished alone or with a trailer, something that gives the lure more bulk and more of a baitfish profile.
Single blade versions work all year, and are especially effective early in the summer. Tandem blade varieties get fish are summer goes on and baitfish grow larger.
Black and white are tried and true colors, but if often pays to match a particular water’s forage fish.
Loud, obnoxious cousin to the spinnerbait s the buzzbait.
They aren’t the best bait for catching big numbers of bass, necessarily. But they do catch aggressive – and sometimes big – ones. Toss them out and burn them back around rocks, logs and docks.
It’s almost impossible to fish them too fast.
Darker colored ones seems to work best on overcast days, white ones on brighter days.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass hit crankbaits and their close relative, the jerkbait.
When fishing rivers, sometimes a louder crankbait – one with an internal rattle – better gets bass to strike. The extra noise seems to get the attention of fish dealing with current washing over rocks.
Silent versions, meanwhile, are subtler and sometimes better on heavily-pressured waters.
A steady retrieve often works. Other times, though, especially around rocks, a stop-and-start, twitching-style retrieve better imitates small fish and crayfish, especially when smallmouths are what you’re after.
Jerkbaits, meanwhile, work well on days when the fish are finicky. You can reel one down and let it sit. Some suspend right there, others slowly rise or sink.
But they all do it right on front of fish, often making them strike out of annoyance or frustration as much as anything.
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