A Guide to Bass Fishing: How to Avoid Going Home Empty Handed


News Writer

You are out on the lake with your family bass fishing. You have been there for two hours with the sun beating down on you, sweat coming down your face, you forgot your sunscreen, and none of your family has caught anything. You have no idea why the fish aren’t biting and what makes it worse is that your friend told you about him fishing in the same spot a couple days ago and catching a bunch of bass including couple of seven pounders. Well there are factors and tips that you can consider, so you can maximize your chance of catching bass and not going home with a whole lot of nothing and a huge sunburn.

The point of fishing as professional bass fisherman Jim Vitaro puts it is “to have fun and don’t over think it.” There is nothing quite like the feeling of a big bass hitting your bait and reeling it in. It is really an enjoyable experience, so just have fun when you’re doing it and these tips will help you do just that.

Types of Bass

There are many types of bass out there such as largemouth, smallmouth, rock, spotted bass and much more. For this article we are focusing on largemouth and smallmouth bass because these are the two you are going to encounter on the lake and rivers the most.

The way you can tell the difference the easiest between the two bass is the upper jaw line. For largemouth bass there upper jaw line goes past the eye, while the upper jaw for the smallmouth does not. The largemouth is also typically larger than the smallmouth. Largemouth bass can get to be as big as 13 to 15 pounds, while the smallmouth tends to be around three to five pounds. So if you catch a bass either in a lake or river and don’t know what kind it is look for these things and then you will know. Once you know what type of bass are biting and are out there, then it will help you narrow down what to bait and techniques to use to catch more.

These two bass also tend to like different waters. Largemouth tend to like calmer water, so you are most likely to catch them in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. For smallmouth bass they tend to like water that has some sort of current, so you will find these fish more likely in rivers and creeks. Ultimately these fish can be found in either type of water, but these are where they are more likely to be caught.

When is the Best Time to Catch Bass?

Like playing baseball, golf, tennis, or any outdoor activity there are times of the year when it is better and easier to catch bass. “Spring and early summer are the best times to catch bass,” D’Arcy Egan, who has been writing the Outdoor Pages for the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 38 years and just recently retired said. “The waters are cool and the bass are more active. Summer is more of a challenge with bass holding tight to structure, or moving to deep-water drop-offs.” Spring is one of the best times for bass fishing because it is spawning season, so the bass find shallower water so they can reproduce and they tend to be out in the open more and haven’t been pursued as much during the winter months.

“Late fall is always a good time for bass fishing,” Vitaro said. “It is, especially in October, when the bass start eating for the winter, so you can catch some really big ones. It is actually when I have caught my biggest bass.”  Fall is a good season as the water starts to cool down and bass become more active as water temperature start to cool down a bit from the hot summer weather, which they tend to not like.

What about Time of Day?

The time of the day can also be just as important as what season or month it is. “Bass are always more active early and late in the day, and after dark” Egan said. “My largest bass have been caught after the sun goes down.” You can catch bass anytime of day, but in the morning and the night they roam around more and are more active. During the day between 10a.m. – 3 p.m., it is usually the slowest and this also the time when most fishermen are out there fishing. So get out there when no one else is and when the fish are biting the most.

Where Can Bass Be Found?

Bass generally like structure. “I look for weed beds, fallen trees, drop-offs on the points and sunken timber, especially stumps,” Egan said.

Bass are found in different places in each season, according to Jim Vitaro. In Winter, look for deep ledges or drop-off in the water. In Spring, fish in shallow water where there are pockets for the bass to reproduce. In Summer, they spread out, some stay shallow and some move out to the deep ledges. This is when it is the hardest time of the year to catch. In Fall, they move back to the shallow water to feed on things like plankton.

Now what bait should I use? Live or Artificial?

Bait is always important when catching bass. “I always limit myself to artificial bait, as I like they challenge and they work well with largemouth bass,” Egan said.  You are more likely to catch the big ones with artificial bait and we all like to catch the big ones.

Jim Vitaro was just at a conference and he said that him and other professional fishermen like Kevin VanDam, who is one of the best bass fishermen in America were asked this question multiple times. “Everyone used to say that a spinner bait was the best, but now it seems that everyone agrees that a swim jig is the best way to go,” Vitaro said. “A swim jig does everything that a spinner bait does, but can be used all year.”

Other good bait and lures include plastic worms, jigs, crank baits, top water bait, plastic frogs, and lizards. These bait and lures will not always guarantee that you catch something, but it increases your chances. If something is not working do not be afraid to change it. Try everything until you find the bait that the fish are biting.

For smallmouth and when fishing in rivers, live bait such as worms, minnows, crawfish, leaches work best. Just hook your bait with whatever live bait you are using and cast the line out in or by the current and let it move downstream and the fish will come to you. Live bait can catch largemouth bass as well, but you are more likely to catch smaller ones and smaller fish such as sunfish and crappie.



Final Thoughts
“Bass fishermen today have the tremendous advantage of the Internet. There are so many YouTube videos online that allow you to learn the basics of most techniques quite quickly,” Egan said. “When I asked pro bass star Kevin Van Dam how a Michigan angler could hold his own with all of the southern bass stars, he said that he grew up fishing with his older brothers, who were bass fishing experts – and watching videos and reading magazine articles on how to catch bass.” So if you ever get stuck or want to more about bass fishing you can always go online and it will help you tremendously.

Frank Calo can be reached at frank.calo@spartans.ut.edu

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