Spring is definitely here. The weather is warm, but not too hot. The trees are already covered with this year's growth, and the flowers are in full bloom. Spring is also a good time to take up bass fishing, and many people are doing so. The water is starting to warm up, and the fish are more actively feeding. However, many people are having trouble catching their first bass. It's a common problem that many beginner fishermen face, and even I ran into some hurdles as a new bass angler. I spent two months trying to catch a bass I caught panfish, catfish, and even some trout, but I just wasn't getting a bass. So what is a surefire way to catch your first bass?
Above: Playing a numbers game is easy: Use small baits.
There are many factors in why a person can't catch a bass, such as technique or rigging, the the thing I would look at most is my gear: are my baits too large? Is my line too thick? Are my hands covered with anything that may deter fish (gasoline, sunscreen, tanning lotion)? The most common mistake I see with many beginning bass anglers is using to wrong line - 50lb is not going to get you anywhere. The fish, especially if they are in a highly pressured public lake, will see your line and be suspicious. I would use line between 10-20lb test for mono or fluorocarbon in most situations, but anything above 17lb is pushing it; you would only use such thick line in very dense weeds. I recommend using 12lb to 14b for most situations. For braided line, though, things are different due to braid's extreme thinness. I would use 80lb braid at most for topwater applications, and would use 30-40lb braid for very dense weeds.
Larger baits, while good for catching larger fish, scare off the smaller fishes. Remember, a good majority of the bass in a given waterway are small or medium sized fish. The larger the fish you are after, the less of them there are in a lake or pond. It's just how the food chain works. If you want to catch fish, you should use smaller baits. A 2" grub on a 1/16th oz jighead is a surefire way to catch a lot of bass, although they may be small.
Lastly, I would make sure there are no noxious chemicals on my hands or tackle. Nothing causes a bass to develop lockjaw more than a coating a motor oil or cleaning solution on your hand. I often wash my hands before I go fishing.
As the weather is warming up, more people are getting back on the water. The fish are also moving towards the flats, the shallower parts of a pond or lake. If you have been fishing around this time of the year, you would have noticed this too. But one thing that many people, not just beginners, get wrong is where to fish. Often people fish in the wrong places , or with the wrong baits. There is an old saying "90% of the fish are in 10% of the water". It sounds really cliche, but it's true.
Fish, including bass, seek cover for protection and food, as well as well oxygenated water to breathe in. Those vast, empty flats, after all, are empty for a reason; there is no food, shelter, or oxygen for bass. There simply is no reason for the bass to go there. on the flip side, good habitat has oxygen, food, and hiding places, all they would need to survive.
Above: Prime bass habitat. Submerged trees, providing cover and attracting fish, along with a few patches of plants to oxygenate the water. Four bass were seen cruising around this area, along with a large shoal of sunfish.
Places that bass like to go to include reeds, submerged timber and rock piles, and healthy weed beds. Notice that I said healthy weed beds. Bed of brown, decaying, and yellowing plants are dying, unhealthy weeds, and hold no fish. Rotting plant matter depletes oxygen in the surrounding water, and fish need oxygen to survive. The lack of oxygen also drives away prey, such as crayfish and bluegill. Healthy plants are green, vibrate, and should have little minnows darting in and out of them. You can also see bass cruising around the edges, or inside the bed, waiting for an opportunity to ambush.
Reeds, unlike submerged plants, however, don't have to be healthy. Dying reeds don't pollute the water as much as submerged plants do, and I have caught many fish amongst dying patches of reeds. Of course healthy, green reeds are preferable to unhealthy and dying ones, but ding reed beds are still fishable. When fishing reeds, you should master underhang casting, which is to cast underneath of overhanging structures. Practice casting into tight spots. Otherwise, you may snag your lure while fishing reeds, because all of the fish congregate underneath overhanging structure.
Note: This is part one of a three part series on casting accuracy.
As fishermen, casting is an integral part of our activity. Before every bite there is a cast. By casting, we send the bait to where we want it to go; in the location that best entices the fish. Casting acurracy determines whether or not we catch fish, as well as how many fish we catch. It also determines whether or not we lose a $20 crankbait, and whether or not we spend more time climbing trees than by the water. Casting accuracy is truly an integral part of fishing.
In the past, before I started to understand the importance of accurate casting, I cast pretty much everywhere. Over fishless open water, into snags, and of course, into trees. I had spent many trips trying to salvage my lures from fallen logs and submerged rocks, and because I cast my bait towards area that didn't hold fish, I often didn't catch any fish. But after I understood and started practicing, everything improved. I caught a lot more fish, and saved many of my lures. If you are to be good at fishing, we must be good at casting accurately
Above: YFS members learning how to accurately cast a fly rod over open fields.
The first step to developing accuracy is to find an open space. I prefer an open field with low grass. The next thing to do is to assemble 7 targets (I like old boards), that are flat, and are about 12" by 12" in size. Place the first target 10 yards from you, the next one 20 yards, and the next 30 yards the last 40 yards. Make sure these targets are a visible color. Place the last three targets about 4 or 5 yards from you. Make sure to spread them apart.
After you set up your targets, get your rod out and tie an old spinnerbait or jig (or an unusable jerkbait or crankbait, just remove the trebles), and put a piece of cork on the hook, so it doesn't snag the ground.
Flipping is a stealth technique that tourney anglers use to do short pinpoint casts to cover. It works very well when there is cover by the bank, or when the fish are easil spooked, as fillping has a quite apporach to the water, unlike conviental casting. It is great for placing jigs, worms, and tubes by where you want them to go. I use it at lot in the thick grass mats by the shore (very common in many lakes and slow moving rivers in the summer) to place baits in pockets that hold bass. Flipping is a great technique to learn, and you will find youself using it a lot. It's absolutely essential if you want to take your fishing to the high school or college level.
Above: Flipping works well in the spring, when you want to place baits on the spawning beds of bass, which are near the shore, to irritate the bass and provoke them into biting.
First, let out abut 10 feet of line. You may need more depending on the distance you want to cast, or less. With your free hand, grasp the line between the reel and the first guide on your rod. There should now be less line portuding from the last guide. Next, raise the rod so the lure swings towards you to gain momentum, and then sharply lower the rod tip to make the lure swing forward, using just your wrist to roll your rod. Continue raising the rod to get your bait further out, and lower the low to stop the bait as it spproaches the target area. Release the line from your fingers and place it on the spool to stop the line from moving further, away from your target.
To be continued..
Creek fishing is one of the disputed joys in life. It is undoubtably fun, catchingfish after fish while admiring the picturesque scenary many of these creeks are set in. It's fun to climb over rocks, hike through the woods, and lose yourself in outdoors. The options are diverse, too: while most people think of trout when they think of creek fishing, you can catch smallmouth, panfish, and even the rare catfish and largemouth bass (be warned; creek largies can be feisty!) There are also fish who less well known, but putting up a good fight nevertheless, such as chub, sucker, and various large minnows.
Above: Large creek minnows can be easily caught late in the year with 1/16th jigs.
Many park creeks see a lot of visitors in the spring and summer. Rows of men and boys, some very experienced, others just learning to wet a line, line the banks of popular creeks in the summer. Many tackle shops near popular destinations stock up overtime on live bait and flies in preparation for the warm-weather traffic. But when the leaves start turning red, and the frosts set in, the once-common crowds are now gone. The shores are bare. The parking lots are no longer packed. The cold weather, and the subsequent lower feeding activity of fish, discouraged most fishermen.
Above: When approaching a large pool in a stream, walk quietly. You never know what kind of fish you just might spook!
However, that's a mistake. Creek fishing is still very much alive in the fall. All fish will feed if a good opportunity, and the right conditions, are in place. The challenge is getting them. That's when stealth and finesse tactics set in. Whenever and wherever the water is getting cold, these two tactics work.
When most of us think of fishing, stealth isn't something we think of. But in small, or clear creeks, especially in the cold weather, the fish are jumpy. They are easily disturbed, and the sound of pebbles skidding down the shore, or the vibrations created by your heavy boots hitting the ground scares them. And when fish are scared, the bite's off. They hide, and don't feed. It's crucial in these situations to:
A: Walk slowly and quietly. Don't talk. You don't want the fish to sense your presence and get scared by your approach.
B: Make a silent cast into the water. The sound of your lure hitting the water may scare them. Try to "slip" your bait into the water. Make as few ripples as possible.
Being spooken into not feeding, especially during cold or post-frontal conditions, is universal fish behavior. Some fish, such as panfish, are easier to coax back in feeding again, but others, such as brown trout, will stop feeding altogether. Your best bet is to move down to the next pool and come back later when you scare the fish.
Above: Fish like to crowd around inlets for the flow of food.
Finesse tactics are something we are all familiar with. Fish small, unintrusive baits, and fish them slow. In the creeks and streams during the cold months, I recommend using tiny hooks with a bit of worm or cricket on them, 1/16th oz marabou jigs, or fly-fishing wet flies. Ice fishing jigs (1/64th oz) can work as well. Make a silent cast into the pool, and start to work you bait. I like to fish my jig with a twitch (small!), twitch, pause retreive. Remember, in the cold, the fish are inactive, and won't be frisky and chasing after fast prey.
I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any article requests; this article was resquested by a reader and I was more than happy to write it.
The effectiveness of soft plastics and jigs is indisputable. Countless fish have been caught these ways, accounting for more tournament wins and more fish caught than any other ways. The stickworm, the jig, the curly tailed worm, the straight tailed worm, the creature bait, etc, all must be fished detecting bites that aren't so noticeable. The aggressive strikes of moving lures (crank baits, spinnerbaits, swim jigs, etc) won't be felt here. You need to feel bites with slower moving lures.
Above: A bite is still a bite, and you will learn to feel for them.
Advice for feeling bites is great, but after teaching many kids on the Buddy Program to bass fish, I realized that the best teacher is experience. After you detect bites, and catch fish, you will know what is a bite, and what is your worm, jig, etc, going over some debris on the bottom. Here's a method to quickly and surely learn to detect bites:
First, you round up your tackle. Get a spinning reel and rod, some light braid or fluorocarbon line, some split shots, a size 1 or 1/0 worm hook, and a 4 inch worm. Then, do a split shot rig. There are plenty of articles on this online. Go to an unprepared pond, cast, and fish on. With this finesse presentation, you will catch fish, both big and small, and feel many, many bites, some from sunfish, others from bass. Experience is the best teacher, and learning to bass fish isn't just watching videos or reading articles. Get on the water!
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.