Bassin' Lite for Largemouths

Bassin' Lite for Largemouths
When autumn bass seem to have lockjaw, the best tactic may be fishing with mini-lures. Instead of the 1-ounce jigs you normally use, downsize to something much smaller, like a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce lure. (Keith Sutton photo)
When autumn bass seem to have lockjaw, the best tactic may be fishing with mini-lures. Instead of the 1-ounce jigs you normally use, for example, downsize to something much smaller, like a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce lure. (Keith Sutton photo)
When autumn bass seem to have lockjaw, the best tactic may be fishing with mini-lures. Instead of the 1-ounce jigs you normally use, for example, downsize to something much smaller, like a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce lure. (Keith Sutton photo)

Some lessons aren’t easily forgotten. This is one.

One fine fall day, a friend and I were fishing for largemouth bass on a small lake—fishing as opposed to catching. After four hours, having tried nearly every bass lure in our tackle boxes, we hadn’t caught a fish.

Soon we came upon several anglers in johnboats fishing the edge of a big willow thicket. They were using long jigging poles to maneuver tiny jigs into pockets of water in the brush.

“Looks like they’re catching some crappie,” my friend Lewis said. “You wouldn’t mind doing some panfishing, would you?”


He needn’t have asked. I already was rigging a 1/32-ounce jig on a long pole and was looking for an opening we could fish.


When crappie are in willow stands, you have to move in with them to do any good. So we grabbed limbs, ducked our heads and pulled the boat into the jungle. I jockeyed the long pole through the thicket and let the jig fall by a half-submerged log.


With the bad luck we’d been having, I didn’t expect to catch anything, but I immediately felt a hard strike.

This ol’ crappie ought to turn some heads back at the dock, I thought. But it wasn’t a crappie. It was a 3-pound largemouth.

Lew caught the next fish, a crappie. The bass was just a fluke, we figured. But the next fish and the next and the next, too, were bass. In fact, more than half the fish we caught were largemouths. We landed none larger than the first, but we hooked and lost some lunkers.


Since that day, I’ve caught lots of largemouths and spotted bass while using mini-baits such as panfish jigs. Experience has shown there are times when jigging poles, light rods and reels, light line and mini-lures are more than just panfishing play-toys. Sometimes they’re also the best medicine for cagey bass.

Unfortunately, fishing with light tackle and mini-lures also imposes a greater risk of losing a big fish, especially in heavy cover. But you can argue—and I will—that without light tackle, you might not have hooked that lunker to begin with. Furthermore, your chance of landing a big bass on a small lure might be better than you think.

One November afternoon, I finished work early in the park where I worked. Local anglers were catching some nice crappie on the park’s small fishing lake, so I grabbed an ultralight spinning outfit and hopped in a boat.


Crappie were biting all right. I quickly caught several using a 1/8-ounce Luhr-Jensen Shyster, a small spinner. A swirl near the bank caught my eye, and I fired a cast that way. The lure barely moved when there came a jarring strike. I knew I had hooked a good fish—a bass, maybe, or a nice catfish—and because the fish was obviously strong enough to break the 6-pound line I was using, I played it on a light drag. The fish made several exciting runs, but I finally landed the 8-pound, 15-ounce largemouth. It’s the biggest bass I’ve caught in Arkansas, and I caught it on panfishing tackle.

Mini-baits and light tackle are legitimate tools for serious bass anglers. Bassing with such gear is pure fun, too. Nothing you can use will outfish small lures for sheer numbers of bass or eclipse the sheer joy of catching largemouths.

Small rod-and-reel combos allow anglers to place mini-lures in tight places without those maddening nuisances called “professional overruns.” Few fishermen can toss lures very far beneath a pier or dock without slight backlashes from a level-wind reel. As a result, most baitcasters fish the edges of such structures, catching a few fish but leaving many lurking in the darkness.

The practiced light-tackle angler, however, easily flips small lures into often neglected corners. His tiny artificials are about the size of natural forage and likely to elicit more strikes than larger lures thrown off the mark.

Another common situation where small lures and light tackle yield big payoffs is when the water is extremely clear or calm. If you’re throwing big lures under these conditions, you might as well be chunking bricks. This spooks fish, and if you don’t believe it, try this. Fish a stretch of bank with a big lure, then fish a similar stretch—or even the same one—with smaller lures that make a quiet touchdown. You’ll find light line and mini-lures are less intimidating to bass, thus increasing your catch.

The small spinners often used by panfish anglers also are effective bass-catchers. These include some of my favorites like the Mepps Aglia, the Panther Martin Spinner, Worden’s Rooster Tail and the Luhr Jensen Shyster. Fish them around open-water structures—bridge pilings, riprap, rock outcroppings, etc.—to avoid snagging the treble hooks.

Small crankbaits also work wonders on persnickety bass. Many models are available, but I’m partial to those in Rebel Lures’ line, which have proven to be great bass-catchers for me. These include the 1-3/4-inch Rebel Humpback, the 2-inch Wee-R, the 1-1/2-inch Teeny Wee-Crawfish, the 1-1/2-inch Teeny Wee Frog, and a variety of mini bug-imitators such as the Bumble Bug, Big Ant, Crickhopper, Hellgrammite and Cat’r Crawler. A back-pocket-size tacklebox is big enough to hold all these lures in a variety of colors, and because this collection allows fishing from the surface to the bottom, it’s hard to beat.

If you give some of these mini-lures a try and hook a big bass as a result, there’s no need to kiss your fish goodbye. Keep your cool, don’t rush, and apply steady pressure against a properly adjusted drag. You’ll be surprised how quickly bass yield to light gear.

Yes, some big fish you hook will break off or twist free. But you’ll catch a surprising number of them, and you’ll understand what fishing mini-lures is all about—putting fish on the dry side of a boat when nothing else will produce.

Beware, though. After you’ve tried fishing with mini-lures, you may find yourself coming back to them again and again. Catching bass on light tackle compounds the thrills, challenges your angling abilities and is unadulterated fun. It is, in a word, addictive.

Looking for fishing shows on Outdoor Channel during the months of October – December? “The Hunt for Big Fish”and “Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors” both air in the last quarter of the year. Check the schedule forupdated air times.

Recommended for You

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on. Bass

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

G&F Online Staff - May 20, 2019

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for walleyes in early summer. Walleye

How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

We all have our Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper - April 02, 2015

We all have our "swear by" bait for catfish. For me, it is chicken liver, live shad or my...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Stories

More Fishing

After lasting 34 years, record falls again 3 weeks later. Records

Mahi-Mahi Record in Maryland Falls Again

G&F Online Staff - August 21, 2019

After lasting 34 years, record falls again 3 weeks later.

Expanding your trout-fishing repertoire will catch more fish, increase quality time on the river. Trout & Salmon

Western Trout: Make the River Deliver

Scott Haugen - September 09, 2019

Expanding your trout-fishing repertoire will catch more fish, increase quality time on the...

Locate crappie, adapt to weather, hit structure and fill your stringer with slabs. Panfish

Catch Slabs for Your Next Fish Fry, Year-Round

Keith Sutton - August 22, 2019

Locate crappie, adapt to weather, hit structure and fill your stringer with slabs.

See More Fishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×