For the best bass fishing you need to be better-informed and more crafty than the next guy.
By Pete Robbins
Vast amounts of fishery information, ultra-lifelike lures and space-age electronics make today's amateur as good as yesterday's pro.
That means, if you want to catch more fish, you need to be better-informed and a little bit more crafty than the next guy. Specialized equipment and an understanding of how each tool in your box can best be applied to your situations will give you the edge.
Choose Your Quarry
On fertile lakes, tournament anglers are often faced with the choice of whether to target largemouths or smallmouths. But some fishermen are faced with a similar choice from time to time: largemouths or spotted bass?
The fish will intermingle, and sometimes you can catch one on one cast and the other the next time you throw. Other times, you need to pick one over the other.
Pro Jesse Wiggins has learned to remain flexible and is able to pivot from one to the other. The first step is to figure out which species is most prevalent, most catchable and likely to weigh the most. Wiggins said that for the last few years, spotted bass have been winning, but lately it's been largemouths.
Pro Tip from Jacob Wheeler
Then, you need to analyze the water quality. Is it muddied up or clearing? Cold or warming? "The spots are usually deeper on the main lake, not up the creeks," Wiggins said.
Finally, consider the season.
"In the winter, I usually fish for spots," he said. "In the fall or spring, though, you can win with largemouths. There's also the matter of how you'll catch them. Unless they're spawning, the bigger spotted bass will often be suspended off the front of deeper points and humps, while the largemouths will be relating directly to cover, especially if the water has some color in it.
"You can target the former in groups with a jerkbait or swimbait, while the latter are often picked of individually with a jig, shakey head or fluke," he said.
Infographic by Ryan Kirby
LAKES that are impoundments usually have an upriver area that doesn't get hit as hard. In the fall, follow the baitfish onto the flats and target the bass in wood cover. Try a squarebill crankbait, a spinnerbait or your favorite flipping lure around structure shown in the graphic.
Run the River
It's good to get away from the crowds and scout new water in the upper portions of river impoundments. But the very thing that makes these areas attractive also makes them treacherous.
"A lot of people stay away, so it's unmolested and underdeveloped," FLW Tour pro Clark Reehm said. "But the one constant on a lot of lakes is that the river section is constantly changing."
That requires careful navigation to avoid harm to your boat or to your passengers. Reehm's No. 1 tool for that is Google Earth. He'll look for archived historical low-water photos of the areas he intends to run to avoid most hazards.
"You can often see stumps, depth changes and even defined river channels with the app," he said. "These areas are often relatively flat, except for the channel. It might be 8 feet at the edge and 15 feet inside, so you can actually hit the edge with a crankbait."
Typically the bass in these areas are resident fish, and they live in dirty water much of the time. Visible cover is key. Reehm focuses on places where there's deep water closest to the bank, but in the spring and fall he'll follow the baitfish up onto the flats and target the bass around wood cover. On some lakes, he said, they prefer isolated stumps and logs, while on others thicker logjams hold the most fish. Try a squarebill crankbait, a spinnerbait or your favorite flipping lure and be sure to brush the cover on the way by.
Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet grew up fishing hollow-bodied frogs on lakes with heavy weed growth. As his career has progressed, he's learned that the popular amphibian can also be a deadly choice when there's not a hint of greenery around. The question is: When will it outshine all other options?
"If I have overhanging cover on the bank or a real low dock, I'll pick up the frog because it skips so well," he said. "But if the water is more open or there's a taller dock, I'll probably throw a traditional popping bait like a Pop-R or Yellow Magic.
"I'm still working small areas throughout my cast," he said. "In a mat, I'll go nice and slow. Open water is the same thing, except I'm trying to walk the frog."
The only frog he uses is the original Spro version, and he keeps his colors simple: Black for dark days, Killer Gill when the bass are feeding on shad, and Red Ear when he wants to mix it up. "They don't pay me nothing," he said. "That's the hard-core truth."