Over the years I have read many books and articles on 'how' to catch bass and other species of fish in general. I've read BassMaster, InFishermen, Field & Stream, and Outdoor Life for years and still do--I find them all worth the money every month. However, by far the most beneficial reading I've done concerning 'bass fishing' was and still is, a few books that I go back to over and over again.
(Note: All the pictures of me are "Selfies". The bass are behind me as I hold the camera with my other hand attempting to get a decent picture. This is just the opposite of how other's take their pictures; with the bass out front. Just imagine how large these bass would look with the bass held out toward the camera. )
The first book is what I consider the standard in understanding the bass species, the "Book of the Black Bass" by James Henshall, M.D. which was first published in 1881. It's the best 525 pages of bass information I've ever read. The second book that honed my skills as a bass angler was by Buck Perry, titled, "Spoonplugging" published in 1965. Then thirdly a book titled, "In Pursuit of Giant Bass" by Bill Murphy published in 1992.
Doug Hannon "The Bass Fishing Professor" played a huge part in my education on catching trophy largemouth bass. I have patterned my bass fishing career on much of his teachings for one simple reason, just about everything he ever taught turned out to be true in my experiences. For more of Doug's writings and videos click here
Another excellent and very influential author in my fishing career is Homer Circle whom I found to rival Doug Hannon's expertise and professionalism in the sport.
After studying, not just reading, these great works on the bass species and putting the 'fishing information' contained in their pages into practice I was able to better weigh or compare what I learned from these books with the many articles published by other sources. It's always been very interesting to compare the various bass angler's thinking, on how, where, and when, to catch bass.
But the most educational effort that I've experienced so far in my bass fishing career, has been to log all bass fishing events exactly as they occurred, truthfully in a bass fishing journal. In 2004 I started keeping thirteen points of criterion on each bass I caught or lost in battle. The date, the lunar phase and orbit point, the weather factors, the size in girth and length, the water temperature and depth caught. The environment factors such as vegetation type, and break and structure type. More definitively that would be the date, two moon factors, four weather factors, two lake water factors, and three environmental factors and the coordinance of the fish. All recorded in a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.
I also record general information as to the general particulars and occurrences of the fishing trip, such as heavy wave action when fishing windy sides of the lake. Cloud situations and weather in which fish 'turned on'. And if there were fish lost in the battle, or non-bass species caught, or if the fishing line broke or other equipment failures occurred. Also other points of interest that I believe should be remembered, such as tournament fishing pressure on the lake, fishing in back of anglers and doing either good or poor as a result. Lake management effects on fishing areas and anything else that seems out of the ordinary.
So I guess that is really 14 points of criterion if you count 'comments' as a criterion, which it is at times depending on the particular occurrences.
One of the tools that I rely on most is a 'bathymetric map' of the lake I'm fishing. Some GPS sonar units have pretty good software that provides fairly accurate lake contour markings or delineations. However searching the internet using the queries of, 'the particular state, county, lake, contour, bathymetric, and map', usually yields very accurate printable maps of the lake you want to fish; usually published by a state university or state organization. I always feel a sense of relief when I finally acquire a quality detailed bathymetric map of the lake to be fished.
Selfie of 15 lb 2 oz Bass
The Steps and Procedures Before I Get on a Lake I Never Fished
When I consider a lake to be fished, I start with the bathymetric map to determine where the deep water is located in relation to the boat ramps. Then I use my GPS sonar unit to compare the software map with the printed map, noting differences and similarities.
Since I have learned that the deepest water areas of any lake are the ‘homes of the bass’ I note the underwater structures in the forms of bars, breaks, and flats along with the shortest distances from deepwater to shallow areas. I note the barriers within the lake that bass will not cross and if there are any creek beds, shoals, stump fields, or islands, all in relation to the primary deep water areas. Then I consult online map software such as Google Street View to give me the shoreline vegetation types in these areas.
Since I have learned to think like a Largemouth Florida Bass due to Henshall’s “Book of the Black Bass”, and Perry’s book, “Spoonplugging”,I already know exactly what areas of the lake to fish first—I’ve eliminated 80% of the lake and know where the 20% of productive bass fishing areas are.
Next, based on what I’ve learned from the maps and my bass migration knowledge, I plan the setup of my rods. I prepare a rod for trolling, two rods for casting, two rods for pitching and a rod for flipping. The reason for two rods for both casting and pitching is to better control the bait presentation in the form of depth and speed controls, in various environmental structures.
At the point, I can vividly picture a preliminary fishing strategy for the lake and head to the boat for preparations for a full day on the water. Motors and batteries maintenance is first followed by bait selection stocking—selecting baits to be used that day and putting them within easy reach within the bait tackle storage locker in the boat. Loading of the rods and a check of all safety equipment is next and finally a check of the trailer lights and tires including the spare.
I can almost smell the lake at this point, but it’s the night before so I check the weather forecast for the next day noting wind direction and speed along with barometric pressure plots for the next twenty-four hours. Then get six hours of sleep and am up by 4:30 a.m. By 5:30 I’m out the door and driving to the lake boat ramp best suited for access to the better deep water holes..
Selfie of 14 lb 2 oz Bass
Fishing Strategy Used on the Lake in Correlation with the Preliminary Work
Before I drive to the lake, I check the weather forecast one more time especially noting wind direction and speed and barometric pressure. Then off to the lake.
After launching, I drive the boat to the best deep-water area and cruise the hole watching the sonar for structural characteristics. Then I take a slow ride along the shortest route toward the shallow shoreline areas. I use my printed bathymetric map which I compare to the GPS software map, noting similarities and differences along the way.
I choose the downwind side of the shoreline area and fish into the wind using the trolling motor. I position the boat about fifty yards from the shoreline structure and select the casting-rod setup and cast a few feet into the shoreline structures. I always keep the bait at the lake bottom on the entire retrieve—my rigging is setup this way.
After one pass through the area, I move the boat within ten yard of the shoreline structures and select the pitching rod best suited for the wind conditions of the day. I pitch the outside vegetation points or structures first, and then pitch back twenty feet if possible into the structures and swim the bait out. I will try several pitches into the vegetation—whether underwater or above water growth—using different retrieve speeds each time. I am determining which bait depth and speed the bass are striking that day.
After the first close pass, I’ll make one more pass using another bait type which works best for the particular vegetation. Again trying various retrieve speeds and techniques until I get strikes.
On the third close pass, I’ll select the longest casting rod to cast out into the open water, away from the shoreline structure to determine if there are areas of the shoreline that have migration routes leading to the shoreline area. Cast usually average about 60-80 yards. Again the key is to keep the bait bumping along the lake’s bottom so that I can determine what it consist of. Jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits work well in determining this whereas large body stick baits such as worms and swimbaits work well for retrieval in vegetation.
I will use the fishing method in each of the deeper water holes in the lake to determine what type of bass populations use each area that day. Usually after the first hole, I have a very good idea of how bass are operating within the lake that day. I record all results on a preliminary diary sheet. Determine a pattern for the lake that day, and fish more seriously using that pattern on the remainder of the fishing holes I’ve mapped out.
For the record, full disclosure—I have used this method on every lake I’ve fished in Central Florida, and I have always caught bass on the first attempt at fishing a lake. In fact, I have had enormous success, catching bass of four to eight pounds on the first fishing trip to the lake. But to be fair as to why I have a high level of success, I get to fish any time I want, so I select the best days of the week weather wise in order to not waste time when bass don’t feed as well due to weather factors. Most anglers I know, don’t have this luxury.
14 lb 3 oz Bass
Bass Fishing Techniques, Strategies and Truths, I've found accurate and successful.
1. The sun and moon influences, causes an increase or decrease in fishing results. The reason this occurs is because both celestial bodies change weather and environmental fishing factors. The sun obviously causes light, heat, and dissolved oxygen to occur within the water column, and the moon rise, overhead or underfoot, and set periods cause weather changes, especially atmospheric pressure changes up or down.
I have charted atmospheric pressure changes for several years and have found that they do occur during these daily lunar periods over 90% of the time.
However, to be clear, atmospheric pressure changes don't cause fish to feed, per se, but it is absolutely true that when fish adjust, or move due to weather change (atmospheric pressure is always actively changing at this time) the fish will opportunistically feed. The level of feeding duration and intensity, I have found is dependent on the amount of pressure change. The faster the change, and the greater the amount of change, the greater the numbers of fish that 'adjust' and the larger the members of the species that become affected. Remember, when pressure goes up, so do the fish, and when pressure goes down, so too do the fish.
My bass fishing record clearly reveals that when atmospheric pressure changes significantly (Illustration: 29.92 to 31.05 In Hg over a short two to three hour period) the majority of my bass over 8 lbs. were caught. And conversely, when the pressure barely changes up or down, few quality size bass were caught and fewer strikes occurred.
The two best atmospheric change periods I have found are; a fast significant rising barometer, and the very beginning of a fast dropping barometer. And remember I am NOT claiming that atmospheric pressure change causes ALL bass to feed, BUT it absolutely does cause a greater percentage of bass to "adjust" their comfort positions within the water column, and this usually causes bass to opportunistically feed more than they would have without the pressure change.
2. Top Water Fishing -- If a bass will strike a top-water bait, it will absolutely strike a submerged retrieved bait even more so--significantly more so. Thus I don't use top-water baits very often even though nothing in my bass fishing experience compares to the visual of a ten pound bass breaking the surface to engulf a Devil's Horse turning side to side in a vegetation pocket.
3. Deep Bait Retrieving, at the lake's bottom produces far more strikes of quality size bass than at any other level position within the water column.
4. A 'Walking-the-Dog' retrieve technique whether along the lake bottom or any other level of retrieve produces more strikes.
5. A 'Silent Bait-Entry' into the water, whether you're casting, pitching, or flipping a bait, always produces more strikes. I perfected this technique by standing on a plank in my yard that was fastened to to five-gallon buckets and pitching and casting the largest bait I use into coffee cans positioned throughout the yard, both standing up and laying down can-positions, all without moving the cans. Of course bass fishing over 250 days per year also helped me to perfect this.
6. Fishing the 'windy side' of the lake ---if it's not excessively strong (over 12 mph speeds) produces more strikes.
7. Fishing 'high turbidity' areas due to wave action produces more strikes and hides the presence of the angler.
8. Wave action of 'light chop' (6" to 1' wave size) helps hide or mask the presence of the angler.
9. Line color really doesn't matter. I use yellow braided line mostly and I switch to a 12-17 lb. test fluorocarbon line only when water clarity produces a visibility of six feet or more. When it comes to line color, the real problem is not color but the shadow that the line produces because light can not pass through it. However if you're in vegetation as much as I am, the fish can't tell the difference between the plant parts and the line used.
10. "Matching the Hatch" bait selection is absolutely essential in accomplishing quality bass strikes.
11. New and Full Moon Fishing. The days of the month closest to the new and full moons, is always better, much better. And when the moon is closest to the earth (lunar perigee) the atmospheric pressure for that day is always greater, thus more fish adjustment occurs. (I love to fish the five days before the new and full moons and the two days afterward.)
12. The sunrise and sunset periods of the day are always best when the moonrise and moonset are occurring an hour or so after these solar periods.
13. An even mix of clouds and sun cause fish to adjust more, which produces more adjustment, which produces more opportunistic feeding action.
14. Larger Bass Stay Deep. The largest bass in the lake spends most of its life in the deeper water. And seldom does this bass 'need' to feed along shoreline shallows because they have perfected the 'art of ambush' and thus wait along migration routes at deeper secondary structures for smaller successful feeders to return to the lower section of their comfort zone for that particular atmospheric pressure status.
15. Using a black net, both frame and netting material, allows the angler to place the net vertically within the water 'before the bass gets close enough to see it enter the water' which in turn causes the bass to select the 'dark area' as a place of safety and cover as the angler leads the bass toward the net.
16. The 'Low and Tow Retrieve' -- Retrieving a bait though vegetation or any type of cover, works best and looks 'natural' when the angler drops the rod tip to the water's surface, and points the rod directly at the 'seemingly stuck bait' and pulss the rod straight back, essentially towing the bait out of the obstruction. If the bait doesn't become free on the first try, extend your arms out, reeling in the slack line, and pull again, holding your thumb on the spool and gripping the line and rod at the first guide on the rod. I call this the "Low and Tow" retrieval technique.
-Note: To be added soon - 12-22-13 "when I get a chance to stop catching trophy bass in Central Florida and spend a little time in the office. Life is hard, what can I say, lol.