We’d all like to be able to catch bass like the big name pros do, but the hard truth is most anglers will never come close.
Successful bass pros are successful for a wealth of reasons. There is much more to being a good bass fisherman than being able to handle a baitcaster proficiently and knowing how to tie a Palomar knot or walk the dog with a Zara Spook.
Here are some useful tips for becoming a better bass angler. There is no guarantee the advice will make you pro fishing’s next super star, but it is sure to help an average or beginning angler step-up their game:
Find cover and find bass: Bass rely on cover to hide from unsuspecting prey, especially in shallow water. Fishing around bushes, grass and other cover increases odds of encountering bass. The best shallow cover is often found in relation to a point, hump or flat near deeper water.
Use good gear: You typically get what you pay for with fishing gear, particularly rods, reels, terminal tackle and rain gear. Buy the best fishing gear you can afford.
Line logic: There are three primary types of fishing line used in bass fishing — monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid.
Monofilament is significantly cheaper than fluorocarbon or braid. It is the best choice for fishing topwater lures and other baits designed to work near the surface, because it floats.
Fluorocarbon has no stretch, provides great sensitivity and is nearly invisible underwater. Fluorocarbon sinks, making it a poor choice for floating lures.
Braided line has zero stretch, superior strength and resists abrasion. Braid in 50-60 pound test is a good choice for fishing around thick vegetation when you need to overpower fish quickly. Many anglers prefer 10-pound test braid on spinning reels because it’s much easier to manage than other lines.
The right gear ratio: Baitcasting reels come with different gear ratios. The ratio dictates the speed at which the reel gathers line. Some reels are super fast (9.1:1) and others are really slow (5.1:1). A 6.3:1 is a good mid-range speed that works well with multiple lures.
Think outside the box: Don’t hesitate to change if a game plan isn’t working out. A switch in bait style, lure color or target cover/structure could make a huge difference.
Stay organized: Try to keep your tackle organized and labeled. You’ll spend more time fishing and less time looking for stuff you can’t find.
Learn to fish a Texas rig: The Texas rig plastic worm has probably fooled more bass over the years than any other lure. Built using a bullet-shaped slip sinker and an offset worm hook, the Texas rig is 100 percent weedless so it can be fished slowly around the thick cover big bass prefer with minimal hang-ups.
Think light: It’s usually a good idea to use the lightest weight and line you can get away with when Texas rigging. Less weight makes the bait appear more natural and creates less resistance when the fish eats the worm.
Do some research: When visiting a strange lake, do some Internet research to learn as much as possible about the impoundment ahead of time. Check current water conditions, access points, historic fishing patterns, lodging options and the best navigation routes.
Fish as often as possible: Fishing often helps improve fundamental skills. Experience also is the best teacher when it comes to making good decisions and learning to adapt to changing conditions.
Become electronic savvy: Modern electronics technologies like Downscan, Sidescan and forward-facing sonar have enabled anglers to take their fishing to all new levels. Buy the best electronics you can afford. More important, take the time to learn how to use them.
Seek expert advice: One of the best ways to flatten the electronics learning curve is to hire an expert for a day on the water. You may learn more in a half-day on the water with an expert than you will learn in a week or longer by yourself.
Don’t be a fair weather fisherman: Some of the very best fishing often occurs as foul weather is approaching, when the atmosphere is unstable and barometric pressure is falling. It’s never a good idea to fish during unsafe conditions, no matter how good the fish are biting. Watch the forecasts and give yourself plenty of time to get off the water before inclement weather hits.
Wind is your friend: Lots of anglers head for still water when the wind kicks up. Likewise, they sometimes leave good fishing areas for poor ones. Wind pushes tiny zooplankton and small organisms against the bank, which in turn attracts shad, minnows and other forage. Bass and other predators are often quick to follow. Wind-blown points and shorelines always pack plenty of potential.
Match the hatch: Use baits and colors that simulate the primary forage on which the bass feed at different times of the year. On Texas lakes, shad pattern lures that simulate threadfin shad, gizzard shad and bluegills are year-round favorites. During winter and early spring, crawfish imitations that are red, brown or orange in color work well.
Hook smart: Always make sure your hooks are rust free and “sticky” sharp to ensure the best hook penetration. A good test of hook sharpness is the thumbnail test. Place the hook point on your thumbnail, apply light pressure and attempt to slide the hook left or right. If the point sticks, it’s sharp. If it slides, the point is dull and needs sharpening.
Back to school bass: It’s always a good idea to keep your distance when targeting fish that are chasing shad on the surface. Get too close and you could spook the fish. Try to keep the boat positioned so you can reach the action with a long cast.
Watch for birds: Birds like blue herons and gulls fish for a living. If you see a heron perched on stump it may be there for a reason. Gulls and terns seen hovering over open water can be another good indicator that a feeding frenzy is brewing.
Seasonal savvy: Bass always follow season patterns. Study these habits and learn how forage species react to changes in the weather, water temperatures, water levels, etc… Find the bait and often times you will find the bass.
Be versatile: Every good bass angler has a fishing strength; the best ones will have several. Learn how to use different styles of lures and how to perform several fishing techniques. The angler who is versatile on the water will be able to catch bass on just about any lake during the course of the year.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.