Largemouth bass are the most popular gamefish in the US. They are plentiful, reasonably sized, and put up a good fight. They are not very picky about what they eat. Their main criteria is that it has to fit into their huge mouths, but even that is not necessarily a deal-breaker. I have had diminutive largemouth bass attack lures that were almost half as big as they were.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that largemouth bass are push-overs. Their huge appetite is tempered by a keen awareness of their surroundings at all times. They have great eyesight, an incredible sense of smell and hearing, and are very quick to notice when something isn’t right. Largemouth bass haven’t survived for 11 million years by being stupid. To be successful, you have to defeat all of their senses, as well as trigger their instinct to attack, which is considerable.
Location, Location, Location….
The first trick in learning how to catch largemouth bass is to find them. Most of the time, if you find them, you will catch them. You want to limit the amount of time you waste fishing unproductive water. Some things to consider are:
A basic rule of thumb is that bass prefer a temperature range of from 70º to 85º, and they will try to get as close to that range as possible. In summer, they will go deeper during the heat of the day, say around 15’ – 20’, and move into the shallows in the morning, night, and evenings. In winter, they will stay in deeper water, anywhere from 20’ to 50’ depending on the type of water they are in. In spring and fall, they will stay to the shallows, gorging on whatever they can find to stoke up for winter.
If you find a largemouth bass in open water, something is seriously wrong. Largemouth bass never use open water. Even when traveling, they do it along lines of cover and structure. Look for anything different in the terrain, such as a depression on the bottom, channels, old river beds, rock piles, weed beds, sunken timber, especially when any of these are in deeper water with easy access to the shallows. Drop-offs with cover are excellent places for bass.
Largemouth bass aren’t much of a river fish, unlike their close cousin, the smallmouth bass. Largemouth bass prefer lakes and ponds, but sometimes they do wind up in rivers, so they just try to make the best of it. In rivers, largemouth bass do not like moving water at all. They will do anything to get out of current, so look for anything that breaks it, such as rock piles, fallen trees, depressions, etc…. They will be sitting on the downstream side, waiting to grab just about anything that drifts past them.
Ringing The Dinner Bell
Largemouth bass aren’t real picky about what they eat, at least most of the time. If they can see it, they will try to eat it, so colors aren’t that much of an issue. Use lighter colored lures in stained water, and darker lures in clearer water. At dusk, at night, or when using topwater lures, dark colors are best because the lure will be silhouetted against the lighter sky, making it easy for bass to see it.
Bass like noise, so any lure that splashes, sploshes, gurgles, pops, vibrates, rattles, buzzes, or hums will attract bass, especially in stained water where it may be harder for them to see it.
Bass have an incredible sense of smell, so do not use soaps on your hands the day you are going fishing. Likewise, skip the aftershave, perfume, or anything else that could tip a bass off. Using scents like shad, baitfish, crawfish, and anise can make lures more attractive to bass. They also cover up the human smell.
Baits that the bass are familiar with will work best, so try to match your lure patterns to the local baitfish, and other food items. In other words, if there are a lot of Emerald Shiners around, don’t use a grey shad lure (unless that’s all you got…). Instead, use a lure that closely matches the shape, color and movement of Emerald Shiners.
Speaking of colors, another reason not to get too hung up on them, especially when you are fishing deeper than 20’ or so, is that colors filter out as the depth increases. You lose red at about 10’. Yellow at 25’, orange at 35’, and on down the spectrum. By the time you reach 50’, all that is left will be blues and purples. So a yellow jig fished at 35 feet will be a blueish color.
Bass will try to eat just about anything as long as it appears alive. Bass do not scavenge, so dead bait will only get you catfish and turtles. Night-crawlers, minnows, shad, crawfish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, baby ducks, aquatic mammals, land animals that fall in the water,…all are fair game for bass. Insects are only good for very small bass. Once they get above a pound or so, they switch to serious eats. They like a mouthful. Any lures that imitate these food items will usually work.
All lures work well for largemouth bass, but the #1 all-time best lure is the plastic purple worm, Texas-Rigged. More bass have been caught on this lure than all other baits put together, including live baits. Just cast it directly into cover, and work it back s – l – o – w…… As slow as you can stand it, and then just a tad slower.
There are lots more tricks for catching largemouth bass. Check back often for great new articles.