I guess the best place to start is always at the beginning, right? Let’s say that we are going to plan a day on the water and we want to catch as many bass as time will allow, doesn’t every angler have these “high hopes?” (-:
There are several factors to consider before you even hit the water such as:
Knowing your Natural Forage
Size of the Body of Water
Choosing the Right Baits
Using the Proper Equipment
Keeping it FUN! Always
The basics listed above are a good place to start when it comes to putting the “high hopes” plan together.
Let’s start by saying that we want to fish a body of water as big as the Santee Cooper System located in South Carolina (which is made up of Lake Marion & Lake Moultrie.) Now, if we have an impoundment of 186,000 acres of water with this system and just one day to fish, where do we start and how much time do we spend in one place?
The first thing I would do is to get a hold of a map of the lake and study it. By looking at a map such as a Hot Spots Map, or a Topographical Map (the most commonly used among today’s anglers) these maps will generally show you the contours, depths, points, and your boat launching areas. By studying this first you can section a certain spot on the map that looks appealing to you and in the same process eliminate a good portion of the body of water that you just don’t have the time to fish in one day.
Secondly, I would study the area on the map which you sectioned off looking for key areas such as contours, points, structure, and irregular bottoms. Next, keeping in mind of the factors listed above I would circle a half dozen or so areas that look good in the section and start looking for a good working pattern. Here are a few hints of what to look for during the different seasons:
In the spring, summer, and fall, look more in the shallows for warmer water temps, hard packed (or sandy) bottoms, structure (of any type), and especially vegetation areas. Just make sure that the key factor to remember is to look for shallow water close to deep water areas i.e... Points, drops, roadbeds, channels etc. During the winter months, just look for the opposite in most cases! Deeper water close to areas with structure.
Now, here is a good rule of thumb when choosing the right baits and equipment. Choose baits that cover top water, the bottom, and everything in-between, also keeping in mind that the proper equipment such as rods, reels, and line is just as important as the baits selections.
Normally, the difference in fishing cold water areas from the warm water areas is to know the activity levels of the bass. In cold water the bass tend to get more sluggish and inactive because their metabolism changes with the water temps. On the other side of the coin, the warmer the water temp means the more active a bass will be. Remember that the more active the bass are, they will feed much more often than say colder water conditions.
Here are some tips on certain baits that normally work anywhere in the United States of America anywhere you can find a bass habitat.
Floating Worms, Hula Poppers, Tournament Frogs, Soft and Hard Jerk Baits, Zara Spooks, and Torpedo’s. There are many more, but I have been just about everywhere in the US and have had success with these certain baits.
In Between Bottom & Surface:
Crank baits, Spinner baits, Soft and Hard Jerk Baits, Jigging Spoons, and Swim baits.
Jig & Pig Combos, Senko’s Always Work! Carolina Rigged Baits, My “Mo-Wak” Rigged Baits, Texas Rigged Baits, and Gitzits (or tube baits.)
Now, between all of these baits mentioned, I have used these baits under most every condition possible, and in every season with success.
Now, here’s the question of “How Long is Soon enough” to put certain bait down and try something else. Normally when it’s overcast or in low light conditions I would start out in an area where I’m quite certain that bass are holding in with a top water pattern. This is because bass won’t be in so tight to structure areas as much as they would be in a bluebird (or sunny) sky condition. Anyway, I will start with at least two different patterns with top water baits such as a Zara Spook or a Stick Bait (hard jerk bait.) I have found over many years that if a fish will hit top water bait either of these two will do a fine job. Give yourself at least a good dozen or so casts using each of these two baits trying different retrieves to see what may trigger a strike. If you don’t get any action off of top water patterns then try a Crank Bait or Spinner bait. Again, allow yourselves by using a couple of dozen casts with each of these two different baits, again using different retrieves (or techniques.) One nice thing about Spinner bait is that there are many different ways to use it. I teach my 3-day bass fishing school students at least (6) six different presentations on this one bait because it is one of more successful and versatile baits ever made.
If all fails, “Hit the Bottom!” One thing to consider before I go into bottom fishing is that it is very important to use the right equipment. I’m mostly talking about fishing rods in general. An angler has to feel the little ticks, slight pulls, bottom nicks, and bites with his rod to even know that he has a strike (or a bite). There are many good rods on the market today and I’m sure that they are very comparative within price ranges, but I have found that there is only one rod for me personally; it is Lighter, Stronger, and more Durable than any rod I have ever used, which is a Kistler “Helium series” Custom Rod! You can feel every little THING on the bottom with these rods, and better yet, I don’t even have to use solid line with these rods. I always use Silver Thread copolymer clear line for all my applications.
When fishing the bottom, you need to know exactly where and what your bait is doing to be more successful. I will use at least three different patterns fishing the bottom before I move on to the next spot. Keep in mind that we covered top water, then the in-between area, next we go to the bottom with the following patterns. A rig that I kind of thought up a few years back called the Mo-Wak Rig. This rig is simply a Mo-Jo rig using a Yamamoto Senko bait wacky rigged with very little weight above the bait. Secondly I will use a Carolina Rig because if rigged right, you can cover a lot of areas that you can’t with a Texas rig. With a Carolina rig I normally use a soft plastic bait such as a Yamamoto 6” Lizard, or for that matter, an angler can use many different baits on this rig. Next, I will work with a flippin’ or pitchin’ bait such as a jig & pig combo or a crawl by itself, pegged with a weight. Give each one of these patterns again, about a dozen casts and if all of these presentations don’t trigger a strike…..MOVE TO THE NEXT SPOT!
If you may be interested in learning more or just want to go out for a fun day of fishing you can inquire about my 3-day bass fishing school where I can teach on my lake or yours, or inquire about my bass charter service on Lake Champlain. You can reach me at: Phone (518) 597-4240 or Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my site at www.capital.net/~rlbrown . I certainly hope this article helps somebody overcome some of the frustrations they may have had in the past with this topic.
Until next time, take care & God bless!”Always”
The Bass Coach – Roger Lee Brown