Bass Fishing 101
The fog drifts lazily above the murky swamp water as I slowly ease my boat toward an ancient, moss covered cypress tree. A bullfrog croaks its early morning greeting and somewhere off in the distance an unknown creature screeches as the hair on the back of my neck stands on end.
The old tree was the site of a recent battle between a monstrous black bass and me. A battle in which the big bass taught me a valuable lesson in humility. I have a lot more respect for her and her kind. She never gave up the fight at any time during our encounter. Her fierce determination eventually paid off and she swam away in victory. So now, I visit that spot now and then, not really wanting to catch her, but perhaps just to say hello.
Bass fishing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of my family and me out at a local pond. We learned about fishing, nature, and a lot about each other at that old water hole. I think fondly of my childhood and I am grateful that I was able to experience those things. With that in mind, it comes as a surprise when Im asked for my opinion on a certain technique or even something as simple, or complex, as tying a knot. Ive always assumed everybody knew how to fish.
Before we go out and tackle that feisty old bass that lives under the cypress tree, here are a few basics that we should keep in mind. Bass fishing can be a very relaxing sport as well as a great way to learn about our environment.
What is a bass? A bass is a member of the perch family; just on the larger side. There are striped bass, sand bass, hybrids and smallmouth, but the fish we are going after is my favorite. The largemouth bass, or black bass. This is the most pursued freshwater fish in the southern United States.
The black bass can be broken down into several different strains. Here in Louisiana, we are most likely to encounter the spotted bass, Florida bass and Kentucky bass. The latter two have been introduced into our waters to enhance fish population and size. The black bass has a very large mouth. A grapefruit would easily fit into the mouth of a five-pound fish. Generally, coloration is dark green on its back, which fades to white on its belly, with a dark lateral band on its sides. They can grow up to thirty inches in length and weigh over twenty pounds, but dont expect to see very many of these. The Louisiana record is just over sixteen pounds
Largemouth bass are found in rivers, lakes and streams throughout the United States. Hot summer days usually force them to move to deeper water to keep cool. If there is no deep water, like many Louisiana lakes, they will take shelter in any cover they can find. A good place to look would be under grass mats, under or alongside logs, or even near an old cypress tree.
Most anglers today use artificial lures to catch bass. However, live bait is used in some areas, particularly when the angler is after a trophy-sized fish, but for our
purposes, well stick to artificial lures. Of these, there are three main groups: Top-water, crank baits, and plastics.
Top-water baits are very popular because of the action that accompanies their use. Most of them mimic wounded baitfish swimming on the surface. Some impersonate frogs or mice hopping across weed mats. Bass are opportunistic feeders and can hardly resist passing up such an easy meal. They explode out of the water or sometimes come right through the weed mats in an attempt to catch their prey. If it doesnt scare you half to death, it will at a minimum double your pulse rate.
The next group is crank baits. These come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They often resemble baitfish and can be very effective because of their ability to cover a lot of territory and get down to where the fish are feeding. They come in many different colors. Most have built in sound emitting devices, which help the fish locate the bait in stained water.
Plastics are perhaps the most diverse group. They come in more sizes, shapes and colors than you can possibly imagine. They are responsible for catching more fish on the professional fishing circuit, than any of the other two lure groups combined. Most plastics are shaped like worms, but some resemble crawfish or even frogs. Plastics are often used to probe likely ambush points like grass beds or around logs and trees.
Lure selection can be very complicated because of the wide variety of baits available. A smart angler though, will take a good selection of all three main groups and follow these general guidelines. Use dark colors on dark days, light colors on bright days and stick to colors that closely resemble the food source of the fish.
Finally, a word about fishing reels. If you find you are spending more time trying to figure out how your equipment works than actually fishing, you may have a problem. If this is the case then perhaps you should start with a spin-bait casting reel or closed face reel. This reel is top-mounted on the rod and features a right or left-hand wind. The line is wound around an internally mounted spool and exits through a small hole in the front of the reel housing. Anyone with normal coordination can master this reel with just a little practice. The spin bait caster has enabled countless children and adults to pick up the sport of fishing with little difficulty.
The bait casting reel is the reel of choice for most professional and intermediate level anglers. It is the most accurate of the three types of reels because of the control you have over the line. The spool is not enclosed and your thumb controls the speed at which the line plays out. With practice, you can put the lure in just about any spot you want: When properly done, bait casting is a beautiful thing to see. A good bait caster can literally knock out a gnats eye at forty feet. (Bauer 42)
The spin cast reel is bottom mounted and features a fixed, open-faced spool. This reel evolved in Europe and became popular in the United States after the Second World War. Most new anglers step up to this reel after using the spin-bait cast reel for a while.
This should get you started with the basics. I think the best advice I can give for now is to read as many fishing articles as you can and watch the fishing shows on TV. Learn as much as you can about fish and fishing. You can never know enough. Good luck, and as we anglers say, Tight lines.
Bauer, Erwin A. The Fishermans Bible. Doubleday, 1980.
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