Misconceptions About Bass
Things that we thought were true, aren't
By Bruce Middleton
There are several misconceptions that the world of amateur bass fishermen operate under every day that just aren't true. And even though this is going to create a lot of emails, I feel it's my duty to bring to light those things and explain why they are misunderstood.
The first misconception has to do with bass and deep water. We have all been told when we first started bass fishing that bass will position themselves near deep water so that if scared they can dive to safer depths. Bass like points and other structure that has deep water near it. We have been told that if a bass is spooked out of any ambush place that it will find the nearest deep water and escape. And we have been told when fishing on a hump if you fish from the bottom up it will pull the bass to the top of the hump and if you fish from the top of the hump down it will pull all the bass over the edge and down towards the bottom.
Well this is a lot of bunk. In the case of a point or hump if you fish up or down the bass will move up or down but they will move no more than a foot or two. This holds true for any place the bass is frightened or scared out of. It will escape out into open water but it will not dive down to the bottom of the nearest deep water to escape. For the most part these bass will sprint out and suspend out in the lake at the same depth they have been at until they feel the danger has passed then they will move, cautiously back to where they were before being forced out. When fishing deep structure if that deep structure is only two or three feet in elevation change then it may hold the bass. But if the elevation change is more than 5 feet then the bass will move off and suspend at the level they were originally at.
Bass do not like to change depth in the water column and when they do change levels they do it very slowly. Most bass will move no more than 1 or 2 feet a day both rising and sinking. They would much rather move off at the same depth and suspend than to dive to a depth that is in all likelihood colder that what they are used too.
Different water depths have different temperatures, they also have thermoclines. If you have ever swum in a lake and dove down and swam though a layer of colder water that was a thermocline. Thermoclines keep the bass above that line that marks them. This is another reason bass don't dive to deeper water. It is just too cold and thermo shock prohibits it.
It takes bass months to move from the deep cold water of January to the relatively warm waters they spawn in. In fall it takes a couple of months for the bass to reverse this cycle back to the deep. Again they do it a foot at a time and in really deep lakes this takes longer than in shallower lakes. The same applies to any time a bass moves up or down in the water column. They move a foot or two a day and no more. This is dramatized by the way bass act during the fall coldwater turn over. The bass will school out suspended in the lake at the depth they are going to feed at before they go into the flats to feed when enough oxygen builds up to sustain them. They don't swim up from deep water to the flats to feed. This is too much of a change in elevation in the water column for them.
We have for too long been taught that a bass will dive to deep water to escape a predator or and angler. This is a total falsehood, an old wives tale at best. It is now the 21st century and time to live in the real world of facts. Remember that these suspended bass are not overly hard to take. They don't have lockjaw for the most part but it is hard to find them in the first place. If you are looking for the schools in the fall during the late cold water turn over time it is easier because they are in great schools but to find a single bass out in the middle of the lake is pure luck if you come across one. Getting him to bite, if you can get your lure down to the right depth, is something else all together.
Next is the disclaimer that you have about your favorite lure or two or three, that they catch bass when all other lures fail you. These are your magic lures and they work more times than not. They are the first lures to be tied on to a rod and cast out and they are the last ones to be retrieved in at the end of the day. No matter what time of year it is, no matter what the weather is like, these favorite lures always seems to come through and land you bass.
They are our favorite lures just for these reasons. But if you stop and think about it for a moment you will discover that we fish with these few lures for more time than most lures. We know how they act and we know how to vary the cadence to produce different sounds and visual flashes and movements than we do most other lures. And every time we catch a bass on one of these favorite lures we give the credit to the lure.
This is so wrong. We chose the lure, the color and we chose the action to put on it. We set the depth and we set the cadence. So why do we give the credit to the lure when we should be giving the credit to ourselves.
Also too the more favorite (make that confidence baits) lures you have the wider range of conditions you can successfully fish in. At the very least you should have two spinner baits, three crank baits, two top water baits, a buzz bait and a jig as confidence baits. Add in a couple of plastics and you have a good foundation for starters. Never give an inanimate object the credit you deserve for tying on a lure, setting the hook, and playing the bass to the boat. It isn't fair to you or the lure.
The next misconception deals with when and how to down size. So many bass anglers just don't know when to down size or if they do they have no idea what lure to down size to. Down sizing is an art just like picking out the right lure when you are fishing under normal circumstances. Again you have to look around you and understand the circumstances you are in. What is the time of year, time of day, water temp, air temp, sky conditions, water clarity, most probable reason for bass being in a tight strike zone mood and what lure would you normally use under these conditions.
Yes this is a lot to take in but it is absolutely important. In order to make an informed decision on which lure to choose you need to know all of these details. Then you pick out the normal sized lure and then find a smaller sized copy and tie that one on. The next thing that most anglers don't understand and don't do is to fish this lure slower. This lure is about half size and should be fished about half speed in order to maximize your presentation. Most anglers will fish this smaller lure at the same speed they do the full sized lure and that looks unnatural and anything unnatural will be struck less than one does that looks and acts natural.
The next misconception that most anglers operate under has to do with jigs and plastics. Say you are fishing docks as you putt around a lake. You are using a black and blue jig with a black and blue worm with a U-tail cut down to 4 inches. You cast to the back of the dock and work it to the front of the dock and then work the other side before moving to the next dock. WRONG! I have done this so many times and have missed so many bass I couldn't begin to count them.
I have found out it is far better to cast to the back of the dock and let it set there for several minutes. If you cast your jig or tube or plastic to the back of the dock and let it set for a couple of minutes and then move it you have given the bass that might be there time enough to get over the initial shock of the splash of the lure. This scares the bass and he will fly away a few feet until things settle down and then he becomes curious and then moves back in to see what landed in the water next to him. If you move the jig or plastic too soon the bass will stay away every time. I have caught bass after letting a jig sit for over 5 minutes at the end of a dock. I knew the bass was there under the dock, it was just a waiting game before he took the jig. Most times too when a bass takes a jig, fishing in this manner, you will have no misconception about if a bass is on the line or not as the bass will almost always swim away with the jig playing tug-of-war with the end of your rod. There is just no mistaking that kind of strike.
Now there are a lot of anglers that cast to the back of the dock and wait several minutes before moving the jig in a hopping manner, very slowly an inch or three at a time, to the front of the dock and they are jigging at the right speed. This is due to the amount of time they wait before moving the jig and the time between each move, which should be about a minute or more. Now those of you who use this method please continue but those of you who cast and jig almost immediately are going to catch far, far less bass by moving it too soon.
Another misconception anglers have about bass is that they believe that bass that are three years up here are about a pound and a two pound bass is a four year old and so on up the scale. This is totally untrue. Bass grow according to the amount of food available to them each year. In a small pond where food is scarce a one-pound bass may be 7 years old and a bass that lives in a big lake fed by a dam from a big river may put on a pound or more a year. There, a seven-year-old bass could weigh nine pounds even though he may only live 10 miles away from the pond bass.
The next misconception has to do with colors. You fish all day with your favorite black and blue jig and catch two small bass from under a couple of docks but when you get back to the ramp you find another angler there who used a hot fluorescent green and purple tube and caught 11 bass. You have to keep an open mind when it comes to fishing for bass, don't always use the same old favorites and expect to be the top angler on the lake. Also too watch to see if bass are following your jig or plastic but not striking it. This indicates a color change, action or lure change. Be alert and be a watcher.
I have seen women choose lures because they were cute or coordinating colors and then turn around and out fish every body on the lake. Imagine me telling you readers to pick lures out that are cute or that compliment each other, I would be laughed at so hard that Glenn would have to take my column and me off the site.
All this leads up to another major misconception; bass don't ever have to do what you want them to. You can see a bass and you cast the perfect lure to him and have the perfect presentation and the bass may just watch it go by or run for heavy cover. This is not what you wanted. You may think that a certain color is the perfect one to catch bass under certain circumstances but in fact a color at the other far end of the spectrum is the perfect one to use. Bass do what they want to do for whatever reason they do it and you have no influence over his decision. All you can do is try trial and error until you find that perfect combination of color, cadence and action that triggers a strike from the majority of bass more times than they don't strike it. And while favorite colors and lures may work a lot of the time it pays to experiment especially on days when the bite is slow or you are not seeing any action at all.
Another misconception all too many bass anglers fail to recognize is the seasonal movements of bass. They go to a lake and dump the boat into the water and circle the lake fishing the docks, then go home no matter how many or few bass they caught. It is utterly important to know where the bass should be so you can fish there in order to take the most bass. Bass don't live under docks all year round.
You have to know what a bass will do when the sun is out and directly overhead or when it is raining. You need to know how the bass move to and from the deep water to the flats and the spawning grounds. You need to know where the bass are in May when the water temp is 60 degrees and you need to know where the bass will be in May when the water temp is 70 degrees.
Another misconception common among bass anglers is that they have a couple of favorite lures to fish with and that the rest of the lures in their tackle box(s) are for experimenting with. That is so wrong! Take learning to fish with a jig. If you take just a jig with you out fishing all day long, by the end of the day you will know a strike from weeds or a strike from a stick on the bottom. After just one full day of fishing with a jig you will learn how to use it, trust it and understand all the different things you can do with a jig. So why don't you pick out a crank bait and do the same thing?
Rapala holds 125 world records for 110 species of fish in 56 countries. That is what I call a reputation for excellence in design. Say that a Rapala original floating minnow size F-11 in color silver is your go-to favorite crank bait. This is a great crank bait and every bass angler has at least one in his tackle box. Why? Because it looks like a fish and the action it has looks like a fish. Rapalas lures also have a reputation for catching big bass. That and it catches a lot of them. Now it has one major flaw, it only dives to about 5 or 6 feet. So now you need to find a copy of this lure and fish with it all day but one that dives to between 12 and 15 feet. A Bomber Long "A" in Tennessee shad would be a good one to try although not the only one by any means. Take this lure out and fish with it all day long and by the end of the day it too will be one of your favorite lures. Now you have two favorite crank baits. Next try a Rapala Minnow Rap, Small Fry Bream or a Rapala Count Down crank bait. Keep adding lures until you have as many favorites as you can stuff in a tackle box.
The whole idea here is to stop you from limiting yourself from having just a couple of favorite lures and get to the point where you have about 68 favorites to choice from when fishing each time you go out. This gives you a much broader range of lures to use under a wider range of water, sky and time of year conditions than you have now. The end result is more bass in the live well for you, more excitement for you and a better understanding of how and why we use the lures when we do.
Finally the last thing you need to fully understand is that your favorite magic lure(s) is not the single most important factor that contributes to your success. It isn't your presentation or even the secret scent you use that contributes either. What is the most important factor in formulating your success is your own confidence in your ability to fish for bass. If you believe you can catch bass and stay positive throughout the day no matter how many bass you catch you will always out perform the average bass angler. Negative energy really does travel down the rod and line right down to the lure. Belief in yourself comes with knowledge of the bass and his movements and your ability to read the conditions you are under on the lake at that time. This gives you time on the water, which gives you intuition, which is learned by doing.
Fish, learn, stay positive and believe in your ability to catch bass no matter what the circumstances. Avoid obvious misconceptions and never get stuck in a rut when fishing for bass. Enjoy!