The North American largemouth bass is our nation's most popular fish. Perhaps more has been written about this fish species than any other I have ever encountered. Speak to any bass fisherman or woman, and they will tell you stories of "monster bass," crazy baits, and ridiculous situations that these fish have been caught in.
I could write for the next twelve months and cover only a fraction of the available information to catch these fish. So I will try to list several baits and situations when they are at their best. After reading this article, I expect bass "fisherpersons" who will know of one hundred other ways to do the same thing, but here goes!
You need a lot of equipment to fish tournaments! But for those of you who do not have a boat, I will try to help you catch from the shore. Three rods would be good. I use as many as ten or twelve in a tournament situation. The line can be from 10- to 50-pound test. Hooks sizes 1 and 2 work well on Long Island. The heavy line is for thick cover, as a three-pound bass will pull you into cover very quickly, and the light line will break easily if your reel drag is not set correctly.
Ultralight spinning tackle is now very popular. Light rods with small reels and 4- or 8-pound test lines are good, especially on heavily fished waters. You should use smaller versions or miniature sizes of standard bass lures.
Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits can be excellent. Fish them on top or just below the surface. Your retrieve should be reasonably fast. Look for the fish to swirl beside the bait. If this happens but you do not catch a fish, a plastic worm will often do the job when cast to the exact location. See below for the worm techniques.
Bass move to cover during the day. Fish "jig-n-pig" rigs close to the shoreline under fallen trees and bushes as these are "ambush points" for bass, and you can capture larger fish. Fish this method very slowly along the bottom of the lake or river. Watch the line for movement or "twitching," and always set the hook hard.
Crankbaits and spinnerbaits will attract bass from deep water. If you want to fish deep, reduce the line strength to perhaps 10-pound test and use a crankbait with a deep angled lip. Lipless crankbaits work well bounced off the bottom of the lake with an erratic retrieve. Plastic imitations of various shapes, styles, lengths, and colors will also work fished with or without weights.
Plastic worms, crawfish, lizards, frogs, fish, and grubs will all catch fish. Tube jigs and other plastic "shapes" which bear no resemblance to any living creature will catch bass on any given day. Do not be afraid to ask other fishermen what color is working that day. Your tackle dealer will also be able to tell you what is working in the area.
Imitations such as soft plastics should be fished slowly. When trying a new lure, it is good to drop it close to the shoreline and watch it move as you retrieve your line. The key to plastics is to make the imitation look as much like the real thing as possible. Watch closely, then imagine what your bait is doing when you cast out into the lake or river on your retrieve.
You can also return to the morning methods shown above as the light begins to fade. This is when bass move back to shallow water and ambush points, such as downed trees, large rocks, and lily pads to feed.
Bait fishing for bass is, of course, an alternative. Most bass anglers will "wince" at the thought, but for children especially, this is a great way to introduce them to bass fishing. Bass will take live bait such as crawfish or shiners, suspended under a bobber with no weight on the line. Hook the crawfish in the back or tie it to the hook with some light line. Live fish can be lip hooked through both lips or the dorsal fin (middle of the back) to give an erratic presentation. Nightcrawlers and grubs are also effective. (Hot tip: With night crawlers or grubs, place large bait offerings on the hook if you want to catch large bass. The small offering will often catch panfish or perch, but big baits will deter the smaller fish from biting at your hook, giving you a better chance of hooking "Bubba").
I hope I've helped you sort out the confusing array of lure choices you have when you first start bass fishing. Good luck and I'll see you on the water.
Charles is a pro angler who fishes in numerous tournaments. He is sponsored by Bullet Weights, G.Loomis, Gamakatsu, Lake Hawk, Chevy Trucks, Hawg-ly Lures, Uncle Josh, Ike-Con Fishing Tackle, Snap-Set Spinnerbaits, Map-Trap, Stamina Components, and Power Troll Batteries.