Bass fishing is great: More than 10 million U.S. anglers can’t be wrong.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2022 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 35.1 million anglers 16 years and older participate in freshwater fishing. And while questions about species sought were eliminated to streamline the most recent survey, traditionally, about one-third of them specifically target black bass, including largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted.
If you count yourself among those 10 million anglers, you most likely need both hands and feet to begin counting the reasons why you participate. Whether it's time with friends or family, being outdoors, or working through the daily challenges of making bass bite, there is plenty to make you jump out of bed and get on the water.
Anglers recently bitten by the bass-fishing bug have at least one reason for picking up the sport. But there is so much more for them to uncover. The following list sets out 10 of them, but it won't be long before they have their own lengthy list of reasons.
Veteran anglers should regularly revisit these reasons, too. Get in a bass-catching slump long enough, and you’ll question why you’re standing on a boat in a cold rain, flinging lures with little to show for it for hour after hour. But don't hang it up. Instead, take heed of the inspiration hidden in these gentle reminders of why this sport is great. Soon, your passion will re-ignite, sending you back to water at the next chance.
Like tossing big lures for the next record largemouth? How about floating a feather-weight fly into a small eddy in moving water for hungry smallmouth? Need the thrill of competition? Then bass fishing is for you.
There are countless ways to enjoy our favorite sport. And none of them are wrong. Enjoy it the way you want, and don’t dismiss others who take a different approach. You never know where you’ll pick up a trick that puts more bass in your boat. Even if you have no interest in fly fishing, for example, note the offerings that are used. Different materials and constructions can be transferred to other lures, such as jigs, making them even more powerful bass-catchers.
Everyone enjoys some surprises in their life. Lucky for anglers, bass fishing has plenty of them. Not knowing when that blowup on your frog, which is skittering across a mat of aquatic vegetation, will come is a powerful draw. Once you’ve experienced it, you hope it happens every cast.
Anticipation can extend beyond being on the water. It happens before you even get there. If you live where lakes freeze solid during winter, you may spend months looking out the window, daydreaming about that first cast, first bite, and first bass of the upcoming season. And you’re not the only one struggling to fall asleep the night before a fishing trip.
Bass fishing presentations are technical. Deep diving crankbaits, for example, must be presented at perfect angles to ensure they cross small pieces of submerged cover away from and below your boat. Roll casts must end with your spinnerbait next to a laydown, a game of inches that often decides if you catch a bass or a snag.
Pitching and flipping may be the most technical presentations. Both put your lure on a bass's nose, whether next to a post deep under a dock or below a quarter-size opening in a thick mat of aquatic vegetation. While most end without a bite, mastering the skill required to make accurate presentations repeatedly is an enjoyable process for many anglers. And most say picking apart visible cover with perfect pitches can be as much fun as catching a bass.
Nailing down casting accuracy takes practice. Some anglers set up targets in their yard; it’s no different than a golfer heading to the practice green. When they have a few minutes to spare, they grab a rod rigged with a jig, whose hook has been removed, and head outside for a few pitches. Standing on a small stool will mimic the height your boat sits above the water, giving your practice a more real-world feel. Your neighbors may wonder about you, but feel confident you're doing the right thing.
Some days, you need the solitude of fishing alone. A quiet day on the water can be the answer to everyday hustle and bustle. But most days, bass fishing is better with a buddy.
Sharing the good times that come with bass fishing makes them better. There are jokes to tell, stories to share, and adventures to go on. Reminiscing about them years later is almost as fun as experiencing them the first time. And launching and loading your boat is always easier with two people.
Many of these friendships continue off the water and become lifelong, whether helping a fishing buddy move or celebrating a big event such as a wedding. They’re some of your best catches.
Anglers are always searching for a better mousetrap, so tackle purchases are a big part of bass fishing. Those purchases can go in several directions. Some anglers pursue antique baits, whether rare ones or something special from their childhood. Other purchases may be tied to geography. Take California’s obsession with large swimbaits, whether soft plastics, gliders, or divers. They've been proven to work elsewhere, a niche presentation that you can make work on your home waters with some patience. But even if you don’t want to get them wet, each has plenty of craftsmanship and artistic flair to admire.
Better than work
A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work. There’s some — maybe a lot for some bass anglers — truth in that time-worn saying. Above all else, fishing gives you a chance to recharge. It may come from the thrill of competition during a tournament; even winning a small club event will change your outlook. Or you may be looking to unwind. Feeling the sun and breeze on your face as you gently rock with the waves will undo the stress of the most hectic days. Catching a bass can feel like a bonus on those days.
The simple fact that you're on the water early in the morning, late in the evening, and often anytime between allows you to see many magical things that others miss. It might be a sunrise filled with bright shades of orange and pink. A heron hunting along a quiet shoreline or a moose wading through flooded vegetation will catch your eye. And there’s always the haunting shrill of a loon.
Let’s not forget about bass. Watching a smallmouth rocket into the air will give you goosebumps. The greens, white, and black of a largemouth swimming through clear water and around aquatic vegetation are vibrant.
Putting it together
Bass fishing is often compared with assembling a puzzle. Find the pieces — type of water, forage, cover, structure, current weather conditions, and water temperature — understand how they interlock, and you’ll be catching bass in short order. Miss it by a bit, and you’ll be in for a long day on the water. Fish long enough, and you’ll know the bliss of the former and the frustration of the latter.
But on those days when everything comes together, the sense of accomplishment you feel goes unmatched. And the good news is that as more of those days happen, the more that will be in your future. Bass-fishing knowledge is accumulative: As you learn one technique or how bass react to a particular seasonal or daily environmental change, you can bank that and re-apply it to similar situations in the future.
There are a million ways to approach bass fishing and almost as many places to catch them. From small streams to the Great Lakes, bass have been caught in every state, including Alaska, though fisheries managers believe that resulted from an unauthorized release. Bass can be found in most of Canada and Mexico.
This far-reaching range makes for some exciting possibilities. You could set sail on a bucket-list trip that hopscotch from one great bass water to the next and stretches across the country. But fun isn’t measured in miles. You can find plenty close to home. Maybe it’s at a lake in the next county that you’ve yet to fish. It could be floating the river that feeds your favorite reservoir or trying a new-to-you technique to uncover untapped patterns.
Memories of time with family and friends — especially those no longer with us — are priceless. And in the grand scheme, they’re the best part of fishing. While you might remember how many bass you caught or how big they were, you'll always remember who you were with, what you discussed, and what happened.
Don’t discount memories that seem bad at the time that they’re made. Sure, I was angry and frustrated when a flat trailer tire stopped me along a busy interstate, and things only fell apart further when I couldn’t loosen the seized nut holding the spare. But it ended well — a friend stopped to loan me his spare. And now I fondly remember it, a reminder that most things work themselves out, especially when fishing is involved.