Understanding the largemouth bass, its prey, and its seasonal behavior gives you a more in-depth knowledge of this muscular, predatory fish. The more you know about your prey, the more likely you are to catch the prize, so here are some helpful tips for anglers just beginning their largemouth bass fishing journey.
1. Know the Bass Basics
Largemouth bass live in a shifting combination of both cover and structure. Cover refers to objects in the lake like docks, fallen trees, large rocks or boulders, or boats that provide the fish with safety from predators as well as hide them from their prey. The key is to search for a tree or stump that looks a little different, especially in heavy cover, because that area is likely holding more fish.
Structure is the composition of the lakebed and includes features like ridges, drop-offs, and ledges. To disturb the least number of fish and increase your chances of catching more, always work from the edges toward the center.
Bass eat almost anything that crosses their underwater path; they are greedy hunters. They eat smaller fish like shad or minnows or smaller amphibians like salamanders or frogs. Ducklings are also fair game for the bass. To be successful predators, bass on the prowl wait by adequate cover with enough depth to maneuver. They wait—or hold—until their prey comes by, and then they pounce.
To spot the difference between smallmouth and largemouth bass, look at the fish in profile. If the line of the fish's mouth extends back beyond their eye, making their mouths very large, then it's a largemouth bass. If the edge of the fish's mouth stops evenly with the fish's eye, then it's a smallmouth.
The most auspicious time to fish for largemouth bass is during their spring spawning season. When the spawn occurs depends on the day's length, the water temperature, and where you're fishing. If you're fishing someplace southern, like in Texas or Florida, you might see a spawn as early as January. But if you're in a more northern state, like Michigan, it might not happen until late April or May.
2. Use the Right Lures and Bait
To be successful in bass fishing, match your lure to the hatch. Ask around at the local bait shop or fishing outfit to find out what's hatching and then look for the lure or bait that most closely resembles it.
Largemouth bass are voracious feeders and, if the mood takes them, hit almost any lure that you throw out there. You don't have to buy every lure in the tackle shop, however. Flexibility is vital when fishing for largemouth bass, so don't be wary of changing your lure or your technique if it doesn't seem to be working for you.
There are some lures and baits that let you power fish, which means casting and retrieving lures over a large amount of water. These are lures like crankbaits, chatter baits, and spin baits. To finesse a fish, you need a lure like a jig or a worm so you can work it more slowly with moves like flipping, pitching, or drop-shot.
3. Fish in Their Preferred Habitat
Both smallmouth and largemouth bass like cold, clear waters in which to hunt. If you're headed to a particularly deep body of water to hunt for largemouth, you may be wondering how to catch bass in a lake. To fish successfully for bass in deeper lakes, use specific tactics.
When the water is clear, largemouths need to find a place to hide, and some will choose the deepest part of the lake. A heavy football head jig is a superb lure to use when going after largemouth in the deepest spots, and a vibrant color like green-pumpkin can be seen even in the murky depths.
The bass may not head for the depths to hold; they may use shade instead. If you think some bass may be staying in the shade, try a topwater lure before the heavier ones, as sometimes the bass will leave cover to strike.
4. Check the Water Temperature
During the spring spawning season, many anglers believe that the water has to be a specific temperature for the fish to become active. If the southern end of the fishing lake warms more quickly than the northern end, you may see more bass action there.
Some anglers avoid more frigid waters when fishing for bass as they think the fish might not be as active in the cooler temperatures, but this is somewhat untrue. For places that experience varied temperature swings and can be cold, the bass will be acclimated to 45-degree water and still actively go after bait. Bass in colder areas live under the ice in the winter, so they're used to it.
However, if you're fishing somewhere much warmer, 45-degree water will be the coldest it's ever been, and the bass will be sluggish and not rise to the bait.
To hit your preferred bass spot during the spawn, pay attention to the water temperature, the length of the day, and where the moon is in its phase.
5. Track the Moon Phase
More than water temperature, the length of the day and the moon phase are crucial to successful bass hunting. Some bass anglers swear that bass will begin spawning when they sense that the days have become a certain length and the water temperature is conducive to laying eggs. But experienced anglers maintain that during the new moon, and then again on the full moon, more significant numbers of bass move to the flats to start spawning.
To hit your fishing spot during a spawn, pay attention to the moon phase as well as the water temp and time of year.
When you've just started your angling career, you should take the time to learn as much as you can about your prey's habits, and this includes preferred habitats and seasonal behaviors. Mossy Oak helps you cultivate a foundation for your outdoor lifestyle. Browse our website for fishing gear, tips, and recipes.