Are you a newbie to bass fishing? There’s a lot to learn, and it can leave you feeling crossed-eyed when we’re talking about the differences in lures, jigs, and casting methods. Still, it’s a satisfying sport, especially when you get your first fish on a hook. From that moment, it’s more like you’re the one that’s hooked on bass fishing.
Getting to know the basics takes a bit of time, but we’re not dealing with rocket science here. Bass fishing has some technical points to it that separate it from other types of fishing. However, they are easy to master. All you need is some time and patience.
So, we decided to curate this article of tips to help your journey into bass fishing go as smoothly as possible.
- Rod and Reel Recommendations for Bass Fishing
- Choosing the Right Line for Bass Fishing
- Choosing the Best Lures for Bass Fishing
- Bass Terminal Tackle, Hooks, and Sinkers
- Where Do You Fish for Bass?
- Top Bass Fishing Techniques
- Understanding the Hookset
- Handling Your Bass After Reeling It In
- In Closing – Practice CPR
Rod and Reel Recommendations for Bass Fishing
You need to start with a spinner rod and reel setup when you’re bass fishing. You’ll be more effective with targeting bass using the slightly advanced baitcasting rod and reel. This setup is ideal for the beginner, but anglers with previous fishing experience may do better with something like the baitcasting rod and reel right from the get-go.
The baitcasting rod and reel setup is the ideal rig for targeting largemouth bass, and it’s a good investment into your equipment. If you choose the right rod and reel from a quality brand, you’ve got a bass setup that will last a lifetime.
The baitcasting setup may feel more technical, but it’s the better performer in terms of distance, accuracy, and efficiency when compared to the spinner setup. However, you can basically do all types of bass fishing with the baitcasting and the spinner. Still, the beginner that’s completely new to the sport will do better with the spinner as their first combo.
We recommend going with the 6’6″ fast-action spinner rod and size 35 (3500) spinner reel for beginners, and a 7′ mid-heavy, fast-action casting rod with a low-profile 6.3:1 baitcasting reel for more advanced anglers looking to refine their technical skillset.
Choosing the Right Line for Bass Fishing
If you’re spooling up your spinner setup for the first time, you’ll need a 10-lb monofilament line. It’s readily available from retailers and affordable. If you’re going with the baitcaster set up, you’re better off with the 20-lb braided line for more strength.
You can tie off the braided line directly onto your lures. However, we recommend trying on a fluorocarbon leader with a swivel to the line using the double-uni knot for the best results. Advanced anglers would do better defaulting to the full-fluorocarbon 15-lb to 20-lb mainline.
While it’s the ultimate choice for baitcasters, it requires more skill for use in drag systems, better knot-tying skills, and more cash in your bass fishing budget.
Choosing the Best Lures for Bass Fishing
When bass feels frisky and feeds aggressively, it’s important to have a handful of hard bait. Spinnerbait, crankbait, swimbait, weedless jigs, and topwater lures will all need to feature in your tackle box.
We recommend starting with two crankbait types and one the rest for beginners. Lipless sinking crankbaits allow the targeting of deep waters with deeper structures. Shallow square-bill crankbait cover territory in shallow neighborhood ponds or off the dock.
Common Bass Lures
There are several crankbait types, but we find you’ll get the best results in your bass fishing if you alternate between the lipless and square bill types. Use a 5/8-oz spinnerbait in green, white, or chartreuse is versatile for yoyoing through the grass and thumping against the cover.
We recommend a ½-oz skirted jig for accurate flips into overhanging cover and punching through debris using a heavy lead head. Suppose you’re out during active feeding hours in the morning and evening. In that case, we recommend going with the 4″ swimbait in colors like brown, green, and white to paddle through any shad schools.
A ½-oz topwater frog lure is ideal for those shallow and swampy waters where the vegetation is thick and bass seeks cover under the shade of the lily pads. Thump your frog down and pause it around the openings in the pads. Resist the temptation to immediately set your hook when you get a hit. Wait for another two or three hits. Bass rarely take topwater frogs on the first approach.
Soft Bait for Bass Fishing
It’s important to have a selection of soft bait on hand during your angling adventure. The soft baits help you dial in a spot for slow-biting bass or lethargic fish where you need a slower approach.
We recommend going with soft plastic lures like 5″ stick baits, 5″, 7″ or 6″ tail worms or finesse worms, 4″ curl-tail grubs, 5″ shad jerks, and 4″ creature or tube baits. We recommend defaulting to neutral, earthy colors with your soft baits. Stick to browns, blacks, and whites when fishing the shallows and flats in depths under 10-feet.
Using bright colors like bubblegum and chartreuse is better for deeper locations and rocky bottoms. They also work well in stained waters. White and silver are the best choices for imitating baitfish with jerk shads and curl-tail grubs.
Bass Terminal Tackle, Hooks, and Sinkers
Next on the tackle list, it’s time to line up the jig heads, swivels, sinkers, hooks, and beads in your new tackle box. We recommend going with a 3/0 or 4/0 EWG Worm hook paired with soft plastic bait worms. To rig the worms wacky-rig style, you’ll need 1/0 octopus hooks.
We prefer the lightweight round-bend worm hooks (#1-1/0). This strategy ensures that the worm sinks deeper while staying off the bottom longer when using the Carolina rig. You’ll need a few sinkers for rigging the worms in Texas, Carolina, and Drop-shot styles, with ¼ to 1/8-oz worm weights being the benchmark for the Texas rig.
They also suit use on the Carolina rig when positioned over a #7 barrel-swivel and 6-mm red-bead. We recommend using a drop-shot rig with ¼ to 1/8-oz casting sinkers in a tandem setup. Make sure you keep some extra ¼-oz and 1/8-oz jig-heads to your jig-tube baits. Push the jigs eyelet through the jig tube covering your jig head.
Suppose you are fishing colder waters and the bass appear lethargic. In that case, we recommend pairing a 3″ to 4″ grub bait on the jigs allowing you to spoon-feed smaller profiles.
Storing Your Bass Fishing Tackle
When it comes to storing your tackle, you need a compact box with plenty of organizing space. We recommend going with something like the 11″ x 7″ Stowaway Utility Box. They are easy to carry by hand and store on the boat.
When you start having so much tackle, you need to expand on your beginner setup with a soft-sided tackle box to secure your stowaways as your tackle grows. The hard-sided tackle box is the more popular choice for the weekend-warrior bass angler.
Where Do You Fish for Bass?
Now that you understand the gear requirements for bass fishing, it’s time to unpack where to find the fish. Bass behavior dictates that around 90% of the fish will be sitting in just 10% of the water. So, if you’re in a big lake, that means that you have a lot of water to cover to find the fish.
Finding a productive fishing spot requires you to consider a combination of factors. To succeed with your bass fishing, you need to find the right balance of structure, depth, water temperature, cover, and water conditions. Fortunately, when you have the environmental requirements nailed to a tee., you’ll find they apply to any fishing spot.
When you get your factors right and start landing a big bass, take note of the spot and the mentioned factors. When they aren’t in peak feeding activity, you’ll find that large bass will travel alone or in a pod of two to three fish.
Therefore, after landing a few big fish in the same spot, it’s likely that your success rate will start to slip. Take note of the features and factors influencing your success in that spot, and duplicate them when selecting future sites.
The structure defines the bottom and its shape. You’ll find that bass hold to the structure, especially in cases where there are transitions in the structure.
Any change in the water depth or the consistency of the bottom consistency are markers of structural changes. Some of these identifiers include structural features like points, creek channels, holes, humps, and drop-offs.
Bass doesn’t like being out in the open water all the time. On warm days, you’re likely to find them taking cover under the shade of lily pads or other debris, providing them with cover from the direct sunlight. Cover comprises both natural and man-made objects. So, they could hide under the cover of that lily pad or a dock.
Using Structure and Cover to Your Advantage
The angler’s goal is to position themselves in spots with good structure and cover. Start near the structure where you think the bass are holding, targeting areas providing cover. These areas are primed for bass striking.
Bass will often lay or swim along with transitions of drop-offs. The shade under the dock provides bass with the perfect drop-off for feeding.
Bass fishing is best in waters between 65F to 75F. If there’s a week of temperature increases from 67F to 73F, this increase will ramp up activity in the lake. However, if there’s a week of declining activity, the bass will start to become lethargic.
The body temperature of a bass acclimatizes to its surrounding water temperature. When conditions get under 60F, the bass experience a metabolic slowdown that makes them more sluggish, and they start to conserve energy.
When the temperatures get above 80F, they panic and start to go into survival mode. So, going bass fishing when the weather is too warm or too cold is a waste of time. You need to ensure that you get to the lake on days when the temperatures are just right.
The sunlight also affects bass behavior during the day. The fish are most active in the early morning and evening during the day. During these times, the light conditions are lower, and the bass has better success with foraging for food.
The bass will be more active, and they will also show up consistently in the best locations around the lake. So, these times of the day are the best for dock anglers to take to the shallows to try their luck. When the sun starts to rise in the late morning, the bass moves to deeper water or hides under cover of shade from natural and man-made debris.
During the midday sun, the bass like to get as deep as possible. If you’re out fishing for bass at this time, we recommend trying spots like holes, creek channels, and humps. As the sun transitions through the sky and the air cools, the bass starts transitioning back to the shallows to feed.
During the spring, the water temperature can reach 65F by March in the Southern States and May to June in the northern states. When the water temperature reaches 65F, the bass starts to spawn. Typically, bass spawn in around three to five feet of water in sheltered bays around the lake.
Those bass actively spawning won’t be actively feeding. However, anglers can spur males and females into biting behavior with the right tactics. The spawning season is a special time of the year for bass anglers. It gives them the chance to spot spawning beds easily from the shore, making it easy to find productive fishing spots.
You can identify spawning beds by looking for circles on the water surface around a foot in diameter. The bass holds tightly to the spawning bed, and anglers re-targeting these areas may provoke smaller males into biting behavior to defend the females.
Anglers need to respect the rules of catch and release during the spawning season so as to not disturb the natural breeding cycle of the fish.
Top Bass Fishing Techniques
Cast along edges of structural transitions instead of across them. You’ll also find that casting alongside the edge of the cover works well. The bass is usually to the side of the cover where it’s casting the shade, not directly under it. Let the bait cover the water column, then work the bait off the bottom during retrieval.
Working the Bottom
Outside of the spawning season, the bass is rarely in shallow water. So, try fishing off the bottom. Bounce skirt jigs or soft bait rigs along the bottom, alternating between lifting, dropping, and dragging steadily.
Target cover by rolling with a snag-less setup such as a spinnerbait over and on the sides of the cover. Ensure you thump against the cover, rolling the lure over to the shady side opposite the sun.
A good technique for use with heavy and trebled baits. Flipping gets jigs and cranks into the challenging to reach areas. Let out around 10-feet of line and pull out the line between the reel and the first guide. Pinch your line using your free hand.
Swing the bait like a pendulum toward the drop location and releasing the pinched line at the peak of the swing. This action flips the bait under the overhang, spooling out the excess line.
Pitching is similar to rolling. However, you’re pitching lures to target overhanging cover and confined areas with this method. Let the line out to the same length as the pole. Grab the lure or soft bait with the opposite hand.
Load the rod tip by pulling the bait to the side. Aim at the target and release your bait while letting the rod propel the lure into the target zone.
Understanding the Hookset
One of the most challenging aspects of bass finding for beginners is learning to set the hook. When you get that first bite, it can be a thrilling experience that you can’t help yourself but try to immediately set the hook.
However, the bass is a picky, cautious feeder, so it’s important to wait for that second and third nibble before attempting to set the hook. When you’re using softer, smaller lures, you don’t need to worry about the fish spitting out the lure because they don’t recognize the rubbery materials.
So, we recommend that you give it to the count of three after feeling the bite before setting the hook with your strike. Suppose the fish are displaying aggressive feeding behavior. In that case, you don’t have to worry about waiting for the fish to nibble a few times, just rip away.
When setting the hook, reel in the slack in line till you feel the fish moving or the rod tip starts “loading up” or bending. If you feel any resistance or pull, set your hook by pulling hard on the rod up and towards your body, not away from it.
Keep the direction away from where the fish is moving, using a quick, snapping strike to get them on the hook. Don’t go crazy when setting the hook, as you might damage the fish. Don’t allow any slack in the line, and keep the rod tip pointed to the “1 or 2 o’clock” position when landing the bass.
Your hook can occasionally miss the roof of the fish’s mouth, cutting into its cheek. As a result, it creates a hole where the bass spits out the hook or dislodges it if the fish decides to jump after setting the hook. Keep the slack out of your line to prevent this from occurring.
Handling Your Bass After Reeling It In
It’s important to know how to handle the fish properly after reeling it in. as a beginner, you can’t wait to get your hands on the fish and display it for the world on Instagram.
However, fish have a delicate “slime” coating over them that protects them from bacteria in the water. Removing this coating and returning them to the water encourages the risk of a disease outbreak in the local bass population.
So, after landing the fish, don’t place it on the ground where it might remove or damage this slimy coating. The chance is you’re eventually going to land a fish with a hook in its cheek from a previous escape.
Keep a set of pliers on hand in your tackle box to remove the hooks from the fish before returning them to the water. Look up a video on YouTube to learn the correct handling procedure for “gut-hooked” or deep-hooked fish. Ensure that you always dispose of any plastics correctly.
If you’re keeping the fish for eating, remember to brain and bleed it to put it out of its suffering and preserve the meat quality. Fish can feel pain, too, despite what people tell you. Drive your knife into the area just behind the eyes, and you’ll instantly kill it. Use the knife to cut the veins in the gills and bleed the fish in the water.
Handle Bass with Care
If you’re returning the fish to the water, but you want to take a picture of that 2.2-lb monster, grip it by the mouth for as short a time as possible. Holding large fish by the lip can injure its jaw, preventing it from feeding.
The preferred method is to use both hands and place one in the mouth and the other on the belly to support the fish. Remember to keep the fish off the ground or the boat’s deck.
In Closing – Practice CPR
CPR stands for Catch, Photo, Release. Unless you’re eating the fish or culling them, you’ll always return them to the water. Since bass isn’t the best fish for eating, then chances are you’ll be returning them at your local fishing spot.
Bass can survive for some time when they are out of the water. However, the longer you keep them away from the water, the more stress you place on the fish, reducing its chances of survival after returning it to the water.
If you eat bass, remember that the larger fish produce larger offspring. The larger the bass, the worse the meat tastes.