Fish Softly and Carry a Big Stick: Bass Fishing Techniques
Location, location, location right? Well not exactly.
If you want to get after big bass then it's about more than location. You have to have the right tools to get the job done. The truth about big bass is they are either out in the open and don't like to bite, or they are feeding in a forest of weeds and muck.
There's a reason big bass get big, they stay out of range, eat well, and survive longer. Big bass are in every lake, very rarely are there not big bass in a water system that contains bass. There may be more or less but they are there.
Many of the biggest bass I've caught have come from places where it didn't look like there was enough room for a fish to hide. Areas of sometimes less than 18" of water, full of weeds, wood, and junk.
In order to get to these fish it takes something more than your average mono filament line. You have to step it up.
To get to these fish requires patience as the fishing can be very slow and it requires presentations that match the slow speed. This type of fishing requires soft plastics, tough line, and plenty of weight.
So what are the things I need exactly? Well luckily that's what this article is all about.
If you want to probe the watery jungles for big bass then you have to bulk up your gear. Start with a 7' or longer, medium action rod with fast action,it an be spinning or casting. I prefer spinning gear which goes a little against the grain, just a preference for me. This kind of fishing is somewhere between vertical jigging and flipping so either will do.
Attach a a larger reel, something with fast line recovery. For spinning gear use a 4000 series reel. The idea is to have something that can rip the fish right out of the cover. You don't want anything that allows the fish to dig down into the cover. Get them up fast and keep them on top all the way to the boat.
The line is probably the most important selection. It can vary depending on just how thick the cover is. You want a braided line, Fire Line, Power Pro, or Stren Super Braid are some examples of good braids. I typically will rig up 30 lb. test Power Pro for jungle fishing. The use of 65 lb. braid is not uncommon in fishing tournaments. The 30 lb. Power Pro is the same diameter as 8 lb. mono filament. The size of the line is irrelevant to the fish for the most part, blending in to the surroundings quite easily. I would stick with dark colors, grey or green, for example, will blend in much better than gold or red line.
For knots I would stick with a Palomar Knot. It is very simple to tie and tests out with enormous strength. Here is a link that can help you tie a Palomar Knot.
So now you have the gear, time to bait it up. This is the fun part. For fishing in thick cover you need a few important things.
First, you need to use a rig that is weedless. Texas Rigs are my favorite, they are easy to work with and provide a quick change option. They resist weeds and snags very well. I would strongly recommend using a wide gap worm hook. These hooks can be pushed all the way through the plastic with the tip being flush or even slightly re-inserted back into the plastic. This holds the plastic in place better and allows for slightly better hook sets.
For working holes in vegetation you can dry a drop shot rig or a jig as well, just remember that you WILL have to clean things off between casts.
Second, you will need weight. As you saw in the Texas Rig images a bullet weight is often used. It wicks off weeds and slides through the water. There are multiple types of bullet weights. If you really want to get into the thick stuff you should look at going with Tungsten weights. They offer considerably more weight than lead in the same size. They also come in more colors and do not get dents like soft lead weights.
Third, the lure. Soft plastics come in all shapes and sizes. Tubes, Worms, Creature Baits, Minnow Mimics, and many more options are available. For another look into some of the top Bass Fishing Baits on the market today check out this slide show about the Top 10 Bass Fishing lures for 2009. A good general rule is that bigger baits catch bigger fish. It's not always true but there is some truth to it.
Last, you need patience. It takes many casts to catch big fish. It takes a methodical approach and presentation. You have to work slowly and remember to pause when a fish takes the lure. Make sure it has it and then try to rip it out of its mouth. This drives the hook home and lifts the fish out of the weeds before it can respond.
The picture at the top is of a spring bass over six pounds caught in my home state of Michigan. It was caught on a Zoom Super Hog in Neon Flash, Texas Rigged with a 3/8 oz. Tungsten Weight and a 4/0 Eagle Claw Wide Gap Worm Hook.
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