Bass is a name shared by many species of fish, both freshwater and marine species. There are a whopping 9 recognized types of bass in America: Alabama bass, Florida bass, Guadalupe bass, largemouth bass, redeye bass, shoal bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass and Suwannee bass. Before we even start with giving you some tips on fishing bass, we’ll need to look further into a couple of the species.
We recommend you research thoroughly which type of bass you’ll be fishing, as there are different techniques and things you’ll need to know for fishing each one. They are also located in entirely different parts of the country. And, you’ll need to know something about how to differentiate the types of bass, to fully understand your catch.
To make it easier for you, we’ll start with an overview of two of the most popular bass to fish: largemouth and smallmouth bass. For sport anglers, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are two of the most prized catches. These fish are an extremely popular sport fish because they make the experience really thrilling.
They’re strong, nifty and speedy. They are also excellent fighters when caught on light spinning tackle. For both largemouth and smallmouth bass, popular methods of fishing them are fly-fishing, bait casting, or bottom fishing, and good baits to choose include live minnows, nightcrawlers, and worms.
Largemouth Bass are also referred to as other names, such as black bass, green trout, bigmouth bass, and lineside bass. This species almost has a cult status around it amongst anglers. It is considered the most popular gamefish in the whole of the United States.
Largemouth bass fishing tournaments have become very popular in recent years, due to the thrill of catching, or watching someone catch, the bass. They add an extra thrill element, with their strong, fast pull, that you don’t get with some of the more traditional fishing trips.
How can I recognize a Largemouth Bass?
There are some distinguishing markings on Largemouth Bass, that make them easy enough to recognize. Firstly, their lower jaw extends past the back edge of their eyes. Largemouth Bass also have a dark green top, with silvery sides and belly, and a strong dark stripe across the body.
The underside of Largemouth Bass ranges in color from light green to almost white. They have a nearly divided dorsal fin with the anterior portion containing nine spines and the posterior portion containing 12 to 13 soft rays. Largemouth Bass’s size is indicated in the name: they have been known to reach weights of over 20 pounds. No wonder they are such a prized catch!
Where can I find Largemouth Bass?
There are a few different places where you can locate, and fish for, Largemouth Bass in the United States. For example, they can be found in the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River), and Mississippi River basins. They can also be found in Atlantic drainages from North Carolina to Florida and northern Mexico. The species has been introduced widely as a game fish and it is now common to find popular lakes and fishing spots containing many Largemouth Bass.
Largemouth bass can be found in all kinds of bodies of water, from freshwater to a mix of fresh and saltwater (brackish) waters. They like large, slow-moving rivers or streams with cushioned floors. Largemouth Bass especially like clear water, so bear this in mind when you’re choosing the right fishing spot on the day.
Younger largemouth bass sometimes congregate in schools, but adults are usually solitary. Sometimes several bass will gather in a very small area, but they do not interact. Largemouth bass seek protective cover such as from rock ledges, vegetation, logs, and anything else they can hide under really. They prefer and thrive in clear quiet water, but will survive pretty well in a variety of habitats.
Just like with Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass is a hugely popular gamefish in the United States. It’s not quite as aggressive, large or engaging to catch as the Largemouth Bass, but it can still be found all over the US, and is popular amongst anglers, especially in the temperate zones of North America.
Due to its popularity, just like with its bigger-mouthed brother, it has been spread by stocking and illegal introductions to many cool-water tributaries and lakes in the United States.
How can I recognize a Smallmouth Bass?
The smallmouth bass usually looks brown, but appears sometimes as black or green (hardly ever, but sometimes yellow). It has red eyes, and dark brown vertical bands, rather than the horizontal band along the side of the largemouth. The upper jaw of smallmouth bass extends to the middle of the eye; there are 13–15 soft rays in the Smallmouth Bass dorsal fin.
The smallmouth’s coloration and hue may vary according to environmental variables such as water clarity or diet. The habitat of the Smallmouth Bass plays a significant role in their weight, color, and shape. River water smallmouth that live in dark water tend to be rather torpedo-shaped and very dark brown to be more efficient for feeding. Lakeside smallmouth bass, however, that live in sandy areas tend to be a light yellow-brown and are more oval-shaped.
The usual smallmouth is 8 to 15 inches long. In general, male Smallmouth Bass are smaller than females: males tend to be about two pounds, while females are from three to six pounds. Their average sizes can differ, depending on where they are found; but luckily for us, those found in American waters tend to be larger due to our long summers. This is part of what makes fishing in America great: our longer summers sometimes mean that fish are larger, as they can eat and grow for a longer period of time.
Where can I find Smallmouth Bass?
There are a few different places where you can locate, and fish for, Smallmouth Bass in the United States. For example, Minnesota and southern Quebec, south to the Tennessee River in Alabama and west to eastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas. As we can see, they have not been spread as widely around the US as the Largemouth Bass, but there are still a few different options for you when planning your next fishing trip, where you’ll be able to catch them.
Whereas catching Largemouth Bass is a heavy-duty effort, catching Smallmouth Bass is a bit more of a walk in the park. Smallmouth bass can be caught on lots of different types of live and artificial baits. Many anglers prefer the less expensive soft, plastic artificial bait, grubs, and tubes because lure loss is almost a certainty when you’re fishing Smallmouth Bass.
Light spinning tackle is the most popular choice for catching Smallmouth Bass, and the process takes the least out of you. Fly fishing is next in popularity, followed by bait casting, but these both involve spending a little more energy, as we all know.
So we’ve outlined, in detail, where to find, and how to spot the two most popular bass game fish. As we mentioned previously, it’s really necessary to research fully the details of the fish you are looking to catch. This doesn’t just apply to fishing for bass, but with all species.
Understanding the behaviors of fish help us to predict where to find them, and how they’re going to act. It also lets us know what we should be looking for to target, especially with fly fishing, or how to recognize the species of our catch. Well-researched fishing is responsible for fishing.
Now to the meat of it. Here are our top bass tips for bass fishing!
- Bass spend most of their time in lakes and rivers with plentiful freshwater, you’ll be able to find bass there. They tend to congregate in mossy, sheltered areas to prey on smaller fish, such as minnows. Make sure the lake or river you choose has fresh, clean water, and that you’re in a part of it where the water is particularly sparkling. If you’re fly fishing, look under potential shelters, like logs, rock ledges, and vegetation, where bass could potentially be hiding.
- The best time to fish for bass is during the warmer months from May through July.
- The most effective way to catch bass is by using minnows, crayfish, nightcrawlers, jigs, crank baits, and spinner baits. Both live bait and artificial fishing lures will attract bass, but one may be more attractive to smallmouth bass as opposed to largemouth bass. If you have them available, consider taking a few different options with you on your fishing trip, to find the perfect one.
- Early morning and late evening are the best time to catch bass as they tend to take shelter from the sun during the day. They are more active when the climate is cooler and the sun is not as bright.
- Use monofilament line: it’s super strong, and will withstand the bass’ pulling power more than other lines.
- Although many choose to fly fish bass, either from the shore or in the river wearing gaiters, bass boats are without a doubt the ideal craft for chasing largemouth bass. If you really want to catch bass like a pro, consider investing in one of these boats.
- Don’t give up! Bass is an ornery fish, which means to us that you have to keep tapping at it to upset it into biting your hook. It’s not going to just take the bait instantly, so don’t give up if you’re not successful the first time. With bass fishing, it really is all about try, try, try again! Bass position themselves in cover, often under a shelter as we have mentioned, and like the lure presented to them at different angles if they’re going to bite. Toss the lure into where they are, multiple times, at different angles, to make that bite more likely.
- When fishing for bass, even though we might want to go on a fishing trip on a nice sunny day, it’s better to head out when it’s not so nice out. The best time to fish bass is before a front comes through. This is because the pressure of san incoming storm makes the bass more active, so watch for a wall of clouds moving in and fish away! When it’s too pretty out, bass aren’t likely to bite, and the very worst time to fish them is after the storm has hit. Get them while they’re active.
- Bass are seasonal and picky eaters. Bass tend to eat different bait depending on the time of year. Read our complete guide on the best time of the year to fish for bass! Early in the year, they tend to have a yearning for crawfish, so at this time of the year use peach-colored patterned baits. In the summer and fall they like shad, so choose chrome or silver baits instead, if you’re planning on heading out in this time of year.
- Aim for the shallows. In the spring bass like to hang out in spawning beds. Concentrate on shallow areas, especially in pockets and coves protected from the wind because this is where they like to safely guard their eggs. They’ll bite as much out of irritation with the lure, coming into their space, as they will out of hunger.
- Put your face to the wind. Even though you might be sacrificing some distance in your casts by fishing with the wind in your face, it’s worth it with bass. Bass always swim with the current, so they should find your bait before they find your boat, or your legs.
- Keep an eye on your live well water. A Livewell is a tank found on many fishing boats that is used to keep bait and caught fish alive. You’ll be taking one with you, in your bass fishing boat topwater, or on the shore to store your catch. When you put a bass in the Livewell, they’re famous for spitting up what they were just feeding on. It might not be the most fun experience, but it will help you work out what the bass are hungry for that day. From there you can tell what color lure or kind of lure to throw the rest of the day.
- Make sure your hooks are super sharp! It only takes 30 seconds to sharpen your hook, and you can do it easily with a file. Consider bringing with you a camping multi-tool, to use for this purpose, and multiple others on your fishing trips. You should sharpen them every time you catch a fish and before every trip. Bass have pretty boney jaws, meaning it’s not always that easy to get a proper bite: a sharp hook is more apt to penetrate the fish, and make your trip successful.
- Bass see red! And we don’t just mean when they’ve bitten, and are trying to escape the bass angler. Using red can mean the bass is more likely to bite. In shallow cover, under wood, stumps, or another shelter the bass could be using, use a spinner bait with a red or pink head, and a crank bait with red hooks. The color red makes the fish think the bait’s injured, and they’ll bite at it, thinking it’s easy prey. Similarly, because bass like to ambush wounded prey, save your plastic worms even after they’ve been torn up. Bass are more likely to think they’re injured, and bite, especially in shallow water.
- We would recommend using big bass jigs. Bass jigs are the right choice because they’re incredibly versatile and they’re widely understood amongst bass fishermen to be the best bass lures. Bass jigs are versatile because they can be used year-round in any part of the lake, pond, or river you’re fishing. Take with you a couple of different sizes, and you can catch bass with jigs in pretty much any weather condition at any time of the year. Jig fishing is easy to learn but it’s really hard to finesse. This is probably why people get hooked on it, as the rewards are pretty instant, but you’re motivated to become better and better. And the rewards for becoming an expert are bigger and bigger bass! There are multiple types of jig for all occasions, some in soft plastic. Check out some on amazon, and choose the one that’s perfect for your exact fishing trip.
So there we have it, our top fishing techniques, tips, and tricks for bass. And if you’re looking for tips on the best bass fishing trips, we’ve got you covered too. One of our favorite places to go bass fishing is in Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida, people even refer to it as Florida’s Inland Sea.
Fishing trips here are a stunning experienced, as you’re surrounded by bright green and blue waters, and lush greenery, all under the Florida sun. It might not be the best choice for those of you wanting a bass thrill, but it’s some stunning surroundings to fish in.
Wherever you’re headed, make sure to research the kind of bass that will be there, and their habits depending on the weather and time of year. Enjoy our bass fishing tips, and we hope you catch the biggest bass!
Bonus tip: For some additional bass fishing tricks, check out this insightful video below!