Largemouth bass. These two words are enough to send a shiver of excitement up an angler’s spine. If you’ve ever tied into a big female, watching her leap clear of the water in an effort to throw your hook, you know why.
That first glimpse of a fantastic fish, the rush of excitement when your rod starts to take her weight, the pulse-pounding seconds when she runs for a stump as you try to muscle her back toward the boat–these are the moments that anglers live for!
As winter loses its grip on the weather, it’s time for many to focus on largemouth. And if you’d like to catch more bass, and maybe a few real bruisers, we’d like to help. Below, you’ll find a few of our most useful bass fishing tips and techniques – all of which are guaranteed to improve your largemouth success!
Table of Contents
- 1 Largemouth Bass Basics
- 2 Bass Fishing Tips: How to Catch More Largemouth
- 3 Bass Fishing Techniques: Our Favorite for Largemouth
- 4 Final Thoughts
Largemouth Bass Basics
The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is perhaps the American angler’s most prized trophy. Shading from olive green near the dorsal fin to a brilliantly white belly, the largemouth can reach an impressive 30 inches and 20 pounds over its 10 to 16-year lifespan. As is typical, females are generally larger than males.
Unsurprisingly, this species gets its common name from the size of it’s expanding mouth, which it uses to “suck” in prey items.
Indeed, largemouth bass are voracious predators that eat pretty much anything that can fit in their capacious mouths. Their usual prey ranges from minnows and crawfish to snakes, frogs, and other fish. Bass aren’t finicky eaters, and unless there’s sufficient cover for prey to hide, they can quickly clean a pond of food, resulting in long-term starvation.
Bass are ambush predators, finding a good place to hide by using cover and structure to their advantage. As a result, you can find some real bruisers in tough places to fish: downed trees, clusters of stumps, and thick vegetation like lily pads, weed beds, and water covered by grass mats.
Largemouth bass begin spawning when water temps reach a constant 60 degrees. Sand and gravel are top choices for spawning beds, and like many other species, expect the males to make the first moves from winter holding areas, followed by females a tad later.
During the spawn, bass of both sexes will be concentrating on reproduction rather than feeding, with both males and females holding over the spawning grounds and beds. After mating concludes, the females will move off to begin feeding, leaving the males to guard the eggs and fry.
During and just before the spawn, bass can be triggered to bite either by instinctive reflex or by irritation, however, and we offer some tips below to help you make the most of this season.
Bass Fishing Tips: How to Catch More Largemouth
Use the Right Line
Bass fishing is pretty tackle-intensive, and the right gear can mean the difference between a trophy and nothing at all.
But as we’ve discussed before, there is more misinformation, myth, and muddle surrounding line choice than in any other aspect of fishing. And while there’s no “best” line for every situation, there are some general recommendations we can make.
If you want to know why we say what we do, and how we can be sure, please check out our full “Myths Busted” article.
We like mono a lot, and serious mono like Stren Original is fantastic for most anglers and many circumstances.
It ties easily, preserving tensile strength at the knot. That means you’ll be far less likely to have a line failure than with other choices. It also provides superior shock strength and impressive real-world abrasion resistance.
We like that shock absorbing stretch, especially when bass try to throw our hooks, but it can be a problem for hooksets.
Mono floats, and that can be an advantage in two respects. On the one hand, it’s awesome when you’re working topwater lures. On the other, it can slow the fall of your rig just a hair, which, as you’ll see below, can matter a lot.
Mono’s disadvantages? It’s not as limp and castable as braid, and that stretch really can compromise a hookset when worm fishing.
Braid offers some serious advantages. Because it’s strong for its diameter, you can pack more line on your reel with braid than you can with mono or fluorocarbon. Since it barely stretches at all, it’s also the most sensitive choice, and it generally casts better than alternatives, too.
But it doesn’t tie particularly well, and worse still, its knot strength is very poor across most brands. As we’ve said before, TackleTour’s tests revealed an average knot strength of just 49 percent for braided lines! For 20 pound test, then, that means that average braid will start to experience knot failure at just 9.8 pounds!
That’s simply a huge disadvantage, largely negating the superior strength of braid.
One way to overcome this is to step up to very heavy tests–that’ll give you more tensile strength at the knot. Pros like Bobby Lane will often do this, running 50 and 65-pound braid on their casting gear. Tied properly, that gives them 30 or so pounds at the knot.
Why do pros do this?
30 pound mono or flouro won’t cast as well as 50-pound braid, so pound for pound, they’re getting more performance out of that heavy braid. But braided line is already pretty obvious in the water, and you’ll probably want to run a fluorocarbon or mono leader.
Fluoro has a few advantages and a lot of hype surrounding it. It doesn’t absorb water, which is good, but it has a lot of memory, so it typically isn’t a great choice for long casts. Moreover, most fluorocarbons offer inferior knot strength, though Seaguar Invizx is a notable exception to this, providing incredible performance in this respect.
You’ll often hear that fluoro is “low stretch;” that’s simply not the case. Fluorocarbon, like nylon monofilament, stretches under load. When this is put to the test, fluoro demonstrates slightly less stretch than comparable nylon mono, though it tends to retain that elongation, permanently deforming as a result.
Don’t take our word for it; trust Berkley! According to them, fluorocarbon “actually stretches more than nylon mono. The difference is, it takes a greater force to get fluoro stretching in the first place. As a result, fluoro makes a fine choice for situations where controlled stretch is helpful, whether as a mainline or a leader in conjunction with low-stretch superline.”
Fluoro is also touted as “fast-sinking,” but in the real world, the difference between it and braid are absolutely minimal. And as far as its supposed invisibility, the jury’s still out: we can’t find any scientific reason to suppose this is true. Rob Hughes summarizes our view pretty well. “Flouro [sic] is a brilliant material for a number of reasons, but assuming that it is invisible is a recipe for disaster.”
So what are the advantages of fluorocarbon?
It’s a bit more dense than mono, so it’s more sensitive, even though it offers shock absorption. It’s also about as invisible as quality mono, making it a good choice for a leader, especially when tied to braid.
What do we recommend?
As you can see, each type of line has strengths and weaknesses, and which is best for you depends on where and what techniques you’re fishing. Our testing revealed that your top choices in mono, braid, and fluorocarbon are Stren Original, Sufix 832, and Seaguar Invizx, respectively.
Keep Your Hooks Sharp
Bass have bony jaws, and they quickly dull hooks. We’ve heard one pro confess that he sharpens his hooks after every fish, but that’s probably going a bit far!
But we do think you should change hooks often, and use the highest quality options you can find.
You probably already do that with your worm hooks, but keep in mind that while the trebles that come on your lures may seem plenty sharp, they’re usually a budget option to keep costs low for the manufacturer.
One tip you can pick up from the pros is to replace your treble hooks with premium quality alternatives like Gamakatsu. Subtly different in shape, premium hooks improve set and keep fish locked to your line far better than the bargain options.
Speaking of hooksets, a tip we like is to double set. This is a bit of insurance that’s saved a few fish for us, and it’s always a good idea.
Once you set the hook, get your line tight with a few cranks, and then set it again. This will all but guarantee that the hook is where it needs to be, and that the barb has penetrated to full depth.
Match the Hatch
As we mentioned above, bass are aggressive ambush predators. And though they’ll eat pretty much anything they can fit in their mouths, our experience and research suggest that you should “match the hatch” unless the water is particularly murky or stained.
For the most part, that means crawfish and shad.
As a result, we like oranges, reds, browns, silvers, golds, and blacks on our lures. And it’s never a bad idea to throw a crankbait that resembles a shad, and tossing a crawfish-shaped soft bait pays off quite a bit.
Making the Spawn Pay Off
When bass spawn in the spring, food isn’t on their minds. Instead, they’re single-minded about reproduction.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get them to bite–you just need to follow a few tips to make this season work for you.
Remember that as the water warms to a consistent 60 degrees, males will be the first to arrive on the spawning beds. Females will hold nearby, usually at a drop off into deeper water. If you fish the shallows, you’ll be hitting small fish; if you go too deep, you won’t lure the really big females into bites–they’re not in feeding mode.
Instead, guides like Clark Reehm in Texas recommend throwing a Carolina rig into 8 to 12 feet of water, working the edges of the spawning beds before that big drop-off. He likes to run a Zoom Brush Hog in watermelon. This crawfish imitator is murder all summer, too.
You’ll need to practice patience, and the slower you work your rig, the better. As Reehm explains, “… these fish aren’t there to feed.” You’re playing on their instincts and trying to entice a bite even when they’re not particularly hungry.
Not sure how to rig your soft bait Carolina style? Check out this video:
Slow Your Fall
The timing of the fall of your soft bait is critical. Whether you’re throwing worms, Brush Hogs, lizards, or anything else, you need to keep this in mind.
When a hungry bass is looking for a meal, it’ll watch, smell, and feel with its lateral line.
As your rig falls past it, if it’s too slow for the conditions, the bass won’t check it out. Larger, older, craftier bass will notice something’s not right and pass. By contrast, if it’s too fast for the conditions, lazy bass aren’t going to give chase.
You need to hit the “Goldilocks zone:” just fast enough to entice a strike, but just slow enough to make it worth the effort.
Bassmaster Classic champion Larry Nixon thinks this is the key to catching the big ones. “You absolutely have to figure out the correct fall rate to catch more bass,” he says. “If they get too good of a look at your worm, they won’t touch it. There’s no formula or guarantees because it changes every day, so it’s important to always try different weight sizes.”
As he explains to Wired2Fish, “There are a lot of variables that determine weight selection, but I always tell beginners to start out with a 3/16 and 1/4-ounce weight,” Nixon said. “If it’s a tough bite in stained water, I’ll slow down with a 1/8-ounce weight and make longer casts. If I’m trying to force reaction bites in clear water or battling windy conditions, I might beef it up to a 3/8-ounce weight for a faster fall and a better feel of the bottom.”
When you do find the right speed, that’s going to be money all day, all over the lake.
Bass Fishing Techniques: Our Favorite for Largemouth
Drop Shot Weed Edges
The edges of weed beds are hot spots for bass. They’re also high-pressure areas that very few anglers will skip.
However, drop shotting these edges will produce largemouths even after they’ve been picked over by other techniques. A Texas rigged Gene Larew 6″ TattleTail Worm or Yamamoto Senko will keep your soft bait weed-free, and it’s one of my favorite ways to drop shot underwater vegetation.
Gene Larew 6″ TattleTail Worm
But I also like to wacky rig my worms and senkos while drop shotting, especially if I can keep my casts just outside the green stuff.
The trick to drop shotting is to use the lightest weight you can get away with and to gently twitch the soft bait. You don’t want to bounce the weight–the idea is to impart a gentle undulation to the worm or senko. The easiest way to do this is to allow a touch of slack in your line and use your wrist to gently twitch your rod.
John Murray gives a masterful demonstration of this technique in the video below:
Spring Jerkbaits Hunting for a Reaction Strike
Early spring has bass thinking about mating rather than feeding. But it’s also a predictable time to find them moving toward shallow water to spawn.
The key to maximizing the potential of the spawn is to provoke a reaction strike. That means presenting bass with something so tempting, so right, that they strike out of instinct.
For me, that often means fishing a jerkbait like the Rapala Shad Rap. Whether you choose yellow, silver, or molten copper, there’s a right and a wrong way to fish this lure.
Rapala Shad Rap
The wrong way is something you’ll see on your local lake all too often: treating a jerkbait like a crankbait.
The right way is to fish this lure with your rod, not your reel. Jerkbaits are designed to mimic an injured fish, and they work best when they’re sitting still. That sounds crazy, but here’s how it works. By allowing a tiny bit of slack in your line, and twitching this lure erratically before letting it stop, you signal to bass that something’s badly hurt. They’ll hit this lure on the stop more often than not.
The trick is to avoid repeating a pattern. Just as you don’t want to retrieve this little guy, you don’t want to twitch it predictably either. Vary the twitches–one, four, two, three–and don’t pull in a consistently straight line.
I like to toss these at points near spawning beds, working 5 to 10 feet of water. But as summer brings the heat, I also twitch these down the edges of weedbeds, relatively snag-free cover, and any structure I think is holding hungry bass.
Trimming the Grass with Crankbaits
Sometimes, deep-diving crankbaits are the way to go, and I love mine. But once the bass are feeding, they’ll take cover in weedbeds, beneath downed trees, and in other areas where prey are likely to happen by.
Plenty of anglers work the edges, but working the tops can be just as effective.
In search of a crankbait rod? Look no further! Click here for our recommendations
The trick is to work a shallow-running crankbait like the Rapala Scatter Rap in the water column between the weed tops and surface. Ideally, you cast obliquely to the weedline, working the lure across and slightly into the weedbed. As the weeds start to catch your crankbait, pop it loose with a quick jerk.
Mike Iaconelli loves this technique, pairing it with fluoro or mono and a fiberglass rod. That gives him an elastic action on the “popping” that excites bass to strike.
Spring Topwater with Propbaits
Last, but certainly not least, I love to throw topwater lures in late afternoon. Whether that’s a Heddon Tiny Torpedo in perch, or its big brother, the Baby Torpedo, in clear or fluorescent green crawdad, I found these to be murder when I walked them over clean water near lily pads, grass beds, or downed trees.
Heddon Baby Torpedo
Whether I “walked the dog,” used an erratic jerking technique like a jerkbait, or steadily retrieved, the action was explosive!
Most of the time, you want to use this much like a jerkbait, popping with your rod tip and only using your reel to pick up slack. Be sure to pause! A pop-sit-pop-sit can elicit a big bass to hit it–but stay erratic and vary your cadence.
This is another technique where mono is the way to go.
If you’ve never used this kind of bait, Scott Martin shows you how it’s done:
Catching a big bass is about as exciting as it gets, and the heart-pounding excitement of a real fight is something you won’t forget!
We hope that these tips and techniques have helped you improve your largemouth repertoire, and we’d love to hear from you. Have we left out something you think is important? Did we miss your favorite tip or technique?
Let us know, and please leave a comment below.