• Rob Baker

It's all about the bass

So where are the bass and why aren't they biting my lures? I've been fishing a bunch of times, but mostly in a non-serious and unintentional way. My last three freshwater outings were calculated and strategic, and I've had nothing but poaching nibbles by non-bass (I think). Unless bass are rapidly evolving and developing lure detection capabilities never before seen, my guess is I am making some significant rookie mistakes.

The first question to answer is: Are bass present where I am fishing?

Well I'm pretty sure they are because the internet says so (when was Al Gore ever wrong?), and because I've actually seen them while trying to catch them. So "yes" to the issue of whether or not there is anything out there. Some experts say they always check to see where the bass are eating and what they are eating before launching a lure at them. I'd like to see how that's done (divining rods anyone?).

The second question is: What is the time of year, water temperature, water depth, and likely shady spot?

In other words, determine the habitat where the bass are more likely to be hanging out, and then present a lure to them that matches up with their location. In late July in central Florida the water is hot. Bass will be found near the bottom where the water is relatively cooler, near a source of shade like thick weeds, grass or lily pads. They'll be hunting along the deeper part of their shade using ambush strikes. Water depth could range from 4 to 20 feet. I saw several bass, one likely a largemouth, in 7 feet of water along the edges of grasses in Lake Sheen near my home.

The third question is: What lure to use and how to get the desired reaction?

Seems to me that my lures have to come face-to-face with the bass. If the bass are deep, I can't fish at the surface and expect to draw them up. Bass like the shade, not the sun. They'll be more likely to strike from the shady side of the weed patch, and this target zone will shift with the angle of the sun. I've read that in good visibility use a bright lure, and in darker water use a blue-brown or drab colored lure.

I've been using Texas-rigged Senko worms, soft-bodied tubes and DOA shrimp with a 1/8 oz weight on 10 lb monofilament line (lures shown below). It's a Carolina-rig without the leader.

I retrieve slowly while "jigging" the line (twitching it) slightly so that the weight and lure move together in a life like way just above the bottom. The soft-bodied lures on a Texas rig (there's more to a rig of this type than just hiding the hook, but that's all I do) keep the hook from snagging the grasses and bottom weeds. My overall understanding of summertime bass habitat in shallow Central Florida lakes feels logical to me, but so far isn't producing strikes.

So it's clear to me that there are some rookie angler errors on my part. I have to adjust a bit to generate strikes.

The water clarity is usually moderate to poor; mostly discolored by tannic acid from the cypress domes plus some algae from fertilizer pollution. Some websites suggest crankbaits in muddy water, which I would guess is equivalent to tannic conditions for the bass. Bass rely on their vision to identify food, so a large colorful crankbait may look better in lower visibility?? Crankbaits, with all those hooks, can get snagged pretty easily just on the scrappy bottom weeds. Crankbaits are much less likely to come back to the kayak unless it's a topwater-type like a Pop-R (provided my cast lands in the water, not the mangrove!). I may sacrifice one to try the idea, but I hate having to cut and leave fishing line behind. I am not diving in after snagged crankbaits. I've read that if I remove the forward treble hook on the crankbait I can reduce snags and fish well enough with only the trailing hook. So far the incomplete bites have come from behind and didn't make it up to the hook, so maybe this'll change my luck.

My crankbaits are in the two pictures below. The Pop-R on the right sits at the surface by design. I have not tried the Munn baby 1-minus (left). This Munn has a nice orange colored underside as well.

I think I do need to slow down my lures a lot. This is hard to do and requires more practice than I've been able to put in. I'm betting a fast moving lure is my biggest failure. Slow moving spinner baits are also suggested. My spinners (shown below) have a trailing treble hook, so like the crankbaits may be entirely unsuccessful in grass and weeds.

Anglers in motored boats tend to cover a lot of ground, moving on quickly if there are no strikes in a particular spot. Go to the fish, they won't come to you. Well that's a little easier from a kayak than while fishing from a dock, but it's not as simple as puttering along with a trolling motor. I'm going to put more effort into picking a series of locations and shift between them as the sun angle changes rather than working a small area to death. I'll add in a small spud anchoring system for my kayak so I can stay put exactly where I want to, rather than drifting out of position.

I've had nibbles and strong bites on bait, but nothing has grabbed a hook yet that I could set. Species that have nibbled include Chain Pickerel (shown above) and another that liked my Senko in a "wacky" rig but wouldn't grab the entire thing. I eye-balled two bass that passed below my kayak, but they were unconcerned about me and my lures in a rather contemptuous way. I'm going back to find that big one.

#problems #largemouthbass #fishingtactics

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