10 Effective Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips
This post with list 10 effective largemouth bass fishing tips. Largemouth bass are arguably the most popular freshwater game fish species. In this article, bass habits, locations, tackle, lures, and techniques will be covered. Capt Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Florida. In this article, he shares his experience of fishing for bass for almost 60 years.
10 effective largemouth bass fishing tips
Here is Capt Jim’s list of 10 effective largemouth bass fishing tips:
- Understand largemouth bass habits
- Get the proper largemouth bass fishing tackle
- Understand seasonal largemouth bass migrations
- Largemouth bass fishing with artificial lures
- Rigging soft plastic baits for largemouth bass
- Plugs are effective when fishing for largemouth bass
- Spinnerbaits are excellent largemouth bass fishing lures
- Spoons still catch bass
- Jigs work very well in cooler months and in heavy cover
- Largemouth bass fishing with live bait
Largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, are a carnivorous apex predator. They have an extremely diverse diet and thrive in a variety of environments. These are certainly two keys to their abundance and popularity. Largemouth bass are found in all of the lower 48 states, southern Canada, and even Hawaii. The proliferation of bass fishing tournaments the last few decades have certainly accounted for this surge in popularity.
1) Understand largemouth bass habits
Largemouth bass are ambush predators. This behavior alone is a major key in locating and catching fish. Largemouth bass have a very large and powerful tail and a huge mouth, thus the name. It prefers to lie in ambush and when prey gets too close, the bass flares it’s gills and inhales the helpless forage. This cover comes in many different forms, both natural and man made.
For the most part, largemouth bass prefer shallow, weedy lakes and rivers. They can be found in just about every type of aquatic vegetation at one time or another. Factors that dictate where they will be located are water temperature, sunlight, bottom composition, and availability of forage. Largemouth Bass thrive in a wide variety of warm water environments. This is certainly a key to their success, along with their varied diet.
Bass are caught in the smallest creeks up to huge impoundments and reservoirs. Largemouth bass can even tolerate some salinity and they thrive and brackish rivers all along the United States coastline. As long as the water is not too cold, anglers will find largemouth bass present. Man-made structures certainly attract largemouth bass as well.
Many larger reservoirs were flooded in the mid-60s and early 70s. Much of the flooded timber that attracted bass has long since rotted away. The fish have adapted and in many of these lakes boat docks are the prime cover for largemouth bass. Many of these docks are located in deeper water, or with access to deeper water, which bass prefer. Bridges and rip-rap will attract and hold largemouth bass as well.
2) Get the proper largemouth bass fishing tackle
The discussion of largemouth bass fishing tackle can get very complicated. However, for the purposes of this article we will try to keep it simple. There are four basic types of fishing rods and reels; spin cast, spinning, conventional or bait casting, and fly. Spin casting tackle is fine for novice anglers and children fishing for bluegill and other small fish, but it really is not suitable for serious largemouth bass fishing. Fly fishing for largemouth bass is great fun and challenging, but is a bit of a specialized tactic.
Best spinning rod and reel for largemouth bass fishing
Spinning tackle is the most widely used rod and reel outfit for anglers fishing across the world for both freshwater and saltwater species. It is versatile, durable, affordable, and easy to learn to use. Just a few years ago, most serious bass fisherman used conventional tackle. One look at a current bass fishing tournament on television will provide evidence of how popular spinning tackle has become, even among serious bass anglers.
The increase in the popularity of spinning tackle has a lot to do with the advent of finesse fishing. This is an extremely effective technique for largemouth bass and other species. However, the lures used are very light. Spinning tackle is well-suited, much more so than bait casting tackle, to casting and fishing these very light baits.
There is no one spinning outfit that is best for all bass fishing situations. A 7 foot medium action rod with a fast tip paired with a 3000 series reel is an excellent all around combination. A rod such as this has plenty of backbone to fight a big fish while the limber tip gives anglers good casting distance and accuracy with light lures.
Best baitcasting rod and reel for largemouth bass fishing
Baitcasting, or conventional, tackle certainly has its place and bass fishing. A couple of the advantages of bait casting tackle are the power and line control. Anglers keep constant light pressure on the spool as it revolves with their thumb, allowing for very accurate distance control. Also, since the line comes straight on the spool and does not turn 90° as it does with spinning tackle, it provides more power. Most anglers largemouth bass fishing choose conventional tackle when flipping jigs and other soft plastic baits into heavy cover as well as when casting heavier plugs. Bait casting tackle works very well in conjunction with heavier lures. A 6 1/2 foot medium heavy rod with a matching reel will get the job done.
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A quick note here needs to be inserted about bass fishing rods and reels. Advanced anglers will often have specifically designed rods and reels for certain types of fishing. These rod and reel combinations are custom designed to do a specific task. There are worm rods, spinnerbait rods, crankbait rods, etc. For anglers who can afford many different outfits, this is fine. However, this should not discourage anglers who can only afford a couple of outfits. Versatile spinning and bait casting rod and reel combinations such as the ones mentioned above will serve anglers well in a variety of fishing situations.
Best largemouth bass fishing line
Anglers largemouth bass fishing have several choices when it comes to line. These basically break down into three categories; braided line, monofilament line, and hybrid or fluorocarbon line. Again, serious anglers will have rod and reel outfit set up with certain line types for certain situations. For most anglers, 20 to 40 pound braided line is an excellent all round choice. Those fishing in very clear water may opt for fluorocarbon or monofilament line.
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So, to button up the tackle conversation, two well thought out outfits will cover the vast majority of situations that a largemouth bass anglers will find himself or herself in. A medium spinning outfit spooled up with 14 pound fluorocarbon line and a heavier bait casting outfit spooled up with 30 pound braid is an excellent start.
3) Understand the seasonal migration of largemouth bass
It is very important to understand the seasonal migrations of largemouth bass in order to be successful. In the coldest months of the year, depending on the geographical location, bass will usually school in deeper water. This is usually done over some type of structure such as a river channel edge or the drop off on a point. Florida and the extreme south, this does not occur as drastically.
As the water warms up, bass will begin their pre-spawn migration. Bass will stage in areas of a few feet to several feet deep off of prime spawning spots. These are areas of preferably sandy bottom or even small gravel. Largemouth bass can be aggressive at this time and easier to catch. At a certain time, usually triggered by a full moon, fish move up and begin bedding. The male bass will use its tail to fan out a saucer-shaped nest. The female will then deposit the eggs and the male bass will fertilize them. Bass are not really interested in feeding at this point, however they will attack a lure in order to defend the nest. Fishing at this time takes a lot of patience, but the reward can be a trophy!
After the spawn is completed, the post spawn phase begins. This is an excellent time to fish for largemouth bass! They are usually hungry and aggressive after the period of guarding the nest where they really don’t feed much. Again, the transition areas just off of the flats as well as any cover on the flats can be productive spots.
Summer bass habits
In summer, largemouth bass will move to several different locations. In the south where a lot of the lakes are too shallow to really be cool, bass will find the heaviest cover with the most shade that has forage available. This usually includes docks and very thick vegetation. In larger lakes, largemouth bass will often move offshore to deeper water and stage up on point drop-offs and channel edges. This is particularly true in lakes that have good populations of shad and herring. This is a time of year when anglers will encounter schools of largemouth bass feeding on the surface even in quite deep water. The bass will trap the helpless bait fish against the surface of the water. This is an exciting situation for anglers bass fishing to encounter!
As it cools off, largemouth bass will usually move back shallow and scatter out. In some bodies of water, this can be a difficult time to fish as bass can be anywhere. The back ends of creeks can be good as bait fish will often concentrate there. Bass will also relate to vertical structures such as sheer cliff walls and steep drop-offs. Some lakes “turn over”. This is when cooling water sinks through the water column down to the bottom. It can churn up bottom debris, turning the water dark or even black. This can be a difficult time to fish. As it gets colder, fish will revert to their winter locations and the cycle will start all over again. Obviously, every year is different when it comes to weather, water levels, and other factors which will determine largemouth bass locations.
4) Fishing for largemouth bass with artificial lures
While live bait can certainly be effective when largemouth bass fishing, the vast majority of anglers do so using artificial lures. Any angler new to the sport of bass fishing may be completely overwhelmed when walking down the aisles of his or her local tackle shop. Again, the goal here is to simplify and explain the choices anglers have when it comes to largemouth bass fishing lures.
Artificial lures break down into several categories. These are soft plastic baits, plugs, spinners, spinner baits, spoons, and jigs. Each of these major categories can be broken down into several subcategories as well.
Soft plastic largemouth bass fishing lures
Soft plastic baits have revolutionized largemouth bass fishing. They are available in every conceivable size, shape, and color. They look very lifelike and enticing in the water. Many are even scented, adding to their effectiveness.
Plastic worms hit the market in the late 1960s, and bass fishing has never been the same. These early lures were very stiff, unlike the supple baits available today. While there are many different soft plastic styles to choose from, the simple plastic worm is still incredibly effective. They are available in a multitude of sizes, colors, and even styles.
One of Capt. Jim’s favorite plastic worms for largemouth bass fishing is the Zoom Trick worm. It is a slender worm that is 6 1/2 inches long. It can be rigged in any manner to be effective. Dark colors work well in darker or stained water, while clear or lighter colors work best in clear water. Green pumpkin is an excellent all round color.
The Yamamoto Senko is a fantastic and very popular soft plastic bait. It is kind of a bridge between a worm and a finesse bait. It is available and 4 inch models and 5 inch models in a wide variety of colors. It can be rigged a variety of ways, however is extremely effective in a finesse fishing situation.
There are a huge selection of creature baits available to anglers largemouth bass fishing. These can imitate salamanders, crayfish, and even critters that don’t exist. It really doesn’t matter if the bait resembles something natural, it is all about the undulating action and scent in the water. Most anglers opt for dark or natural colors. Black is an excellent all round color that will produce just about every situation.
Swimbaits are basically soft plastic versions of hard plugs. Most have some type of paddle or curly tail and imitate a bait fish swimming through the water. They can be rigged on a jig head, but are most often done so using a swim bait hook. These lures range in size from 3 inches up to even a foot or so. Capt. Jim likes the Bass Assassin line of baits.
Grubs and tubes
Grubs and tubes are also very effective soft plastic lures for largemouth bass fishing. These are most often effective when bass require a more subtle presentations. Mister Twister curly tail grubs hit the market in the late 70s and have been catching fish ever since. They are usually fished on a jig head and have an excellent action in the water. They can be used to imitate both bait fish and crustaceans.
The Berkeley tube jig is a tube bait. This lure works very well when largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are staged in deeper water over structure. The separated tales of the tube jig undulate very naturally in the water, attracting game fish. It is best worked slowly, right on the bottom.
5) Rigging soft plastic baits for largemouth bass
Soft plastic baits are very versatile and can be rigged and presented in a variety of manners. These include Texas rig, Carolina rig, wacky rig, swim bait hook, and drop shot rig. Each has situations where they are quite effective.
A Texas rigged soft plastic bait uses a specially designed hook. The bait is threaded on a quarter of an inch or so and the bait slides up the hook to the eye. The hook is then inserted into the body of the bait, making it weedless. Anglers usually use a sliding sinker to get the bait down in the water, though it can be used without weight as well.
The Carolina rig usually combines a Texas rigged worm with a heavy sliding sinker. It is an extremely effective presentation that is usually used in deeper water. The running line slides through the sinker and is tied to a swivel. A leader connects the swivel to the worm hook. The leader is usually around 3 feet long. This rig allows the sinker to crawl along the bottom while the worm, usually a floating worm, suspends just a bit above the bottom.
A wacky rigged worm looks almost silly. However, it is turned out to be an extremely effective and fairly easy to use bass fishing technique. The hook is inserted through the middle of the worm. Is then cast out and allowed to undulate naturally as it sinks through the water column. Most takes occur on the initial cast, though the worm can be hopped once or twice. Bass will often pick up the worm and run off with it, making it easy to detect a strike. It is often used in conjunction with a light jig head called a shaky head jig.
Swim bait hook
Soft plastic baits can be rigged on a swim bait hook as well. These are specially designed hooks that look like a worm hook but with a weight molded in the bend of it. This results in a horizontal presentation. Some type of keeper near the eye of the hook allows the bait to be inserted and then the hook is buried in the bait Texas rig style. This is an extremely effective way to cover a lot of water with a soft plastic bait.
Drop shot rig
The drop shot rig is a fairly recent technique developed by anglers fishing for finicky bass and deep, clear water. The rig consists of a special drop shot weight with a drop shot hook tide 12 inches to 18 inches above the weight. The hook is designed to stick straight out to the side. Some type of finesse bait is then knows hooked on. The rig is either cast out, but more often drop straight down, and worked with subtle movements of the rod tip. This rig keeps the bait suspended just off the bottom, in the strike zone of the largemouth bass.
6) Plugs are effective when fishing for largemouth bass
Plugs are hard bodied lures that are used to mimic baitfish or crayfish. Back in the day, they were hand carved from balsa wood. Most plugs today are made from plastic. Top water plugs float on the surface and spend all of their time there. Diving plugs float on the surface and dive down to the desired depth. This depth is determined by the size and shape of the lip on the plug. Anglers can purchase plugs that work the entire water column, from the surface down to over 20 feet deep.
Topwater plugs float on the surface the entire presentation. Some have a concave front that puts out a nice “pop” when twitched sharply. Others have propellers, either on the front or rear, which puts out a commotion. Some have neither of these and are just conical shaped, with the angler creating the action in the lure. These are called “walk the dog” baits. Color matters less for topwater plugs than it does for many other lures. Capt. Jim’s favorite popper is the venerable Arbogast Hula Popper.
Capt. Jim’s favorite propeller bait is the Rapala Skitter prop.
Capt. Jim’s favorite walk the dog bait is the Heddon Zara Spook.
Honorable mention goes to a new top water lure that has been productive the last few years. It is called the Whopper Plopper and is sort of a propeller bait, with a tail that puts out a lot of commotion when retrieved.
There is a family of long, slender plugs that anglers call “jerkbaits”. Depending on the model purchased and the lip that it has, these jerk baits can work the water column from a few feet down as deep as 15 or even 20 feet. They have a very erratic action in the water. The bait is worked quite aggressively, with the angler using hard twitches followed by a pause. This causes the bait to jerked sharply and then hover there suspended. Capt. Jim’s favorite jerk bait is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. White is an excellent all round color
Crankbaits are generally a bit rounder, shaped more like a shad or a bluegill. Like jerk baits, they are available and models that work from just a foot or two below the surface down to 20 feet or so. They are extremely effective in the summer when bass relate to schools of herring and shad. For that reason, lighter colors are generally the most productive. Crank baits can also be used to imitate crayfish. In those situations, darker colors work best. Capt. Jim’s favorite crankbaits are the Strike King KVD baits.
7) Spinnerbaits are excellent largemouth bass fishing lures
Spinnerbaits are extremely effective and versatile largemouth bass fishing lures. They are also among the easiest for novice anglers to learn to use as they have a ton of built in action. A spinner bait is basically a wire frame it looks a bit like a safety pin. At the top of this is a blade or blades and on the bottom is some type of jig or hook. The line tie is in the center.
Due to the design, spinner baits are quite weedless. They tend to bounce over and around and through logs and vegetation. Spinnerbaits are extremely effective when used in shallow water, however they can be slow down and “slow rolled “ in deeper water as well. While spinner baits really do not look like anything in the water, they put out flash, vibration, and color. These are all things that imitate wounded prey.
Spinnerbaits are available and many different colors and sizes. A tandem blade spinner bait in the 3/8 ounce or 1/2 ounce size in chartreuse and white is an excellent all round lure. Anglers can even add their favorite soft plastic trailer to add more bulk to the lure. Capt. Jim’s favorite is the Terminator spinner bait. Buzz baits are a variation of a spinner bait with the exception that it spends the entire time on the surface. The shape of the blade is a bit different, it is more like a propeller. The angler begins to retrieve as soon as the lure lands in the bait puts out a rhythmic gurgle as it moves across the surface of the water. It works best in shallow water and is a very exciting way to fish as strikes can be explosive!
8) Spoons still catch bass
Spoons are very simple artificial lures that have been around a long time. They basically consist of a curved piece of metal, usually in a chrome or gold finish, along with a hook at the rear. Spoons are heavy and can be cast a long distance, making them an excellent bait for searching for fish. They can also be used in a vertical presentation when largemouth bass are schooled up over deep water structure. Capt. Jim’s favorite casting spoon is the Johnson Silver Minnow spoon.
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Perhaps the most effective spoon used when largemouth bass fishing is the weedless spoon. This is a spoon that rides with the hook up and usually has a weed guard, resulting in a bait that will not hang up very easily in the weeds. It works very well when fished through and around lily pad beds as well as other aquatic vegetation. Anglers will often add a soft plastic trailer onto the hook to add bulk. The number one weedless spoon by far is the Johnson Silver Minnow in the 3/4 ounce size in the gold finish.
9) Jigs work very well in cooler weather and heavy cover
Jigs are most likely the first fishing lure created by man. A jig is basically a hook with a weight molded in near the eye. This weight gives the jig both casting distance and gives the lure its distinctive action. Some type of dressing or body is then added to the hook to provide bulk, color, and action. Anglers can use a bare jig head and add his or her favorite soft plastic trailer. This can be a swim bait, curly tail grub, or even a plastic worm. The jig provides a handy and clever device which combines the hook and the weight all in one tidy unit. These work very well in open water.
Modern largemouth bass fishing jigs have the molded jig head, a stout hook, and usually a rubber body skirt. This is an extremely effective lure for flipping around heavy cover. Anglers often attach their favorite soft plastic creature bait to add more bulk and vibration to the lure. Capt. Jim’s favorite largemouth bass fishing jig is the Booyah jig.
10) Largemouth bass fishing with live bait
While most anglers fish for largemouth bass using lures, live bait is certainly productive as well. Nightcrawlers and minnows or shiners are the two most popular live baits. In fact, in Florida, most trophy bass are landed by anglers using live a wild shiners. It is just impossible to duplicate the action and scent of a frightened shiner when a largemouth bass approaches it.
Shiners and live minnows are effective largemouth bass baits throughout the country. They are readily available at most serious bait and tackle shops. In shallow water they are fished under a float while in deeper water they are used in conjunction with a drop shot or other bottom fishing rig. In states where it is legal, small bluegill and panfish can be fantastic live baits for largemouth bass. However, be sure to check local regulations.
Nightcrawlers are another very effective live bait for largemouth bass and just about every other freshwater species. In fact, if there is one downside to using nightcrawlers, it is at other fish will interrupt the bass fishing. For many anglers, this is a welcome distraction! Nightcrawlers work very well when fished simply on a hook and allowed to undulate in the water. In deeper water, they can be used with a drop shot rig or Carolina rig.
Crayfish are an extremely effective live bait for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. However, they can be a bit more complicated to use. Very few bait shops sell crayfish and once purchased or caught, they are bit more difficult to use. However, some anglers consider them to be worth the trouble.
In conclusion, this article on 10 effective largemouth bass fishing tips will help anglers catch more of America’s top game fish!