Many experienced anglers with a newfound interest in the largemouth bass struggle to catch this elusive bass. Of course, the whole thing has little to do with luck and more to do with preparation, picking the right spot, choosing the best times of the day, season, and year, and finally applying the best techniques to catch the largemouth bass.
This might sound like a lot. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be hauling your bag with bass regardless of the season. Just remember that you cannot fill your bag with largemouth bass as many states allow a limited number of this bass to keep.
So if you’re new to largemouth bass fishing or haven’t had much luck with this species before, this comprehensive guide will walk you through all the necessary steps. From preparing the right gear to finding the right spots and going after the fish when it’s most active. We also included some expert tips to guide you along the way.
Contrary to what some people might believe about largemouth bass, this crafty predator doesn’t just lurk in the deep waters waiting for its prey. There are times when the fish is on the move such as when it’s migrating to its spawning area or migrating back home post-spawning.
And yes, the bass also frequents shallow waters. Depending on the season and water temperature, you would often come across the bass in shallow creeks and near the shores of ponds and rivers.
Naturally, shore fishing is a whole new ball game and is quite different from fishing in the deep waters. Not only do the techniques and strategies differ, but you’re more mobile when casting a line from the bank. You can simply change spots quickly until you find the right spot. Here are the main techniques to catch largemouth bass from the shore.
- Parallel the Shore: When fishing from a boat, you’ll have a hard time staying parallel to the shore. Yes, you can move faster, but You can’t really cast the line facing the shore. From the bank, you can easily hit the sweet spot that the bass favors. The sweet spot is between 2 to 3 feet from your feet. If you’re standing right in the water, the bass might be swimming around your legs.
- Backside Fishing: As a predator, the largemouth bass likes to find cover in the water and lurk around it. Usually, it will be on the side of the rock or boulder facing the bank. When standing on the shore, you have a clearer path to the bass than when casting from a boat facing the other side of the rock.
- Stay Put: When you find a spot that is teeming with bass, stay put and milk that spot for all it’s worth. That’s hard to do in a boat that is moving all the time with the wind taking it hither and thither. So cover your spot well with 4 to 5 lines trying out different lines and lures for different depths.
Some anglers prefer summer fishing, while others put their faith in the cooler seasons. And while each season has its advantages, summer is by far the most popular season to go after largemouth bass. Right after spawning, the bass heads back to its home spot and during this migration, it makes a few stops along the way to feed mainly.
This means that in the summer, the fish is most active and is on the move a lot. So even if you’re fishing in a new area, you’re more likely to stumble across the bass crossing one of its migration channels than in other seasons of the year. Here are some summer tactics to apply that expert anglers recommend when catching the largemouth bass.
- Stick to the Shadows: There are two reasons the bass doesn’t like sunlight. The first it increases the temperature of the water which lowers the oxygen levels. The second is it makes it harder for the fish to hide. So cast your line in the shadows and reel it off until you’re out of the shadow line. Then cast again to tempt the hesitant fish lurking in the shade.
- Low Light: If you’re an early riser, you’ll have a better chance of catching the bass when it’s out feeding. Since it likes to avoid the sun, it ventures closer to the surface hoping to catch a large insect or even a frog. It does the same thing in the evening when the sun sets.
- Mid-Day: If you prefer to fish in the mid-day during the summer months, then you’ll need to use live bait instead. I recommend using minnows or shiners to lure the lethargic bass that has dropped to the deep waters around the base of the weeds. Use sinking lines that will deliver the live bait quickly below 10 feet.
Catch and release anglers don’t have to worry about how many largemouth bass they can keep in their bag. But if you’re interested in taking your trophy catch home, you have to know that many states have bag limits. Bag limits refer to the number of fish that you can keep in your bag at all times.
When it comes to largemouth bass, you can only keep five fish in your bag per day. Once you have reached that limit, you will have to stop fishing this bass and switch to other species. Keep in mind that this means 5 largemouth bass of all sizes.
Fishing For Largemouth Bass At Night
Not many people go fishing for largemouth bass at night. But those who do have their good reasons to avoid the early morning and later afternoon peak times of bass activity. Those reasons range from avoiding competition to escaping the heat of the daytime. If you prefer nighttime fishing of largemouth bass, here are a few tips from the experts to guide you.
- Light Gear: You’d want to go fishing at night with a couple of rods and less than half the gear you’d usually take with you for daytime fishing trips. In the dark, you don’t want to fiddle with a lot of rods, lures, and hooks. It’s not safe either.
- Noise: Since the bass cannot see you in the absence of light, it relies on the vibrations in the water to detect the prey. So make your line thump when you cast to send waves in the water to guide the lateral fins of the bass to your lure. Some vibrating jigs are designed specifically for night fishing.
- Less is More: Whether you use vibrating lures or not, try not to work the lure up and down the water all the time. This might literally reveal your hand to the crafty and suspicious bass. A few jerks every now and then are more than enough to get its attention.
- Shallow Water: Bass usually comes up to the shallows to hunt at night. So to find it, go to a place where the shore is close to the deep waters. The current in those spots usually carries the bass upwards near the shore and helps it slip back when the sun comes up.
- Quality over Quantity: Anglers who fish at night know that they might not get a good number of fish, but they could likely land bigger bass. So it’s all about waiting for the right fish to bite. And when it does, it will be worth it.
The best time for bass fishing varies wildly depending on the season, the type of water, and the size of bass you’re targeting. But we can always simplify things and state that midday is usually the right time to go after big bass. But if your goal is to catch as many bass as you can, then early morning to later afternoon are the ideal hours. That was the short answer. To elaborate, let’s break it down by the season.
- Winter: In the winter, start your fishing trip around noon and keep casting until 4 in the afternoon. During this time, the water temperature peaks, and the bass will become more active in its hunt for baitfish. This is also the best time to catch bass even in frozen lakes.
- Spring: Expert anglers recommend early evenings and dusk time to catch the best bass in the spring. You could also start bright and early in the morning but the results are often mixed around that time of the day. The bass lurks in the shadows of the dusk and waits for its well-fed prey.
- Summer: Both dawn and dusk are ideal times to catch a big number of bass. If you’re focused on quality and trophy fish, then both midday on an overcast day and nighttime are recommended. You can also go fishing before a storm where the calm waters and low visibility trigger high activity among the bass.
- Fall: The feeding time for bass in the fall is in the late afternoon and early evening. That’s when the water temperature is low enough and so is the visibility which is a great advantage for the predator bass. You can also try early morning fishing trips where the bass is actively hunting sleepy frogs near the shallows.
Related article: What do largemouth bass eat naturally?
If we were to pinpoint one period in the largemouth bass’s life where it is most active, that period has to be the one associated with spawning. To be precise, we will have to break it down into three timelines. Pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn.
The bass will travel for miles out of its food-rich hunting grounds just so that it can find a mate and spawn. And if you are familiar with its migration channels, then you have a good opportunity not only to land a good number of bass but some trophy fish as well. You can find it in the shallows, closer to the shore, and around boulders, submerged tree logs, and bridge abutments. So let’s take a look at those three periods when the largemouth bass is extremely active and on the move all the time.
- Pre-Spawn: Coming out of the lean winter months, the largemouth bass is too thin and needs to build up energy for the coming spawning marathon. It will lurk around deep waters near the shore and near boulders and structures in the water. Use deep water lines and lures and drag them along the bottom to tempt the hungry bass. If the water warms quickly near the surface, the bass will rise up to the shallows on its way to the spawning coves. So choose your gear depending on the water temperature.
- Spawning: The spawning coves are spots where the bass gather to spawn. They’re characterized by warm water temperatures and are usually shallow. When the temperature rises above 60 degrees F. the bass will start their spawning rituals. If you can locate some of those spawning coves, make them your fishing grounds in the spring. Keep in mind that the fish might leave these coves at the drop of a hat if the weather changes suddenly overnight. However, they’ll come back to finish spawning when the weather warms up again.
- Post-Spawn: Even during spawning, the bass doesn’t stop looking for prey and feeding. And even after spawning is over, the largemouth bass hangs around and waits for bluegill to come for their own spawning. After that, the bass will start their migration journey back to their original feeding grounds. They usually hug the shore on their way back but mostly stay closer to the surface. So use floating lines and poppers to bait the fish.
In general, there are two types of bait you can use for largemouth bass. The first is live bait which includes minnows, shad, and shiners along with frogs if you can stomach it. The other type is the lure. Here we’ll focus on the different types of lures you can use and when to use them. We’ll talk about live bait in the following section.
- Jigs: These are deep water lures that sink quickly to the bottom thanks to the weights attached to them. They also have skirts that send pulses in the water to alert the bass to their presence. You can use these lures in waters of different temperatures and they’re used in almost every season. Even in shallow waters, jigs have a high success rate.
- Crankbait: Similar in appearance and movement to crayfish, crankbaits have a lip that when you pull the line, the lure starts to jiggle like a crayfish. You can use them in weedy areas as well as deep water. They also work well in different seasons, especially in the summer.
- Worms: This versatile plastic worm is an angler’s best friend. You can use it any time of day or night, any season, and in waters of different depths. The only thing you have to change is the line itself. You can use the Texas rig, drop shot, weightless rig, or Carolina rig to get the most out of your plastic worm.
- Spinnerbaits: Named after the metal blades on either side of the bait that reflect the light and fool the bass into thinking it’s looking at baitfish. You can use them in the early morning during the spring and summer. Just make sure you don’t pull the line too fast. Move the spinner bait in the water at medium speed to mimic the movement of baitfish.
- Swimbaits: These lures tend to roll in the water when you pull the line which makes them look like baitfish. You can use them all year round with various degrees of success. Your skill and hand movement are crucial for your success with this lure.
You can also use live bait to catch largemouth bass of all sizes. Minnows, shad, and bluegill are the most popular live bait and they work for all seasons and different types of fishing. That said, you can also use frogs which are a favorite delicacy of the bass especially when it’s swimming in the shallows or close to the shore.
Crayfish are another excellent live bait for bass and they work best near vegetation and underwater structures. Depending on the size of the crayfish, use a suitable hook and pierce the tail end of the fish.
You can also use worms which are ideal bait in the shallows. Light rods, floating lines, and small hooks are recommended when using worms as live bait.
- Shredded plastic worms work just as well as if not better than intact worms since the opportunistic bass prefers battered prey.
- Use rods and hooks with ret tips in shallow waters to fool the bass into thinking the prey is injured and bleeding. It will attack without hesitation.
- Sharpen your hooks before every fishing trip. You can use a file to make them extra sharp.
- Stand facing the current when you cast the line. The bass usually swims with the current which means it will come down your way instead of swimming away from you.
- Change your bait according to the season. Bluegills around spawn time, frogs in the summer, and shad and minnows in the later summer and early fall. Use lure colors that correspond with these species.
- Change your angles as you come to the bass from different sides. This will irritate it and trigger it to bite.
- Fish before the storm to land some trophy game.
The idea behind catching largemouth bass is to know their feeding habits when they start migrating toward their spawning coves and how long they stay there. You will need to choose your gear according to the size of the fish and the season. Also, change your lure and bait depending on the season, water temperature, and location.