Today’s bass anglers are constantly bombarded with new equipment promising to improve their angling success. Sonar units have become marvels of engineering genius, not only showing us where the fish are but indicating their size, as well. New materials, spin-offs from NASA’s space program, provide rods with incredible sensitivity, and equipment that is strong, but remarkably lightweight. Breakthroughs in synthetic materials technology have placed ultra-small diameter, limp lines on our reels, resulting in effortless casting and maximum distance Pubfilm. Every day a new lure comes onto the scene, guaranteeing to be the fabled ‘magic bait’ or the answer to all fishing problems.
And, yes, each of these innovations makes our chosen sport more enjoyable and some of them probably do help us catch a few more fish. Heaven knows they’re better, at the price we pay for them. Yet, for all the fancy equipment, high technology gadgetry, and ‘magic baits’, 95 percent of us still do not even come close to our potential for catching bass. We struggle along, thankful for what we catch and always striving to do better. But, we can do better – much better. And, it is fairly easy to do so.
The secret for better bass fishing does not depend on anything new. We ALWAYS could double, or even triple, our catch rate. It has been proven to be possible time and time again, a “sure-fire” method that never fails. All it takes is the willingness on the part of the angler to make a “change”. I will be the first to say that it is easier said than done, but, if you will move to SMALL LURES, and the correspondingly LIGHT TACKLE required, your ability to catch bass will increase significantly.
While some Florida anglers may immediately scoff at the mere inference of light tackle, let me assure them that it is well appropriate for the ‘Sunshine State’ waters. I, personally, use nothing larger than ten-pound test Silver Thread or 14-pound test Fireline (even in vegetation) and have taken 32 largemouths over ten pounds on that light line in the past nine years. Some were captured on eight-pound and a couple came on six-pound in open phosphate pit waters. I will admit that I have been broken off three, maybe four, times during that period, but they were my fault.
Even though I live in Florida, my tackle box has nothing but four-inch worms.
My logbook indicates that I average 22.3 basses per outing. Those two facts are very closely related, believe me. Tackle selection for the smaller lures is much more important than if one were using the heavier baits. Small lures can be hard to cast and present properly to the target. Also, retrieve control and the ‘feel’ of the lighter lure cannot be effectively accomplished without a correspondingly light, well-balanced tackle. Although some bait-casting gear will work with the small lures, the best choice is spinning tackle. This, in itself, will turn some anglers off, in that they have never learned to handle spinning gear properly and do not feel comfortable using it. If that is a problem for you, remember that all the champion anglers we ever interviewed were found to be fully adept and versatile with all tackle and all types of lures. Limited capabilities do not result in consistent winners.
Medium to medium-light graphite spinning rods coupled with a properly-sized reel will make all day fishing effortless and provide the lure control and “feel” required. The ten-pound line is the best overall choice, with eight being even better if there are few snags. Until the angler is well experienced with using light tackle, we do not recommend the new low-stretch lines.
We need the stretch and ‘forgiveness’ of standard monofilaments for handling the surges and strength of the brass family until we develop our timing and response. Once experienced at the handling of fish with light tackle, we move to the Fireline for more sensitivity. Fishing the smaller lures often requires some slightly different handling techniques. For example, small diving crankbaits are usually not as stable as their larger brothers and sisters, and they will require very fine ‘tuning’ to run true on a rapid retrieve. Remember to take care of this matter BEFORE the fishing day.
If you hook bass in an area of cover, or if he simply runs into grass or a snag, keeps in mind that it will probably be better to hold a tight line and “go to the bass”, rather than trying to bring him to you. It will surprise you how often this works. Along this same line, it is a fact that the harder you pull on the bass, the harder he will pull back on you.
With small lures and light tackle, never put any significant pressure on a bass. The angler must have a great deal of self-discipline to carry this out, but it is essential. If the fish heads for cover, do not panic and overstress your equipment. Remember that we can usually go to him and get him out of most hang-ups reasonably well.
When setting the hook, especially on the small worm and jig, do so with soft sweeping motion. This involves taking up the slack and bringing the rod up and back across the body. NEVER set a hook sharply on the light line. The hooks of the small lure are usually razor-sharp and will normally penetrate the membranes of the bass’s mouth without difficulty.
The way to be in the winner circle and always in the money is just to bring in a limit of keepers consistently. Do not worry about the large bass. The angler who catches a lot of fish will also catch his or her share of the lunkers, probably more gears TV. But, also remember the old saying, “Seems like the harder I fishes, the luckier I get!”