By Jerry Miller
Jacksonville Daily Progress
To consistently catch bass you have to have a basic understanding of seasonal movements, water and weather conditions and how bass react under pressure.
You may have the bass figured out and know where and how to catch them, but when you arrive at your secret locations you soon discover that it’s not that big of a secret. You may see a half dozen bass boats in your prime area.
This is a common scenario today. And it seems to be getting worse. Modern electronics can scan the bottom terrain 360 degrees around the boat. With Down Image you can count the limbs on a tree. This leaves little question about bottom structure, cover and where to look for bass. Simply put, the bass can’t hide anymore.
For years I’ve fished around and behind other boats, but most of the time it didn’t bother me because I would be fishing a lure that was different from theirs. For many, many years I fished a silent crank bait with no rattles. Almost everyone else was fishing rattling baits. The silent bait was different and consistently caught bass.
Bass fishing also requires stealth. Especially in the spring when bass are usually in less than five feet of water, any type of noise will alert the bass to your presence. The secret is to locate an area that is holding some big bass and anchor up. Power Poles can make a huge difference in how many bass you catch in a day’s time. For those like me who can’t afford Power Poles, an anchor will suffice. It’s more work, but it gets the job done.
Heavy angler traffic can also reposition the fish. At times the bass will move out slightly deeper and you need to slow down and adjust.
Just because you aren’t getting bit doesn’t mean the bass have left. This week I was fishing a cold water lake and the surface temperature was in the 40’s. The bass were very lethargic. I had previously fished this area a few days back and didn’t get bit. This time I made myself slow way, way down.
I was using a lighter 1/4 oz. Nichols’ stand up crawfish jig with a Nichols’ Sweet Thing. After I cast the lure out in the shallow waters I let the bait lie motionless for several seconds. Then I began a very, very slow retrieve about one inch at a time with frequent stops. I was crawling the bait extremely slow. No hops or quick movements.
The bass began to bite this lure. These were unusually vicious strikes, but when I set the hook nothing was there. I couldn’t understand how I was missing these fish. I wasn’t even sure it was a bass. About 15 minutes later I finally hung the fish and pulled it to the surface. It was a small bass weighing about a pound. They were hard to catch, but at least I knew that there were some bass up shallow near the bank. The bass were in about four to five feet of water.
The biggest surprise came when I tied on a Nichols’ perch-color 1/2 oz. Rattle Shad and cast it out to deeper water (about 10 feet). I let the lure sink to the bottom and began a slow retrieve with several pauses to keep the lure near the bottom. These fish were crappie – not bass. I have never caught crappie in that manner. Crappie don’t normally strike a 1/2 oz. Rattle Shad, but they did that day. That lure produced about 10 fish that day. Fish can nearly always be caught on any given day. But every day you have to experiment with different lures and techniques until you find out what they want and what presentation to use.
Winter fishing is tough because the bass are usually lethargic and refuse to eat a bait. I get a lot of short strikes in the winter. That’s why I usually fish a warm power plant lake where the bass are more active.
I’ve been bass fishing for over 50 years and I’m still trying to understand the many quirks of a bass. Even though bass fishing is getting tougher, I can usually find out a way to catch a few of the bass.
Jerry Miller can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org