The best way that I know of to catch lots of bass in a short amount of time is to target schooling bass. When you discover the best time of day to catch schoolers you can catch a lot of bass in about two hours or so.
Most fishermen would like to be told three easy steps on how to catch schoolers. But that usually won’t work.
Have you ever cast a lure into a huge school of bass only to have them totally ignore your bait? I have. Many times I have gone through a half dozen baits before I find one they really like.
So why would they totally ignore a shad looking bait that is presented right over their heads? Many fishermen say you need to match the hatch. But what if the shad are tiny and only one inch long?
Last month I encountered shad that were one inch long. I tried several lures until I finally settled on a rig that had multiple lures attached. A Yumbrella, Jr. will hold six, four-inch flukes. For about three weeks this was their preferred bait. The majority of the bass I caught averaged two pounds. I presumed that the larger bass preferred larger baits. I usually caught one bass from each school. Most small bass ignored this lure. In August the bass refused to strike this lure. Now what?
I went back to fishing my two favorite schooling baits – a Nichols’ 1/2 ounce blue shad, Mag 44 spinner bait. This bait has two very small spinners. Almost any time I find a big school of bass this bait will produce. I alternate this bait with a Nichols’ Pop-U-Lure, a blue back or a silver color is best.
Last Wednesday I was using these two lures and catching bass, but at times they would ignore these baits. I don’t know why.
Last week I noticed another fisherman who was consistently catching schoolers. The fisherman was Larry Baker. Baker used to fish in the Jacksonville Bass Club and is a good fisherman.
That day Baker was primarily fishing one lure – a four-inch white fluke. He rigged the Fluke on a 5/0 hook and worked the bait just under the surface with subtle twitches and pauses. I like to use a twitch, twitchy pause retrieve. You may need to experiment with the retrieve. At times they want a long pause between twitches. At other times a rapid retrieve works best. You have to experiment.
Baker said, “I started fishing at 3:00 a.m. and caught five bass on a worm. Then I switched to schooling bass. I kept fishing until I caught 30 bass.” (He quit at 1:00 p.m.)
In July there were a lot of bass schooling early, but now the prime time is between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. On cloudy days they tend to school longer and better.
So what is the best bait to use when targeting schoolers? That’s for you and the bass to decide. Experiment with top water baits and underwater baits. Try fast moving lures and slow, subtle lures and let the bass tell you what they want.
Whenever a school disappears, I like to pick up my rod and fish a fast sinking lure like a lead head, Fluke or a grub. At times a Crème, three-inch swim bait will suffice. If you’ve got lots of patience a drop shot rig will work. I use a six-inch Aaron’s Magic worm on this rig.
No bait works a hundred percent of the time. I’ve noticed that bass become very picky after about an hour or so of schooling. They are not hungry but you will get reaction strikes. I have seen days when bass were very active and would strike a variety of lures. But this doesn’t happen very often. That’s why I always have a half dozen baits tied on every time I go to the lake.
You always have to experiment. But on any given day there is always one lure that will outshine all the others. As a fisherman your job is to experiment and find that one lure. Good luck!
Jerry Miller can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org