Hmmm. Checking your scorecard, I see the biggest bass of your illustrious angling career is still that 5 pound 3 ouncer you caught at your cousin Clyde’s farm pond 12 years ago! What‘s that? You say you’re still saving that spot over the mantel of your doublewide for a real wall-hanger, and 2014 is finally gonna be the year you catch that trophy bass?
Time for a reality check, Bubba. I hate to burst your bubble, but it looks like you’re doomed to another losing season in the lunker department. You’re approaching 2014 just like you did 2013, 2012 and every other forgettable year since you first came down with bass fever — with the same worn-out patterns that failed you so miserably in the past.
Yeah, I know. It rained every weekend last spring and messed up the lake; all those cold fronts gave ‘em lockjaw; your outboard blew up and drydocked you for a month. It was too hot, too cold, too calm, too windy. If excuses were big bass, you’d be in hawg heaven!
Admit it. You need professional help! Time to check yourself into Dr. Wirth’s Trophy Bass Clinic. If you follow my four-step treatment plan, you’ll be reeling in more gut-saggin’ bass than you ever dreamed possible!
Step 1: Forget Tournament Tactics
Tactics that win bass tournaments rarely catch lunker bass. Those tournament boys are casting for cash, not wall-hangers. They’re gunning for the easy bite, the keepers that, when stuffed together in a weigh-in sack and plopped on the scales, might give ‘em enough weight to place in the money and keep their sponsors paying their motel tabs for another season. They realize catching big bass is a painstaking proposition, one that doesn’t lend itself to fishing against the clock.
The worst habit you’ve picked up from watching the pros on TV is fishing too fast. A bass pro’s bread and butter approach is to burn down a stretch of bank with his trolling motor on high 36, smokin’ crankbaits and spinnerbaits past visible cover and catching immature, stupid fish. But if you’re serious about snaring a trophy, you’ve got to try slowing your fishing pace down to the speed of an advancing glacier.
Step 2: Use Saturation Lures
Good Lord, man, look at your tacklebox! You could have bought a villa in Tuscany with the money you’ve spent on Japanese crankbaits alone! Fast-moving lures fit the pro’s strategy perfectly, but they seldom catch giant bass. After all, a fat ol’ largemouth isn’t about to leave her nice, cozy stump to chase down a meal moving at the speed of light. She’s learned that if she just sits there and chills, sooner or later a tasty crawfish or juicy shiner will stumble into her lair.
To tag a real wall-hanger, you gotta put the right lure where the big girls hang out — in thick weeds, dense brush and snaggy stumps. The bigger a bass grows, the smaller its strike zone gets. If your lure ain’t right in its face, odds are a trillion to one it ain’t gonna get bit.
See any lures in your tacklebox capable of being dragged through really nasty cover at a snail’s pace without constantly hanging up? Why look, there’s a football jig! And there, next to that deep diver, a plastic worm! Just don’t get all itchy-twitchy and fish ‘em too fast, OK?
Step 3: Focus On the Bass, Not Your Equipment
There was a time when bass fishing was a relatively inexpensive sport. A cheap aluminum boat, a couple rods and reels, a handful of lures and a forgiving wife were all it took to catch big fish.
How times have changed! While big bass have become even rarer, our sport has undergone an “equipment revolution,” which is a polite way of saying there’s too damn much stuff separating you and the bass. Today a guy doesn’t feel he’s a real bassin’ man unless he’s got a $65,000 bass boat and a warehouse full of tackle and baits.
But all that gear is a major distraction when you’re gunning for a giant bass. The late Bill Murphy literally wrote the book on catching monster bass from California lakes. He hauled in several hundred bass over 13 pounds; his biggest topped 18. Yet Murphy fished from an aluminum boat that looked like it was rescued from a salvage dump. “My boat is zero form and all function,” he’d say. “Its sole purpose is to allow me to make the best possible presentation. If you get too comfortable while you’re fishing, you lose focus.” So, just why are you fishing? To catch a monster bass, or to see how many toys you can accumulate?
Step 4: Understand Big Bass
Big bass don’t behave like small bass. Lunkers are a different breed of cat, and the sooner you figure out what makes ‘em tick, the sooner you’ll start catching ‘em. “Big bass get that way by doing everything right,” says Doug Hannon, Florida’s legendary ”Bass Professor.” Hannon has caught over 500 largemouth exceeding 10 pounds, and he’s done it through years of observing how these giants operate (including thousands of hours of dive time), not by putting stock in myths and misconceptions about bass behavior.
“To live a long, healthy life, a bass must stick to the rules,” Hannon believes. “Nature has equipped this creature to perform best in shallow, weedy water — this is evident from its coloration, body shape and fin placement. Therefore, it stands to reason that bass that spend most of their time in shallow, weedy water will stand the best chance of living a long life and attaining large size.” Indeed, over 90% of the Professor’s lunkers were caught in 3 feet of water or less; he rarely wastes time in water deeper than 8 feet.
Other rules Hannon has discerned about big bass:
● They’re primarily sight feeders. They rely on their eyes far more than other sensory organs, including their lateral lines, when hunting for a meal. Therefore rattling lures and fish scents are of questionable value when you’re hunting giants. It’s how the lure looks when in motion that really matters to a big bass, and lures that mimic the shape and movement of preferred lunker forage like crayfish, shiners, bluegill and trout always catch bigger bass.
● Sometimes even the most natural-looking lure isn’t natural enough to fool a wary lunker. That’s why more big bass are caught on live bait than lures, especially in clear lakes.
● You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to score a trophy bass. Hannon says big bass feed more often during the high-light period of the day, when they can see best. He’s caught the vast majority of his lunkers between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Step 5: Make Your Move
It’s time to make your move, Bubba. Will this be the year you finally catch a giant bass? Make it a brand new ballgame by abandoning your usual fishing approaches and focusing on the lures and presentations that will connect you with the bass of your dreams. It’s not too late if you get started today!