Why is proper lure presentation so important? How can we bass anglers refine our presentations to draw more strikes? We posed these questions to an expert bass angler, one who is so good at presenting a lure that he’s paid to demonstrate his skill at boat and outdoor shows nationwide.
The Good Ol’ Days
“Bass anglers took tremendous pride in their lure presentation skills back in the early days of the sport,” Joey Monteleone said. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee casting demonstrator and outdoor radio show host is an avid collector of antique fishing tackle, and he displayed vintage lure and tackle advertisements featuring endorsements from “master casters” to prove his point. “Among everyday anglers, the guy who could plunk down his lure closest to a stump or rock was regarded with respect by his peers, and usually ended up catching the most bass.”
But with the explosive growth of bass tournament fishing, presentation prowess took a back seat to newer skills, especially the ability to use electronics to locate offshore structure, Monteleone pointed out. And the current craze of “power fishing” — covering large amounts of water in a hurry with lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits — has removed bass anglers yet another step from their roots, he feels. “Today, many weekend anglers pay little attention to their lure presentations,” Monteleone said. “They figure if the bass doesn’t swim out of cover and chase down their lure, it isn’t there.”
The Incredible Shrinking Strike Zone
There’s a lot to be said for consistently putting your lure where the bass lives, Monteleone pointed out. “On most days, bass seldom move far to nail a lure. We’ve all seen TV infomercials filmed in water tanks showing bass aggressively chasing down some hot new lure. These videos give viewers the false impression that it’s easy pickings out there on the lake if you just start chunking and winding.”
In reality, bass are both wary predators and opportunists, Monteleone noted. “As predators, they conceal themselves around cover like weeds and stumps. As opportunists, they wait until their prey gets close to their hideout before striking.” Hence the fabled “strike zone” we’ve heard so much about. “The most important thing to remember about the strike zone is that most of the time, it’s a very small area. And the tougher the conditions — bright sunshine, muddy water, a cold front, fishing pressure — the smaller that area becomes.”
Monteleone’s passion is lunker largemouth; he’s caught northern-strain bass up to 10 pounds from waters near his home. “These days, the bigger the bass, the less likely she’ll be caught with a sloppy presentation. Bass don’t get big by running around the lake chasing after a meal. They find a likely ambush place, park there, then wait for their meals to come to them. They’ve learned to tell when something entering the water is the real thing, or just an imitation of life.”
Practice Makes Perfect
I consider myself a pretty good bass fisherman, but Monteleone will consistently put 10 bass in the boat to my one. Spending a day on the water with him is a lesson in the benefits of a perfect presentation. His prowess with a pitching rod and a jig is absolutely extraordinary. “As fishing pressure has escalated in recent years, I’ve seen an effective presentation become even more critical,” he says.
Monteleone divides an effective lure presentation into three components:
► Accuracy – “This is the ability to hit your target with your lure. Like I said, bass, especially big fish, aren’t likely to move long distances to strike. Instead, they pick a spot and sit there, waiting for prey to come to them. If you can’t put your lure close to that spot, you might as well be home watching somebody else fishing on TV.”
► Efficiency – “This is the ability to accurately present your lure over and over, with good economy of motion and as little wasted effort as possible. It’s a matter of percentages. Whether you’re in a tournament or just fishing for fun, the more accurate presentations you can make within your allotted fishing time, the more strikes you’ll get.”
► Subtlety – “This refers to the realism of your presentation. Living prey like minnows and crayfish don’t make a lot of unnecessary gyrations and noises – if they did, they’d get promptly eaten. Living prey blends into their environment. To mimic living prey, your lure must enter the water quietly, and look and move in a realistic manner.”
Monteleone discovered years ago that pitching was the best presentation method for probing the thick, snaggy cover where lunkers lurk. “I got onto pitching before most bass pros were even doing it,” he said, laughing. “Today, it’s a mainstay presentation among pro tournament anglers. Pitching facilitates quiet lure entry while letting you stay far enough away from your target so you don’t spook the fish.” His lure of choice for pitching is a basic jig and chunk: “It’s compact enough to slip into tight spaces, and it looks like a live crawfish. You can pitch any lure, but a jig is the most effective for catching big bass.”
Pitching is most easily executed from a tournament-style bass boat with a raised front deck — something Monteleone doesn’t own. “You can’t even launch a bass boat where I fish – you need a car-topped flatbottom boat instead. This handicapped me somewhat when first learning to pitch, but I didn’t let it keep me from trying.” Joey practiced the technique his back yard. “You can’t learn a new presentation technique like pitching on the water because there are too many distractions. I stood on my back steps and practiced pitching a jig into a bucket over and over until I could do it nearly every time. Then I gradually downsized the target until I could repeatedly pitch the jig into a paper cup.”
Once he felt he was ready, Monteleone took his newly learned presentation skill to the water. “The results were immediate and astounding,” he said. “Since learning to pitch, I’ve caught hundreds of bass over 5 pounds. And the more I refined my technique, the more and bigger bass I caught! If you don’t know how to pitch, you need to learn – there are all kinds of instructional videos on the Internet. It’ll make your presentations more effective, and your time on the water more rewarding and fun.