Why do the pros always catch them and why do some anglers consistently outfish others? Do they have secret baits, secret spots, secret techniques? We all want to believe there are hidden secrets to catching bass but in reality there really are none.
Many years ago when I first started tournament fishing, there were some secrets because back then you could keep things quiet and have a few tricks to yourself. Nowadays with the Internet, demands for and access to information in the networked world we live in makes it much harder to hold onto secrets. Sure, it was a simpler time back then and sure, the modern age of bass fishing and technology has paved the way for young hungry anglers to fish like seasoned pros but there still is no substitute to what I consider to be my “top secrets” to being a better angler.
#1 Understand Seasonal Bass Patterns
You can’t catch fish unless you find fish and understanding basic seasonal bass patterns is a must for locating bass. Understanding how the majority of the bass in any given body of water react to seasonal changes and where they will most likely be is a real key to success. Understanding seasonal patterns also helps a great deal in being able to dismiss where fish probably won’t be – eliminating time spend looking for fish and increasing productivity.
#2 Force Yourself to Learn New Techniques
One of the hardest things to do in bass fishing is put yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it is a specific lure, technique or water depth you feel uncomfortable fishing, there are going to be times when one or all of these things may dominate a certain lake and those who have the confidence in catching the fish that way are going to succeed. Whatever the situation, the way to learn new baits and techniques is to simply limit your options by only having that specific type of gear at your disposal. This is best accomplished when you know the technique your trying to master is dominating a lake – sometimes this means getting beat on a tournament day and then going out later to figure out the technique. Once you get some confidence catching fish you will start to see the potential and become more comfortable.
#3 Change Bait Colors and Sizes
One very simple thing that can account for a few more fish and even some of the larger variety is changing up bait color and size. Often times we get complacent especially when they are biting, but many times we can increase our catch and upgrade size just by changing things up a little bit. There are times when I reflect on this after the fact but having the foresight to change up before it’s too late will make you a better angler.
#4 Don’t be Afraid to Try New Places
Another simple thing and one that is a hard habit to break is relying on the same old spots or as I call it “fishing from history.” This is always a great starting point but savvy anglers will always look for adjustments when things are not exactly working as planned and sometimes that means going somewhere entirely new. Mentally this is tough especially if you know a lot of different areas since you’re more inclined to go somewhere you have been before rather than somewhere you have never been. The important thing is having the confidence in your techniques and many times trying a new place will really pay off.
#5 Learn Optimum Casting Techniques
One thing that is overlooked is the importance of casting presentations and your approach to naturally present a bait. Over the years techniques such a flipping, pitching and side arm casting have been great ways to present a bait rather than just launching something a mile in the lake. These tactics are quite a bit more accurate, allow the bait to enter the water with minimal splash and eliminate you from fishing unproductive water. Simply put you can present the bait to specific fish-holding areas and spots while having the ability to make more cast during the day – the more your bait is in the strike zone, the more chances you will have of catching one.
#6 Go Back to Basics
With all of the information available to us it’s sometimes easy to forget about the basics of fishing. To me it does not get any more basic than the Texas rigged worm and it’s a technique that I go to many times when the fishing is tough. When these tough conditions exist I always look to this basic technique, put my head down and grind out some fish.
#7 Pay Attention to Surroundings
One thing I have always tried to do is pay attention to what is going on out on the water and this can be grouped into so many things from baitfish activity to shoreline wildlife presence. I have seen many times when you notice an abundance of animals active, the bass will follow suit. Other things like a feeding chain in the water such as insects attracting bluegills or other forage thus attracting the bass. These are just a few things and every day can reveal activity happening on the water that will key you into catching more fish.
#8 Don’t Listen to Dock Talk
This applies more to the mental side of fishing. One thing I do everything in my power to avoid is dock talk. It’s inevitable that you are going to hear it when you launch and load your boat, at the motel or even at the gas station. You are going to hear stories of how guys are catching them or success others are having and if this does not fit into your particular patterns you will start to rethink what you are doing; it’s human nature. This can be a detrimental thing to your confidence even if you are catching fish which leads to number nine on my list.
#9 Fish Your Strengths
Fishing your strengths is always a powerful thing even if it’s not the dominant pattern on the lake at that given time. I always start by fishing my strengths before looking for alternate ways to catch them. There are no rules that say you can’t go find the shallowest water way back in a creek and catch fish in the middle of summer. You may not catch as many as you would with more traditional summer patterns but you may just have all of these fish to yourself rather than following the norm. Fishing your strengths also gives you the confidence to rely on or spot-check alternate patterns that you have confidence in and can use successfully to back up your primary technique on any given day.
#10 Have Fun!
Don’t forget to just have fun because that is what fishing is – fun. Having a positive attitude and having fun on the water goes a long way in allowing you to make the right decisions, adding to your success. Often times we let outside distractions and negatives dictate the outcome and we stop having fun, this can be a problem that turns a great day into a bad one. So get out there keep an open mind, follow some or all of my “secrets” and have some fun out on the water!