In the world of fishing, few fish are as highly sought after as bass. Whether you're targeting largemouth, smallmouth spotted, or otherwise, the bass is known for putting up a rough fight, snapping lines, and leaving you with an accomplished feeling when you finally get them in the net.
However, they’re not the easiest fish to target. They can be particular when it comes to their tastes, weather preferences, and other key factors that affect your fishing capabilities.
Luckily, here at Bass Forecast, we're ready to give you a straightforward beginner's guide that will have you bringing in new personal bests each time you hit the water.
Let’s get started.
Getting the Right Setup
First and foremost, the rod setup you’re using is going to determine what techniques you can use, how easy it will be to bring in trophy-worthy bass, and how your overall experience goes. So, it’s important to pick the right equipment. You can use your preferred brands, and most of these options are in almost every price range. So, focus on the specifications we provide rather than looking at this as a straight-up product review.
Spinning Setup - Beginner Friendly
If you’re new to fishing, a good spinning setup is going to be your best bet for just about any species you’re targeting; that includes bass. Spinning reels are easy to control, flexible in their application, and plenty strong enough to pull in big fish if you pick the right one.
For a good all-around setup, it’s recommended that you get a 6 or 7-foot spinning rod that’s medium to medium-heavy with a fast action tip. You can find these specifications clearly labeled on the rod blank if you’re shopping in-store, and online listings will have that information outlined in the description. To tell
if a rod is a spinning rod in-store, look at the handle. Spinning reels hang from the bottom of the rod, and there’s no finger groove. Casting rods are the opposite.
This rod variant will let you set hooks quickly, wear the bass out without too much trouble, and spot the slightest bites as soon as they happen; as well as accommodate a wide variety of lures and fresh bait setups. However, it’s not stiff enough for the heaviest lures and baits, and above-average fish will give it a workout.
You should pair the rod recommendation above with a reel rated between 4000 and 5000 and an 8 to 14-pound monofilament line. This is perfect for the size of lures and bait rigs you'll use for bass, and it's strong enough to handle bigger fish if you know what you're doing.
Casting Setup - Intermediate to Advanced
With this, we’re not talking about your old Zebco 33 or similar closed-faced casting reels. We mean a proper baitcasting reel paired with a casting rod. This typically packs a bit more power and casting accuracy than a spinning setup, but it’s also a lot harder to control. We don’t recommend starting on this setup unless you’ve used a spinning setup for at least one season.
It’s best to choose a medium-heavy or heavy casting rod with an extra-fast action tip for this. 7-foot is an ideal length. The reel you’ll use will pack quite a bit of power, and you’ll probably use it for heavier lure setups. You will lose some sensitivity compared to medium-power rods, but it’s nothing an experienced fisherman can’t compensate for by checking the line itself.
Again, use a bait caster. You'll get unmatched accuracy with your casts, and they're powerful enough to pull in giant bass that would burn out most spinners in seconds. However, bait casters are difficult to tune, and the slightest mistake while casting can leave you with a massive bundle of knotted lines. Take time to practice casting before heading out on the water.
What to Use - Lures and Baits
Once you have a rod and reel setup, it’s time to look at the lures and baits you’ll be using. With bass fishing, lures are typically preferred, but live bait isn’t off the table, and it’s more than capable of catching high-quality bass.
What you choose to use should mostly depend on whether you want to sit around staring at the water, or if you want to proactively toss lures and check different areas.
Lures - The Top 3 Options
Bass will hit almost anything that moves. They're highly reactive creatures, and their predatory instincts kick them into overdrive when something is bouncing around in the water. However, three tried-and-true staples should be in every bass fisherman's tacklebox.
1: Soft Plastic Worms
Soft plastic worms are probably the most basic bass lures you can use, and they’re a favorite for many fishermen. They’re cheap, versatile, and proven to attract strong bites from even the most stubborn bass in the pond.
It's recommended to buy several bags of these in various color and scent combinations. That way, if the bass isn't biting your first option, you can cycle through and find the one that matches their preference for the day.
You will need worm hooks and various lead weights to properly rig these. Try a 3/0 worm hook with a bullet weight for a basic rig.
Spinners, spin jigs, and every other variant of this lure work pretty much the same. They have a weighted head that is usually painted and attached to a long hook, a skirt that hides the hook and creates natural motion in the water, and at least one shiny metal blade that spins and flashes in the water.
These are prime lures for bass, and you don't need to master any crazy techniques to use them. Just chuck them out and reel them in with various patterns. Try adding several versions to your tackle box and cycling through them until you find one that works.
Swimbaits come in two main forms: Segmented hard-plastic fish and soft-plastic fish. The soft-plastic options are cheaper and hurt less when you inevitably lose them, but they require a bit more finesse to make them look real.
To use these properly, give them a good chuck past a place bass are likely to be, and pull them back in slowly with random pauses that last a couple of seconds. As they move into the bass-filled area, they'll attract bites.
The hard-plastic options typically have multiple treble hooks installed, but you’ll need worm hooks to rig the soft-plastic options.
Live baits aren't as commonly used for bass, but they do work. Shad, shiners, bluegill, minnows, and other small fish are all great for use as live bait. You can buy most of these options from local bait shops, or if it's permitted at your favorite lake, you can catch them straight from the source. In any case, hook them through the back, carefully avoiding the spine, to keep them alive and attract bass for as long as possible.
How to Fish for Bass: Bank and Boat Fishing Strategies
Whether you fish from a boat or the banks, the strategies you'll use will mostly be the same. The only difference is that you'll have easier access to some of the less-fished parts of a lake if you use a boat. Also, keep in mind that most boat fishermen end up catching their best fish relatively close to the bank anyways. So, you don't need to rush out and buy a fancy watercraft to start bass fishing.
Pick the Right Spots
Bass is just like any other fish. They're unlikely to just be randomly floating around in the barren middle of a lake when they're interested in feeding. Instead, they'll stick close to the same spots that smaller fish tend to hide in.
This includes areas with a lot of aquatic flora, around fallen trees, under docks and piers, and near sudden drop-offs or structures hidden beneath the water.
To start, take note of the obvious spots you can see. Large swathes of vegetation, docks, and piers, and visible trees are all easy places to start. To check the water's bottom, you can use sonar on your boat, or you can use a larger, flat, lead weight to get an idea of what the bottom is like without equipment. There are even sonar-enabled tools that you can cast from the bank and read their results on your phone.
Fishing Those Spots
For most of these spots, you’ll use the same tactics. Carefully cast your lure as close to the spot as possible without getting your line tangled on it, and use the reeling technique specific to that lure.
Take extra care to avoid anything that might snag your line, and if you do get a fish on the other end, try to guide it away from its cover. If it gets a good pull-in, it might dart right into thick tree roots or brush, and you can kiss your lure goodbye.
This is different when you fish vegetative mats on the surface. Huge bass love to hide under moss mats and other thick vegetation layers. However, getting a lure into those spots can be difficult, to say the least.
Your best bet will be to rig a soft-plastic lure with a worm hook in a “Snagless” setup. This requires you to thread the hook through the lure's tip and then pop it back up through the mid-section. This allows the hook's barb to lay nestled in the lure, and it doesn't expose itself until the bass bites down. Then, get a hefty bullet weight ahead of your hook to help the lure plunge into the vegetation with ease. Baitcasting setups are best for this since they have the power to rip through the vegetation when you hook a bass.
Setting the Hook and Handling the Fight
When you first start learning how to fish for bass, you’ll probably lose a few solid bites due to improper technique. Namely, setting the hook might give you problems.
Since most bass rigs utilize a soft-plastic lure with the aforementioned “Snagless” setup, you can’t just yank the rod the second you notice a nibble. The barb is hidden until the bass commits to a hard bite, and the lure will just slip out of their mouth.
Let the bass fully commit to the bite and start to run with the lure. Then, yank back hard and at an angle. This gives the fish time to slip the plastic down the hook’s shank, and the barb will pierce its lip when you yank.
For the fight, it’s similar to any other fish. Ensure that your reel’s drag is tight enough to handle the fish but allows for leeway to prevent damage, and allow the fish to wear itself out instead of trying to muscle it to shore.
Solunar Fishing Considerations
Solunar Theory is the relatively well-backed theory that fish move along with the movements of the moon. Particularly, it states that there are four specific points throughout any given day at which fish are the most active and likely to bite.
Theoretically, with the right timing, you can optimize your chances of catching bass by simply understanding when these specific points occur throughout the day, and many fishermen swear by the technique.
Unfortunately, Solunar fishing is a bit more complicated than it sounds. The moon affects different places at different times; meaning that Solunar fishing periods may be drastically different between states, countries, or even cities.
To solve this, it’s recommended to look up one of the many Solunar fishing charts available online, and check the recommended times for your area.
Practice Learning How to Fish for Bass
All of these tips and tricks are fairly basic, and any old-timer with a penchant for bass fishing can probably write several novels worth of additional information. However, this is more than enough to get started.
As with anything else, how effective you are at bass fishing will be determined by how much effort you put into practice the skill. Get out on the water, try different setups and techniques, and as always, constantly look for new ideas to add to your bass fishing repertoire.
Unknown Author, Retrieved from tides4fishing.com at https://tides4fishing.com/solunar-tables/solunar theory
Sean Ward, Retrieved from On Track Fishing (2021), Spinning Reel Sizes: A Guide and Chart to Choosing the Best Selection, https://www.ontrackfishing.com/spinning-reel-sizes/