Bass Fishing 101: A Guide for Beginners
Let me start off by saying, bass fishing is a great pastime for anyone to get into. You can learn a lot of life’s lessons out on the water like patience, a good work ethic, the value of investment, teamwork and so much more. And it’s just really fun! But bass fishing can be pretty tough at times, especially for an angler just starting out. So today, we hope to simplify some of those first few trips for you and help put a few fish in your hands. Because we know, even a little success early on is often all you need to stick with it. So here’s our Bass Fishing 101 breakdown for beginners.
When to go Bass Fishing
There are specific days and times of the day when bass feed better. Now I’m not suggesting it’s as specific as ‘they bite best every Tuesday and Thursday’. We’re not talking fixed days on the calendar, but instead days when several variables lineup. That being said, bass do have certain feeding windows that hold true almost everyday. For instance, bass feed really well the first 30 minutes of daylight and the last 30 minutes of daylight, and that holds true winter, spring, summer and fall.
But there are also windows that are specific to certain seasons. For instance, the best bite in the wintertime is often from around 10 AM to around 2 PM. The reason being, that’s typically the warmest part of the day with the most sunshine penetrating the water. And the reason sunshine is so important is that bass are cold blooded creatures. This means that their body temperatures are regulated by their environments, so they function best at a certain temperature. Once the water gets below 50 degrees, bass become lethargic and aren’t as willing to chase bait.
And when the water temps exceed 85 degrees, they tend to slow down as well. Ideally, you’re looking for water between 55 and 75 degrees. If that water temp isn’t available the time of year you’re trying to fish, you want to do all you can to find water as close to that zone as possible. Which is part of why these feeding windows throughout the day exist.
As far as which days to fish, you want to look for favorable weather conditions. Even though the sunshine is helpful in the winter, cloudy and overcast days activate fish all year long as well. You’ll hear terminology like “low pressure” on days like this, and the reference there is to low barometric pressure, typically accompanying a cold front. On these low pressure days bass bite the best. But be prepared for a little rain and cold if you go out on these days, especially in the winter months.
Where to Fish for Bass
Knowing where to look is also extremely important, but should not be intimidating. First and foremost, bass love cover. These fish are predators which have to hunt for their food. They have two options: they can swim around and chase bait, suspending at times out in the open water or they can find a piece of cover, settle in and prepare to ambush the first thing that comes by. One method requires a lot more energy than the other, and you’ll find more often than not there are some fish relating to some cover all the time no matter what fishery you are on.
And fishing cover is definitely what a beginner should focus on versus suspended fish, as visual targets will help you hone in on where the fish are. But what does it mean to fish cover? Cover is a word often used to refer to absolutely anything in the water a bass can use to ambush prey. Some examples of cover are stumps, laydowns, brushpiles, rocks, bridge pilings, vegetation, docks, and the list goes on. Finding visual targets like this will help you practice your accuracy in casting and give you a much higher percent chance of putting your bait in front of a fish.
What Baits & Lures to Use
Generally speaking, all artificial lures can be broken up into a handful of categories. One way to look at it is hard baits, soft plastics and skirted lures. So with hard baits, we’re talking about most topwaters, crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, and other such lures that are hard and typically come rigged with treble hooks. To break it down a step further, treble hooks are the ones with three separate bends and points. Soft plastics are baits like worms, Flukes, paddle tail swimbaits, craws, Senkos and other lures that are soft to the touch and typically don’t come with hooks but have to be rigged and fished with additional terminal tackle.
Terminal tackle refers to things like weights, hooks, swivels, split rings and other items. Then you have skirted baits like jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and vibrating jigs that come with one big hook and some blade component, with the exception of the jigs. Even still, there are a handful of baits that don’t fall into these three categories, like hollow body frogs, spoons and umbrella rigs. But 90% of the baits out there can be lumped into one of those groups: soft plastics, hard baits and skirted lures.
When choosing what to fish with, you’ll want to base your decision primarily on what type of cover you’re fishing around, what type of bait is naturally present in the area and visibility or water clarity. You will often be able to visually identify the cover and water clarity, and there are signs of what live bait is present as well typically. But you can also do research before you head to the fishery to learn these things. The denser the cover, the more you’ll want to lean towards soft plastic lures. If the cover is a little less dense, skirted baits work well too. And then for open water or isolated cover, hard baits enter the picture and you’re able to use all three bait categories to catch fish.
When selecting the color and profile, or shape of the bait, remember to try to mimic the live bait present in the area. This is called matching the hatch, and will give you the best chance of tricking the fish into thinking you’re artificial lure is the real deal. If shad are the predominant food source, select baits that use blades and color schemes that look like shad. If crawfish are the main forage, go with crawfish colored crankbaits or jigs. If it is bluegill the bass are keying on try soft plastic, jigs or topwaters depending on the season. And let the water clarity help you determine which colors to use, going for more natural colors in clearer water and solid colors like black, white or chartreuse in low visibility.
Now go Catch Some Bass!
If you’re new to bass fishing, it can be a little overwhelming at first. Even reading through this article, there may be a good bit of terminology you’re hearing for the first time. But don’t sweat all that. Fishing is supposed to be fun, and it is! Don’t give up if the first few trips aren’t automatic. Just take your time and ease into it. Use these tips to determine when to go, where to look and what to fish with and you’ll be catching bass in no time.