Simple Bass Fishing Techniques

February 11, 2009 by  

PJ Maguire

The spinnerbait is one of the most popular bass fishing technique of all-time.

The spinnerbait is one of the most popular bass fishing technique of all-time.

The first step I took as a fisherman was from catching sunnies off the dock to casting for bass along the docks. It is true that bass are a sunfish, so in theory this is a logical step. Most of my friends, like me, first started serious fishing for bass and then transitioned into walleyes and other freshwater game species found in the upper Midwest.

Early in the year, bass can be found in shallow hard bottom parts of many lakes. These are the spawning beds that the bass use. Bass can be caught in these areas by casting many different types of presentations. I have had the most luck using white or chartreuse spinner baits with fast retrieves. The hard bottoms of these locations are key for finding fish; a good spot to start is sandy bottoms or bulrushes and often times where they transition into soft bottom.

Once the water warms up the bass will move into deeper, cooler water. Under normal conditions in the Midwest this should occur in early June. Bass can be caught in 6-10 feet of water casting shallow diving crank baits and spinner baits. Small spoons and live bait presentations can work well too.

Through July, bass can still be found shallow early and late in the day, but will move deeper as the sun rises. These fish can be fished using the same methods. I have had excellent luck catching largemouths with leeches while walleye fishing in the dog days of summer. In fact, some would argue that live bait presentations might be the best way to catch bass. Longtime guide Marv Koep of the Brainerd Lakes area swears by fishing with redtail chubs in 8-12 feet of water. The largemouth bass, after all, is in the Panfish family, and I do not know of a better way to catch panfish than with a bobber.

Recently in late June, I traveled to Lake Mille Lacs on a fishing outing with friends. They each caught big smallmouths using live worms while walleye fishing. They were the two biggest smallies I have ever seen at 17 and 18 inches respectively. Both fish were released, both to insure future fish populations and to comply with Mille Lacs regulations (only one fish over 21 inches may be kept).

White Spinnerbait

White Spinnerbait

Schools of Largemouth bass that contain larger fish are most commonly found in deeper water. The exception is that some bass seek shade under docks and boats. Bass find these places to be ideal for eating bluegills as well. I have found casting spinner baits into these areas is the best approach. Spinner baits are the most versatile lures on the market; you can fish them deep or shallow, and they don’t usually hook up on weeds or docks. My buddies and I refer to this approach as “Bass-mastering it.” If you pay any attention to the bass fishing circuit, the well-known Kevin Van Dam has been using spinnerbaits successfully for years. He’s been known to live and die with spinnerbaits some tourneys all over the country, and it’s paid off enormous dividends.

On lakes with softer bottoms, lily pads also provide shade on sunny days for Largemouth bass. Spots where the lily pads end and drop offs begin are good locations. During the day try casting weedless spoons and top water lures into the lily pads. The key with top-water is to have a very slow retrieve. If you bring a top-water lure over the drop off make sure to really slow it down once the lure has moved past the weeds. You want to give the bass the impression that the lure ventured into some place it shouldn’t have.



If you don’t have success in the lily pads, go back along the same shoreline and fish the drop off. I like casting crankbaits that dive quickly like the Rapala Fat-Raps and Rattle-Traps. Cast the lure on the edge of the lily pads so it cranks down the drop off on the first part of your retrieve. Different colors work in different lakes during different light conditions. A good color to start with when using crankbaits for bass is crawdad, but don’t be afraid to experiment. The rule of thumb is to use brighter lures in darker water such as chartreuse, fire tiger, orange and red. And for clearer water use natural colors such as blue and silver. It’s also important to have an assortment of lures that match the local forage base.

In northern Minnesota, smallmouth casting the same lures along rocky drop offs can catch bass. These spots can be identified by steep shorelines. This is where the smallies go to feed on crawfish. For lure color my first choice always depicts that and it rarely fails to put on fish when present.

During mid-day and later in the summer, Smallmouth bass can be found around rocky humps. These humps can be found anywhere from 15 – 25 ft of water depending on the lake and weather. I cast or drift with ¼ to 1/2 oz jigs tipped with minnows for these fish. By doing this I often catch walleyes too.

Fishing is all about mastering patterns. If you are not having any luck casting in the shallows, try switching colors or presentations. If that does not work try different depths and different cover. When in doubt go back to fishing basics and try a slip bobber and a leech. A struggling leech in the strike zone is often too tempting to pass up.


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