Fishing for largemouth bass is one of America’s outdoor delights, a sport that many anglers dedicate to completely. That’s because catching these warriors provides a lot of thrill, they’re not extremely difficult to catch and they don’t require some extra expensive or unusual tackle.
In this post I’m going to try to cover an all-purpose tackle for largemouth bass, tackle that should allow you to be effective with any type of bait. But first, especially if you’re not exactly an expert when it comes to largemouth bass, here are a few words about their habitat and habits.
Where to Catch Largemouth Bass
First of all, bigmouths are fresh water fish, present in lakes and water streams of various sizes. They’re the easiest to catch in early spring, when water temperature is around 45°F (7°C), and at this time you’ll find them at depths between 2-10 feet.
As the water temperature rises up to 55-60°F (12-18°C), they will start searching for a spawning place, usually in shallow water, with direct access to sunlight, not very far from the shores or riverbanks, and at depths up to 6 feet. They are strenuous defenders of their spawning beds, just like walleye and other predatory fish, and even if they’re not hungry, they will bite almost anything that passes by. Therefore, in this period, you should use the most visible and noisy lures, that will be attacked by the bass.
As the summer sets up, and the water temperature climbs over 80°F (26°C), largemouths will reduce their movements, to conserve their energy. Also, by this time, you’ll find the larger ones deeper than the smaller ones, but even if the water is quite warm, you can still catch them in shallow waters, especially in the morning.
During the fall, as water temperatures begin to drop, their feeding activity will increase. Using fast and noisy lures this time, and also colorful lures, brings great results, especially near structures, ledges, at the ends of the weeds, or near steep shorlines.
In winter, evidently largemouths are more lethargic, so just as fishing for any fish in winter, you’ll have to look for them. When ice fishing for largemouth bass, there are higher chances to find them on the base of deep drops, green beds or where you know there are submerged logs.
Fishing Techniques for Largemouths
I’ll try to be brief here. It’s pretty obvious that active fishing with various types of lures is the most attractive technique for catching largemouth bass. However, you can still catch them by still fishing using various rigs, float fishing or trotting down rivers, wobbling live baits, or trolling.
Fly fishing works as well, of course, but in this case, catch and release will be problematic. There’s a reason they’re called largemouths. You should expect them to swallow your flies completely, being very difficult to un-hook without causing them internal damage. And releasing a fish with hooks inside them is just barbaric. Even if you release the fish and you see it swim away with no problem, you actually sentence it to a slow and painful death.
Live Bait and Lures for Largemouth Bass
Largemouth bass are predatory fish, they like their food on the move and they will grab almost anything that fits in their mouth. In fact, they can eat prey that’s up to 30% of their body lenght. If you want to use live bait instead of lures, minnows and shiners are a great choice, and you can catch them yourself to have them fresh, on the lake or river you’re fishing on. Frogs and tadpoles are also great.
However, one of the best live baits that you can use and get excellent results are nightcrawlers. These are pretty much the universal bait, which can catch almost any fish, from bluegills to premium bass.
When it comes to lures, there are 3 types of lures that are considerably better than others on bigmouths fishing. These are:
Spinnerbaits. These lures can be used with success the whole year. However, there are a few specifics. In clear and shallow water it’s best to use smaller lures, up to 3/8, with for deeper waters, over 20 feet, 3/8 should be the smaller size used. In spring, bigmouths seem to be more insterested in smaller spinners, so it’s best to go with single-bladed Mepps spinners, silver or yellow. In very cold water, or when temperature goes over 25°C, bass become sluggish, so retrieving should be slower. If you’re using tandem blades, always go with Indiana blades, rather than Willowleaf.
Crankbaits. These are lures that are best used in waters with plenty of structures, stump fields, ledges and drops, rocky bottoms or places with a lot of vegetation. They trigger a lot of baits when they bump into stuff. Choose crankbaits with a higher wobble and warmer colors if the water has a higher grade of turbidity. As opposed to that, go with natural colors and less wobble in clear water. Best crankbait sizes for largemouth bass are between 3-5 inches.
From this class of lures, you might want to try out:
Lucky Craft Fat CB Crankbait (BDS4) (Original Tennessee Shad), Koppers LIVETARGET Gizzard Shad Crankbait (Silver Pearl), Lucky Craft Rick Clunn Rattlin’ Crankbait (White Shad), SPRO Fat John 60 Crankbait (Chartreuse), Ultra Light Cranks, Matzuo Kinchou Minnow, Uncle Wesley’s Minnow.
Jigs. Although jigs can bring excellent results on bass year round, they’re best used in spring, or on cold water, since they seem to be more alluring when fished slowly. Also if you prefer fishing from docks, the jig should be head of your list. Of course, jigs are very productive when fishing in grassy, gravelly or sandy bottoms. Since they don’t have such a buzz output into the water as crankbaits or spinners, it’s best to use jigs in clear water. The most popular weight for a largemouth jig is 3/8, but depending on the depth you’re targeting you can be more flexible, choosing the more appropriate weight, between 1/16 and 1/2. Flipping jigs are the best, I usually go with 3/8 brownish, black and blue, or cola, or if the water has some turbidity, with white or chartreuse. When it comes to soft baits, Cover Craws, tailed worms or minnows have also worked greatly for me so far.
Poppers and buzzers work as well, of course, but it’s best to use them when you see there’s a lot of bass feeding activity, in shallow waters or near the surface. And from this class of lures, you should go with hula poppers, skitter pops and skitter walks (Rapala are the best).
Tackle for Largemouth Bass
As I said in the beginning of this post, I’m going to try to cover here an all-purpose “recipe” for a rod-reel-line for largemouths. However, most anglers will tell you that there’s no such a thing, that you should have multiple set-ups for any type of lure/bait that you’re using. But if you don’t really want to go pro, here’s a balanced setup that should cover as many bass fishing techniques and lures as possible.
You’ll be needing a 6’6″ – 7′ medium rod, moderate action, rated for 10-20# line, a spinning or baitcasting reel, rated for line in similar range 10-20#, and at least 150 yds of 10-15lb. pound test monofilament line. If the water is too clear and also snaggy, you might want to go with fluorocarbon though. It resists better to abrasions and it becomes invisible in the water.
A good example that should fit to the above “recipe” is the following:
Shakespeare Two-Piece Medium Action Ugly Stik Spinning Rod
Penn SSG Graphite Series Spinfisher Spinning Reel
Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Custom Spool (15lb)
The whole setup should be less than $100. And as you can see, I went with spinning gear, as a baitcaster reel might give a headache to a beginner angler.
Now, if you want to invest in some decent tackle, and multiple sticks for various baits, here are a few rods and reels to give a look to:
G Loomis Classic Bass Spin Jig Rod (6′ Light / Fast) – SJR721 GLX
G. Loomis Classic Flipping Stick Bass Rod FSR904X(GL2)
G. Loomis Bass Crankbait GL2 847C CBR
St.Croix MBC66MF Mojo Bass Casting Fishing Rod
St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Casting Rod TBC73MHF
St. Croix Triumph Casting Rod TRC70MF
Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel (12-Pound/145-Yard)
Abu Garcia 6500C3 Ambassadeur C3 Baitcast Round Reel
Abu Garcia Orra SX30 Spinning Reel
Okuma Trio High Speed Spinning Reel (Trio-55S)
Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel
Daiwa Exceler 2500 TSH
Line. I always keep the line within the 15-20lb. range, and always go with fluorocarbon.
Hooks. In case you’re going with live bait, don’t be shy on using bigger hooks even if the bass you’re targeting aren’t that big. I usually go with 1/0 – 2/0 octopus hooks, Owner or Gamakatsu, or Aberdeen-type (long shank) when using nightcrawlers. As the hooks on lures, the most popular size for treble hooks is 2/0.