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Outsmarting Big Bass

Aug 26, 2008
Trying to land that big trophy bass? You'll need five percent luck and ninety five percent smarts. You've got a lot to learn before you can fish for bass, including where to locate them and how to handle their habitat.

Many anglers (both pro and recreational) hit a new body of water, drop their lines and wonder why the bass just aren't striking. This is because they haven't taken the time to familiarize themselves with the water -- both above and below the surface.

There's no luck involved in locating the best bass fishing spots. It really is a science, and you'll need to do some homework. Understand the water, the climate and the season.

There are several important factors to keep in mind when finding sweet spots swimming with hungry bass:

1. Your fishing expedition will naturally be affected by seasonal patterns. Know the patterns of the bass; where they go after spawning, and how they migrate throughout the season. Be a responsible angler and respect your seasonal limits. Government resource ministries protect the species by setting bass season in accordance with natural spawning patterns.

2. Keep the season in mind. The success of your bass fishing will depend on weather conditions. Bass are most active in early spring, late fall and just after a cold front. Knowing when to fish is as important as knowing where to fish.

3. Deep or shallow water? It depends on the type of bass you're fishing. Some species prefer deep, cold water, while others thrive in shallow, weedy areas. Know the habits of the fish you're hoping to hook, and determine the water depth. Lakebed materials, natural cover and weed beds should be taken into account. Some types of bass are found in shallow water, but only when there is sufficient natural cover. Fish will not stay in shallow, unprotected water on a hot, sunny day. They type of bait or lure you choose will also depend on the depth of the water.

4. Avoid murky, swampy areas. Fish love clear water, because they need to live and breathe in it. Look for clean water and you'll be more likely to find fish.

5. Know the water temperature. If the water is too cold (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) the natural food chain will be affected. On the other hand, if it's too warm, the fish just won't bite.

6. Locate structure areas. Bass love to hide out among the sunken branches of fallen trees, amid rock beds and even under boat docks and underwater foundations. Fine structures hidden beneath the surface of the water, and you'll find bass.

7. Don't forget the greens. As natural predators, bass will naturally stay close to their prey. Frogs, insects and other bass treats live among weed beds, so of course, bass will be there as well. Use a plug or similar weedless lure, or try live bait when fishing weed beds. Anchor your boat nearby, and cast alongside the edge of the weed bed. The right piece of tackle will "lure" the bass right into your boat.

8. Mind your map. You won't find the bass in the lake if you can't find the lake on a map. If you're fishing foreign territory, the ability to read a map is crucial to your bass fishing success. Sometimes, local tackle shops will have maps available with prime fishing spots marked right on them. Hot spot and topographical maps are two popular choices for anglers. Hot spot maps are made to show anglers where fish can be found, but the natural migration trends prevent accuracy. Topographical maps show the lakes in more detail, with rocks, water depth and other features clearly shown.

Knowing how to sector a map is the key to using it correctly. Study your map carefully and look for areas where fish are most likely to be found. Divide the map into sections with a colored pen or highlighter. An experienced angler will use the sections to determine where to fish, depending on the amount of time they have to spend on the water. The size of the sections can also vary depending on structures, contours and how many different areas will be fished. It's important to take your time, and don't give up too quickly on your chosen spot.

A consistent bass angler knows that success depends on more than simply dropping anchor and casting the line. That's why competitive bass tournaments are so exciting. Try to think like a bass, and look for the spots that other anglers might have missed.

Pack these important tips into your tackle box before you head for the lake:

* Vegetation areas

* Shallow water next to deeper spots

* Seek shoreline and lakebed contours

* Points and point drops

* Search out artificial and natural structures

Locating bass and understanding the water are the first steps to finding bass, and once you've found a spot you think will be a prime bass fishing area, don't give up on it too quickly. Bass can be slow to strike and may need repetitive action to be lured out of hiding, so you may need to try several different baits and techniques to establish a working pattern and land those big bass.
About the Author
Columnist Terence Uniacke contributes articles to a variety of popular web magazines, on outdoor recreation and recreation outdoors issues.
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