Ever had those days where you cast in the direction of a brush pile or aimlessly across a point and bam you catch a fish? We have all done it. But we go back to that same spot make a few casts and dont get bumped, and immediately you think well they must have moved. Well that is not necessarily true, that aimless cast you made may have been right next to a single large bolder on that point or to an extra long limb on that brush pile. Bait presentation is vital to generating strikes, especially with the fishing pressure is high or fishing conditions are tough.
There are two major factors that go into bait presentation, location and retrieve.
If you are aimlessly casting your baits into the water, the majority of your cast will never bring your bait near a bass. Bass are very structure and cover orientated, meaning they will use points, ditches and drop offs as travel routes to different locations (feeding or resting sites) and once at those locations they will use cover to hide their selves for protection or to ambush prey. When making your casts you want to put your bait in one of three places, in there home where they rest, on there dinner plate where they feed, or along there road where they might stop for a quick snack.
When deciding where to fish, try to find areas that have first deep water for a bass to rest, second a travel route for bass to use to get to the third area a feeding ground. Now this area could encompass a 300-yard area or be small as 50 feet. We now have a great place to fish so lets talk about how to present your bait to the bass that reside in the area. Early and late in the day, you should expect the fish in this area to be in the feeding zone. Bass will pull up into the feeding zone and position their selves in cover that is available in such a way as to prevent prey from seeing them and wait for food to swim by so that they can feed. When you start fishing this area, concentrate on the available cover. Make casts next to and threw any brush, grass, or logs laying in the water. Your first casts should be along or next to the available cover getting as close as possible to the cover with out actually hitting it. This type of cast will generate strikes from very active feeding bass and prevent spooking any other fish that may be in the cover while fighting your first one out. Make several of these outside edge casts all around the cover using different angles to make sure you have given the bass in the cover every opportunity to see your bait and strike. Once you have caught all the active fish it is time to start working on the more finicky ones. Start presenting your bait closer to the cover, these casts should actually hit the outside edges of the grass or limbs and after you have cast to all the possible angles move to the center of the cover. Bring your bait right threw the middle of it. You will find that at times that bass will not move far from the cover to strike and right down the middle is the only way to get a strike, even in these situations always cast to the edges first. Many times if you dont disturb the cover you can catch several bass from one brush pile or dock.
As the day gets later bass will start traveling to their resting area. This is when you want to start working that drop off, ditch or point that is a travel route to deeper water resting area. This travel route will have road signs on it. Just like we use a street sign, a bass will use larger rocks, a single stick up, or even a bend in the road to navigate by. You will want to find these signs and fish them. All bass that use this particular road will navigate the road by these signs. Example would be, head down the ditch until it splits and then go left down the deeper one until you hit the stick, turn right and follow the point out to the brush pile sitting in 10 ft. If you are fishing one of these road signs you will present your bait to every bass that is traveling home to rest.
Once you are into the middle of the day, start fishing right in there home in those deep-water areas at the opposite end of your travel route. Look for any brush or structure changes that bass can hide in or around. You want to present your bait right in the face of your bass. When they are out on this deeper hangouts they are less likely to chase down prey, but if an opportunity comes by they will take. So the key is to get the bait in front of their noses and make your bait appear to be very easy to catch.
Retrieve speed, action, and accuracy are all very important in making a bass strike your bait. Even if you have the best location you will not draw a single strike if your bait is not retrieved in a manner that is attractive to a bass.
Determining the correct speed is a trial and error process and you must let the bass tell you what they want. Start with a retrieve speed and action that is comfortable to you and you have confidence in. From there you will have to adjust to what the fish want. After a couple casts to likely targets without a bite you will need to adjust. More often than not slowing down is the way to go but it is not an absolute. There are times that a reaction strike is the only one you will get and that usually happens on a fast erratic retrieve. So once you decide your retrieve is not working start adjusting.
Find a piece of cover that you know should have bass on or in it and make a couple casts at different angles and if they dont produce a strike try again but this time slow down your retrieve. Next make those same casts and use a stop and go or erratic retrieve. Allow your bait to contact your target, once it does pause your bait and, depending on what type of lure you are using, let it either float towards the surface or fall for moment. This is a very good tactic when bass are finicky. If you still havent produced a strike try a fast retrieve at several different angles. And finally if nothing else produced a strike drop a worm or jig right down the middle of your cover and let it sit there as long as you can stand it. Then lift your bait until it contacts a limb and let it fall again, repeat this process a couple times. A good tactic is after letting your bait sit on the bottom, try shaking it in one place, sometimes this will drive bass absolutely insane.
Once you have produced a strike, try to repeat the retrieve speed and action on the next likely spot, it may or may not produce and you are back to experimenting. Soon you will have a retrieve that will attract the majority of the fish in your area. Notice I said majority, threw out the course of the day you will want to experiment occasionally as the aggressiveness of bass will change with varying conditions such as wind or cloud cover.
Accuracy, this is a very important aspect of your lure presentation and there is no substitute for practice. Even if you have to practice casting in your yard, do so. Cast that are just a few inches off can be just out of a basss comfort zone and it will refuse to strike. This is extremely important on those tough days either because of weather conditions or fishing pressure. Once you find the sweet spots on your locations you want to concentrate on working just those areas. Take the large boulder that is a road sign along a point. If you are casting to far to the left or right of it, the bass that are passing by it will never see your bait. Or take the brush pile that bass are holding tight to. They dont want to leave the security of being invisible in the brush pile so a lure that requires them to leave it will be passed up. Any seasoned bass fisherman will have stories of a brush pile that produced a strike every time you ticked the top of it or a boulder on a point that you had to hit with your crank bait to trigger a strike. Bass will lay in a grass bed in such a manner that they can watch a specific strike zone and will only attack prey that swims threw that strike zone. They set their positions to maximize there targeting abilities to ensure the least amount of effort for the most amount of gain. Meaning they dont want chase a bait using up a bunch of energy only to catch it and not gain that energy back. Kind of technical but this fact is extremely true in larger bass, they have learned to configure their strike zone and wait for the perfect opportunity.
Another aspect of bait presentation is quiet entry. There are conditions and techniques out there that require a crashing entry of a bait to attract a bass; i.e. fishing thick mats of hydrilla. The majority of the time though a quiet entry will produce many more strikes. To achieve the quietest entry possible it is important to have your bait travel as close as possible to the waters surface and at the moment just before you bait hits the water you want to stop your line causing the bait to loose forward momentum. This will take all the energy out of the bait and if you are close to the water surface the bait falling into the water will be very subtle. When fishing deeper targets out on points or along drop offs this is not so important, but when fishing shallow shoreline or flats it can be absolutely critical to an effective lure presentation, so practice, practice and practice some more.
Tight Lines – It’s a Hawg,