We all have a way we like to approach a day on the water chasing bass, a system we use. As anglers, we have learned that as the sun comes up there are certain baits that are productive while others are just a waste of time until later in the day. Of course, this system will vary from season to season. These are some of the general things I do as part of my system to finding bass.
In the spring, bass fishing is good, with the exception of a northern front blasting through the area. In early spring, I will start my day as the sun comes up with a spinnerbait, vibrashock, shallow running crank bait and a rattle trap. I will cover water looking for the warmest water I can find. Certain bays, especially on the north and west side of a lake, will warm faster and cool slower. These bays will have the most active fish in them, so I’ll try and cover as much water as I can, looking for actively feeding bass. As the sun comes up for the day, I will look for creek channels, ditches, or anything that can be used as a travel route to the areas that I caught the most fish that morning. The bass that were caught first thing used a highway somewhere nearby to get to the shallows, and if I can find it, I’ll find a lot more bass. During the early part of the spring season, bass will feed heavily to put on weight before the stressful spawning season. They will use highways or travel routes to move back and forth along as they move from the safety of deeper more consistent water to the shallows to feed.
As the spring wears on and bass get closer to actually spawning, I will add some top-water baits and stick baits to my arsenal. Now I will stay shallow, or relatively shallow all day. I will spend my day looking for spawning grounds and will still cover as much water as I can. Bass that are locked on beds can be pretty easy to catch and if you can find a limit of quality bass you can spend your time sight fishing. However, you still have to pay attention to possible travel routes as weather fronts or excessive fishing pressure can drive bass to deeper waters.
Late spring and early summer can be some tough fishing. For me, this is when I’ll have up to ten rods on deck. Everything from top water to jigs. Many bass are in post spawn, and simply scattered across the lake. Some pull out and suspend, some will be still cruising the flats guarding fry, while others are sucked up to cover. So a day on the water for me will start shallow again and work my way deeper until I find the majority of fish. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find fish shallow and then follow them to deeper waters as the sun comes up. Baits can range from a frog in the vegetation that is starting to grow, to a trick work on the edge of that grass, to surface poppers and crank baits on points, to dragging worms or jigs on flats. This time of year anything is possible, and there have been days when the crappie fishing would be a better option.
As we get into summer, bass, become more predictable again. You can find a pattern that is going to last for several months now. The type of lake will determine the best patterns to use. Clear, rocky, deep-water lakes will have bass on the ledges and points. You can work the shallow parts of these with your topwater of choice as the sun comes up and then switch to cranks through mid morning and sometimes all day. If the reaction bite isn’t there simply switch to a Carolina rig, big Texas rig, or your favorite jig. Electronics are a must this time of the year, especially on these type of lakes. You can eliminate a bunch of water before you make your first cast with good electronics. Practice using them. On lakes and rivers with a lot of vegetation, I like to head straight for it and work hollow body frogs over the top of it, spinnerbaits and vibrashocks around the edges. After the sun gets up, I will probe the thickest vegetation I can find with a punch bait. These two different lake scenario approaches work great for me and are how I start on any body of water during the summer time.
Fall is probably the best time to be on the water bass fishing. If you have a favorite technique for catching bass, you will be able to use it effectively in the fall of the year. With bass feeding up for the winter, your best bets will be shad imitation baits. I will have a topwater bait handy all day long in the fall and fish it off and on. Many times I have seen it produce the best bass of the day at high noon. Other bait choices for me will still be punching vegetation, crank baits, and spinnerbaits. Shad will migrate to the creeks this time of the year and the bass follow them, as the creeks start getting narrow the bass congregate and feed on the shad as they come by. It’s the easiest opportunity that a bass has had to feed all year. Spend some time exploring your lakes and find these bottle neck areas, you could have the biggest numbers day you’ve had on the water all year. During the fall, I will generally fish shallow all day long. I like to look for active feeding schools of bass.
Winter is time to sleep in past sunrise and let the chill get off the air and lakes. Unless it’s a tournament, you won’t find me fighting to get on the water at safe light. I have found that the most productive fishing times are between 9 am and 3 pm. The water is too cold for a top water pattern, so there is no hurry to get to the lake before the sun runs the fish deep. I’ll look for any vegetation that might be left over from the summer. If I can find green live vegetation, I’ll be able to catch a few fish from it. This vegetation could be as deep as ten feet and not visible from the surface; good electronics will help you find it. If that’s not an option, it’s time to slow way down and get back on your electronics and find some deeper fish. A bonus about winter time fishing is that if you can find a deeper school of bass they will stick around for a while, you’ll be able to catch them day after day. Some baits I like to use are jigs, shakey heads, spoons, and lastly a crank bait. While I throw it, and here in the south it is very effective with deeper bass, I just can’t say a Carolina rig is part of my regular arsenal.
So basically my bass catching system is to start shallow and work my way deeper. Utilizing the season to determine what my bait choices and how fast to work them. In preparation for a trip, I will try to find out if there is grass available and if so that’s where I’m heading first. I have a tremendous amount of confidence that I can catch bass in vegetation. In general after the sun gets on the water you’ll find that I slow down some and start working available cover near the areas I was catching morning fish. Then, if I have too, I’ll try off shore structure. Not my favorite but I’m getting better. I have learned that if you can find bass off shore, you’re going to catch some large numbers and better quality fish.
Take a look at your bass catching system, we all have one, and see what you think. Instead of blindly casting the next time you’re on the water, think about your system and consciously apply it. I’ll bet you’ll see that you find bass much quicker.