We all want to learn to become better bass anglers. However, we don’t necessarily bass fish in that direction. If we’re catching bass, we keep casting with the same pattern and baits until they stop biting. It might be a day, it might be a week; I’ve even seen patterns last a month before bass change. If you have bass narrowed down and can catch them without too much trouble, this is a great time to expand your bass fishing skill set.
If you are a confident soft plastics angler, and can work down a bank line filled with brush catching bass from predicable locations, it’s time to change up. That is if you want to learn more about bass fishing. You know bass are in the area, so use them to explore or expand your skills. This is a fantastic time to learn how to work a variety of baits. An angler that doesn’t have much confidence in fishing a jig should use this exact example as a reason to pick up a jig. In an area that you know bass will feed on bottom bouncing baits is the perfect scenario to learn what a strike feels like on a jig. It can be different. This will also give you confidence in how to work a jig. You know the bass are there because you can call your shot with a plastic worm, so work these same spots with the jig until you figure out how to make that bass strike. First, working the jig through the area as you were with the worm, should produce a strike, but if it doesn’t, it’s time to experiment and learn what does work. Maybe swimming it, maybe letting it fall vertical along cover, maybe a slow drag, maybe just letting it sit longer. The point is, you have bass pinpointed, so don’t waste them. After you get the jig figured out, move on to another bait.
This is also a great time to experiment with rods. I get asked all the time what rod power rating is best for which baits and conditions. When you’re catching bass regularly is the best time to experiment with different sizes and powers to see which gives you the best hook set, casting ability, and control over bass in your conditions. Many baits respond differently to different rods. Especially when dealing with reaction baits. What I prefer for a specific presentation can be uncomfortable or cumbersome for others. The best time to learn what fits your style or needs best is not in a tournament, where every fish counts. When fun fishing and the bass are biting, you won’t be worried about the ones that get away, making it the perfect time to experiment with your equipment to find what gives you the best results.
Bass fishing lures are tools, anyone that knows me or has read my articles or blogs lately has seen me harp on this. Learning how and when to use your tools is vital to becoming a better bass tournament angler. If you want to be competitive, you have to learn how to maximize your tools (lures). In times when the bass fishing is good, and getting strikes is easy, is the best time to learn new tools. The reason being is that part of being good with tools is confidence in using them. The only way to build confidence in a lure is to use it, and catch bass on it. So don’t waste the bass you have found, use them to make yourself a better angler.
I recently found a grove of trees on a favorite lake of mine. I was able to pick bass from this grove pretty easily with soft plastic creature baits. So I circled back through the grove with a crankbait and rattle trap, two baits I need some confidence with. The first couple times back through the area, I didn’t catch another fish, but I started adjusting colors and size, along with experimenting with my retrieves. I found that I was able to catch bigger fish with a crankbait. I didn’t catch as many, but they were larger. So not only did I build some confidence in a crankbait, but I also learned that in this set of water conditions which crankbait works best.
A bass fishing angler is doing him or herself an injustice if he or she doesn’t learn something from every bass fishing trip. If we hit the water using the same baits at the same locations over and over, the only time we’ll catch bass are when the conditions for that presentation exist. It’s the tough days on the water, when we have to adjust, adapt, or leave our comfort zone that make us better bass fishing anglers. You don’t have to wait for difficult days to learn new presentations; you’ll learn more about your tools when bass are actually biting. By taking something from every bass fishing adventure, we are piecing the perplexing puzzle called bass together.
I hear so often, especially after a tough tournament, phrases like “I hit every brush pile in the lake with my brush hog and couldn’t get a bite”. My first thought after hearing something like this is that it’s a big lake and how many brush piles are in it. Then I think, wow, you’ve got come serious confidence in brush hogs and brush piles to fish them all day and not get a bite! Personally after the third, maybe fourth, brush pile was not productive, I’d be looking for a new pattern. However, I’m very different from many anglers. I learned a long time ago that you cannot force feed a bass. That said, you have to figure out what they are hungry for, or how to make them strike an offering. Just because you caught them on a brush hog two days ago, doesn’t mean that if you fish a brush hog long enough today you’ll catch them again. If you’ve been experimenting, you will have ideas and lure choices to change to. In the beginning of this, I mentioned that an angler that was confident with soft plastics should take days when he can call his shots to learn to fish a jig; that might have been very handy in this situation.
The next time you’re catching bass as fast as you can cast, take some time to experiment. Learn some different tools. If you’re catching them on spinnerbaits in shallow cover, this is a great time to put some time into fishing a squarebill. I can list all kinds of ideas that an angler could switch to, meaning if they are biting this then learn to use that, the idea is that too become better anglers we need to change up and learn new presentations. Use biting bass to learn more tools and expand your skills.
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