Ultimate Bass

Simply Catching More Bass

How to improve your catch and put more fish in the boat:  We all tend to overlook several basic steps that can help us fish more effectively. Most of these things are so simple. I employ a few tricks while out on the water that have consistently put more fish in my hands. Often, I have found that a small adjustment was the difference between casting and catching.

Your Direct Link To Bass:
It all starts with line. I feel that fishing line is the most critical link to success. It does not pay to skimp on bargain lines. I don’t intend this article to be another finesse lecture, but decreasing line diameter has surely increased my catch rate. I started out using Berkley Ultrathin and then moved to Silver Thread. Both lines are fantastic. They provide strength in a small package. The thin line was a necessity for me and my finesse approach and was instrumental in handling my small 1/16oz jigs. Here I could use 10lb test line that had the diameter of 4 or 6lb test and that was a huge advantage. Although the trade off is a slight sacrifice in abrasion resistance, the thin lines have excellent tensile and knot strength. Perhaps their best feature is low memory and suppleness which make them a dream on spinning gear. Another alternative are superlines. I’ve used Fireline and Power Pro and I recomend them both. The Fireline looks ragged after a while, but it maintains its strength. These lines have great pulling power, but I avoid them around rocky areas. They cut through weeds with ease.

A Close Second:
I always use the best hooks money can buy as I feel that along with line, there is no reason to start skimping with garbage hooks. A super sharp hook puts you in the best position to easily penetrate a bass’ tough jawbone and scale plates. I was lucky enough to be on Owner’s field staff from 1995 to 2000 and I can tell you they make some of the best hooks around. The Owner cutting point is undoubtedly one of the sharpest, quickest penetrating points on a hook today, perhaps TTi’s X-Point is better due to its better carbon steel and thinner diameter. TTi’s X-Point is also a great cutting point hook. Daiichi, Gamakatsu and Mustad all make some outstanding hooks. For the money you can’t beat Mustad’s Ultra Point series. I compare these with Gammies and they stack up nicely. These are chemically sharpened needle points that come lethal right out of the package. I like these hooks so much, I put them on all of my jigs. I have to give Kudos to my bud, Travis, for getting me into Sugoi hooks. I think they are made by Gamakatsu. They are another great hook that is so sharp. I have a ton of confidence in them. These new generation super sharp hooks definately increase my hook ups and I can’t remember ever having a hook fail on me since I started using them. While none of the hooks come cheap, they are certainly worth the extra coin!!!. You would pay $150.00 for a good reel, why not 4.00 for premiun hooks??? They payoff many times over.

Scents Make Sense:
I am a firm believer that the use of scents can only help you increase your catch. At the very least, scents mask foreign odors that may turn fish off. In all liklihood, scents may convince a bass to hold a bait a little longer. I do not believe that scents attract bass…..they don’t. When a bass attacks a scented bait, the scent may convince the fish that the morsel it has picked up is genuine. It can produce a positive cue that the fish plays on. Initially, I used Riverside Real Craw. I have switched to Pro Cure bait scents, Bang, and Smelly Jelly Bass Feast. Some of my scents like Pro Cure come in a paste that I can smear on blades and on cranks. Others can be injected into plastics with a neat little injector tube I made. I’m so beyond Power Baits, instead I like handpoured baits that come scented out of the bag. I like Northern Handpoured baits. These are mixed with Bang and garlic. It is only my opinion, but I think fish do hold scented baits longer than unscented baits. At the very least, scented baits give me a confidence that allows me to catch fish with them.

I have long been a fan of adding small Venom glass rattles to my worms for some extra noise. This works well for me especially in stained water. To me, these rattles mimic the clicking of a crawfish and help fish find my baits. The small glass rattles slip easily into the plastic of a Senko or worm. The Senko with a rattle is a hot set up. The only thing is that if you tend to lose a bunch of Senkos….it hurts a little more because you lose the rattles, too. I add rattles to other baits as well. Besides jigs, I’ve started adding rattles to spinnerbaits and I can tell you that at times they get walloped because of it. I use this type of rattling spinnerbait called Midnight Special for all of my night time angling. It is hot!! The use of Brass n’ Glass has helped me increase my catches as well. This method can be used with just about any bait and can produce awesome strikes.

I have eliminated the use of lead bullet weights from my fishing. From an ecological standpoint, this is an environmentally friendly decision. I have replaced the lead with Steel and brass. Both of which work nicely on Brass and Glass rigs that utilize faceted, firepolished glass beads. This adds a whole new dimension of sound and light reflection to my bass fishing. I try to match the color of my glass bead to that of my bait. I almost always use this set up on a Texas rig. Tungsten is also a very popular alternative. I think it is grossly overpriced, but guys eat it up.

Do Your Homework:
This is what many of you have waited for. I will reveal a few aspects of my fishing system that I never speak about. Until now, most of my articles have been tech talk. Now I intend to let you know about mechanics and mental preparation. Fishing isn’t just about putting the the right bait in front of the right fish at the right time. It is a science. Consistency is not based on luck. It is based on knowledge and implementation of such knowledge. In the past 15 yrs or so, I have recorded every fish I caught on every fishing trip I took. I also recorded all of the necessary factors and conditions that were prevalent for those particular catches. The result was several volumes of journals that help me pick reliable patterns to this day. I can simply go to the books and match up conditions for a particular day and get an idea of what I should do for the coming trip. It works like a charm every time.

Slowing Down:
The majority of guys that I see out on the water seem to do their best "run and gun" imitation of the touring pros. A few casts here, a few there….move on to new water. On the small waters I fish on LI, that is rarely necessary. When I approach a spot, I make 3 or 4 casts to the same area and then change my casting angles to hit the same spot in diferent directions.Think of it this way, a bass under a dock isn’t always facing out towards you, it may be facing the in to the wind, facing the shoreline or sideways. Approaching from different angles gives you the best shot at putting a bait in front of the fish. I love coming behind boats that have moved quickley though an area. I usually can take a few fish from those spots just by slowing down and being more thorough. In stained water, it pays to slow down. In the heat of Summer, when bass metabolism is high, they may want a faster retrieve. Let them tell you what they want. Learn to slow your worms and jigs down to me more methodical in your approach.

Go Where No Man Has Gone Before:
I think one of the keys to my success is that I am not afraid to put baits in places where they may not come back from. Big bass get that way because they tend to live in nasty places. These places may help prevent them from getting caught. I would rather hook into a monster and lose him in heavy cover than to never hook that fish at all. Besides, chances are good that if I lose a fish, I can return at a later time and possibly hook the same fish again. Only this time I will be better prepared. If you are a serious bass fisherman, you can expect to lose a few baits…its part of the game. If you are afraid of losing baits then you might as well give this sport up because you won’t be consistent. You may be suprised to hear that I use 6 and 8lb. test almost exclusively…even in nasty places. I don’t lose many fish, either. When I approach an area that has some line breaking hazard, I first formulate a plan to avoid getting broken off on the particular snag. Easier said than done sometimes, but it works most of the time. If you hook a big fish and it doesn’t want to come your way, it won’t. You may have to go in and get it yourself. At times I follow the fish into the snags to retrieve it, often having to get wet to do it, but it works and is often the difference between landing a 5lber or hearing your line pop. Remember, you have to get into some of the worst places to find big fish. They are not easy.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is when anglers fail to adapt to change or surrounding conditions. These conditions may be water or weather realated. I’ve seen guys in my boat throw a favorite bait that may have worked in the past, but under a different set of circumstances is useless. All the while I might be murdering them on a totally different pattern…time to change!!!!! Let the bass tell you what they want. How many times have you caught a fish only to throw it back without even wondering why it hit??? I try to analize the first few bass of the day to see what my tactics had in common when I caught them. Adapting isn’t entirely changing baits to meet new conditions, it is more complex. It is changing your way of thinking to assimilate to ever changing conditions. Anglers who have a keen sense of what goes on around them are the first to realize these conditions. An example of this: A while back I was fishing with a friend on a lake that was getting some good fall pressure. Most of these guys were working the deeper areas with heavy sinking baits. The water was really cool and the bite was dead — typical bluebird coldfront day. At about 10:30 in the morning, I decided that the in and out of the sun through the clouds would slightly warm the water in the shallows. I’m not a genious, but logically moving in was the answer. I proceed to take 20 largemouth bass over the next 4 hours. My five best went close to 25lbs. and I caught 14 over 3lbs. My partner also had a solid limit. Meanwhile, just about every other boat stayed deep and took meager numbers of fish. They only other boat that caught fish was on the exact same pattern that we were. Like I said, I’m no genious, but I was smart enough to recognize a few factors that put me on to a new gameplan.

Mental Preparation:
Some people may disagree, but I am a huge believer that mental preparation can play a giant factor in success. There are two aspects of mental preparation that are key for me. Focus and confidence are essential for my implementation in my own fishing system.

FOCUS– It is so important to be in tune with your surroundings while fishing. I speak not only of the bait you are cranking in but of the total outdoor experience. Forgive me if I get too "deep". I try to concentrate on everything when I’m fishing. Sounds, sights, smells….everything. I look for anything that may give me a clue to where the bass may be. I focus on swirls of water, baitfish movement, birds taking off and landing, surface commotion, or anything out of the ordinary. Often, fish give their locations away with movement. Not everyone can detect this. I was out with my wife last season and we were working a stretch of cat tails. No wind on this day. I saw the tails move ever so slightly and directed her to cast to the location. The result was her first four pounder. I impressed her with that call and she believes to this day that becasue I am a Pisces, I can communicate with the bass or at least be in tune with them. The more I am concentrating on my surroundings, the easier it is to detect strikes as well. I approach every fishing situation with a gameplan and at least one back up. I stick to my guns and don’t get rattled if my pattern isn’t working. Many times patience is the name of the game. I use my journal to eliminate many patterns and to point me in the right direction. It is hard to know when to abandon a "dry" pattern, but an experienced angler will just know when to change. Do not panic if your plan isn’t working. If you are not catching fish, don’t switch to a panic run and gun….it will most likely result in a day of casting practice. Use logic to tell you where the fish should be. Model your fishing on seasonal conditions and you should be able to eke out a few fish.

CONFIDENCE– Confidence is paramount to success. It is easier to fish a pattern or bait that you have confidence in. If you are familiar with a technique, you will fish it more thoroughly and methodically than if you are trying something new. There are certain baits that I thrive at throwing. I utilize them to my advantage. There are a few that I don’t rely on because I’m not as seasoned with them. I am a confident angler. I am confident in my ability. Not to the point where I am an arrogant SOB, but to the point where I know I should be catching bass in a certain situation. Rely on your strengths. In tournaments, be prepared with a gameplan. This prevents blind fishing and will relax your nerves.

I prefer fun fishing over tournaments. I’ve fished my share of Tournies and I’ve satisfied that urge. My approach can help both the tournament angler and the weekend fun fisherman.

Rules and Lore:
I’ve learned one set rule about bass fishing…….there are no set rules. Most anglers base their entire approach on common belief such as: coldwater=slow down, clear water=light colored baits, topwaters at dawn and dusk, and light tackle and big bass don’t mix well. I’ve caught bass on buzzbaits in 45 degree water, nailed them on clear worms in a mud flow, and have taken several really big bass on 4 and 6lb. test. There is nothing written in stone. Sure, at times these things are true, but you would be foolish to rely solely on lore. Anglers who don’t catch fish when their common belief patterns fail may not have the ability to change or adapt to change. I’m not saying that common belief is absolutely wrong, I am saying that it isn’t completely reliable. If I had to bank on either common belief or what I have tied on the end of my line, I’m going to put my money on my choice. I’ve used my imagination to come up with some killer patterns and bait modifications. Don’t be afraid to be unorthodox, it may just help you unlock a secret that loads the boat. My middle name is unorthodox!!! I’m outta here!

Craig DeFronzo

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