I pitched the seven-inch plastic worm next to the boat dock, into maybe ten feet of water. Not paying enough attention, it took a few seconds for me to realize the lure had stopped falling early. I knew a bass had stopped the bait short of the bottom, and yet for whatever reason, I didn’t do anything about it.
Is this considered Bass (Buck) Fever, being unable to “pull the trigger?”
Anyway, suddenly there was the familiar “tap” from the end of the line indicating a strike, and suddenly I was awake again, and my cat-like reflexes took over. I swung for the fences, and absolutely nothing happened. Except for maybe a cracked rib from me dry-firing my Dobyns rod. Ouch.
Another time we were catching bass in the timber on a fence row on Truman Lake. My buddy was of the “let ’em run with it” school of thought. I, on the other hand, am generally (forget the first paragraph) going to jerk as soon as (or slightly before if possible) I feel a strike.
He had made a short cast into a Hedge tree when his line started traveling down the fence row. He let it go. The anticipation just about wiped me out as the bass made off with his Power Worm. Suddenly the bass stopped, and here’s my buddy, all on point, and waiting for who knows what. Then the line jumped (I saw it, plain as day). ‘Ol Ronnie yanked back like he thought it was a state record, and it may have been. We didn’t find out, because he got nothing but air. Or water. Or whatever…
It’s been a hotly discussed topic ever since Nick Creme invented the modern plastic worm- do I set the hook as soon as I detect the strike, or do I let them “run” with the bait? The idea behind the latter method is a bass needs time to get the worm in its mouth far enough to get the hook in position.
My take has always been the old “Bass don’t have hands – if I get a strike, it’s in their mouth.” And folks it’s worked for me since the late 70’s. And if it isn’t broke…
The wait ’em out crowd will tell us they miss too many bass by setting the hook too early. And there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever some days this may be the case, so I’ll keep an open mind. But truthfully, it’s only happened to me maybe two or three times in the last, oh, four thousand or so days of fishin’.
Those first two scenarios I think dictate what actually happens. I don’t believe most bass fishermen actually feel the bite the first time a bass takes the bait. I think what happens is the bass inhales the lure, makes the decision to expel it, and is when the fisherman FEELS “the strike”. The resultant hook set then comes up empty. It’s my theory anyway. Please don’t be a hater.
I love watching underwater footage of bass, and particularly of them stalking, following, and inhaling lures. There is a lot to be learned by watching this kind of footage. If anglers who watch very many of these types of clips will most definitely see bass usually attack the front of a plastic worm, or inhale it (or any other jig, grub, etc.) completely. They don’t pick it up by the tail and drag it around until they can get it re-positioned in their mouths. Generally.
Anything can happen in bass fishing. Being open-minded and willing to change is key to bass-catching success. And if the “wait and see” method works best for you, then go for it. If I ever have another day when my lightning-fast reflexes are not nabbing the bass, then I’ll try something different. But until a bass grows little fingers on the ends of its fins, I’m going to swing hard, and early.
One more story-
I was fishing at Stockton Lake in my home state of Missouri. It was early June, and the bass were just starting to get into the big trees offshore, and I was pushing the season a little by throwing a summer mainstay lure, the ten-inch worm.
Stockton can be gin-clear, and where I was fishing the water visibility was about four or five feet. I had just pitched the big worm up against a vertical tree trunk, and as it fell, it landed on a large branch about three feet down. Before I could pull it off, a four-pound bass came up and grabbed it. By the tail. She turned towards me, and in a fraction of a second her mouth opened and closed again, and my worm was gone, completely inside her mouth, like magic.
I guess grabbing the worm by the tail was her way of not letting the morsel get away, and she remedied the rest of the issue as soon as she could get around to it.
Me? Well, I swung for the fence…
See you on the water,
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