The Beginning and the End- A Bass Fishing Surprise

Disclaimer: “Bass Fishing For Dummies” is not meant to be condescending in any way. What it’s meant to signify, more than anything, is a simplification of your approach to catching more bass. And while this is easily aimed at the beginning bass angler, I also believe that it behooves ALL of us to take a step back sometimes and take a look at what we’re doing and how we approach this great sport. I hope that my forthcoming articles will help someone in their bass fishing endeavors. Good luck!

Bass fishing is full of surprises. Thank goodness- I hate being bored. Some surprises, however, are not wanted nor welcomed. For instance-

An angler had just pulled up to what he hoped was a promising spot. Lay down trees, a few bushes, and some scattered weeds surrounded the small cove, making it at least look like a killer spot for some pre-spawn bass, and maybe even some big bass. His anticipation is high as he lowers the trolling motor into the water, then selects which rod and reel is loaded up with a choice lure for the situation. “Ah ha” he thinks to himself as he picks up one with a half-ounce tandem spinnerbait tied on it, a spring-time bass buster if there ever was one. He is one happy angler as he fires his first cast of the day at a likely tree/bush/grass bed. Finally, spring is here, the conditions are right, and he is doing what he loves.

And he is so full of the moment that the jarring strike of a big bass just after he engages the reels’ gears surprises him and he is completely unprepared for such a quick assault. His hook set is both tardy and wild, and the reward is a huge boil in the water. And nothing else.

It was a tough tournament day all those years ago. I had plied the waters of Table Rock Lake all day for three barely measurable keepers. The hot sun and the miserable fishing had my mind wandering to places that were far away from the concentrated effort that I needed to maintain in order to capitalize on a bite. I had made a fairly smart decision to spend the last couple of hours just covering water, mostly throwing a lipless crankbait, chunking and winding in hopes of lucking into another bite or two. Not a bad thing to do when the bite is off.

But still, although the effort was being made my mind wasn’t behind it, and when the bait neared the boat after a particularly long cast, I was busy looking for the next place to throw instead of paying attention to the matter at hand. The four-pound bass hit with less than three feet of line out from the rod tip. If I had been paying attention, my livewell would have received a serious addition of weight. Instead, my unpreparedness caused me to react badly, and the bass came unhooked almost immediately. The heat, my fatigue, and my lack of awareness cost me badly. I lost the tournament by less than one pound. Ouch.

I can go on and on- we’ve all done it, having a bass hit very early on the cast, or late in the retrieve, and for the sake of me I don’t know why we lose those fish. I’m also certain that we have a large number of bites that go undetected at the beginning and end of a cast for the very same reason. Our brains just seem to engage late sometimes, and then disengage early. And when it’s bad, say on a tough days’ fishing, it seems to happen more, sometimes both at the beginning and the end of the same cast.

I’ve worked on it a lot over the years. Keeping myself on my toes so to speak, from the second the lure enters the water to the moment it is pulled from it. It can be a tough deal, but to maximize a day bass fishing I believe that it’s also an essential element to success.

I can’t tell you how to do this, except that I compare it to deer hunting. A friend of mine once was surprised by a big buck as he neared his truck, his rifle made safe and slung over his shoulder. The buck jumped up from a ditch just yards away, then just stood there and gave my friend ample time for a shot before bounding off into the woods. Ample time if he had been ready, anyway. Trying to be helpful I told my buddy that when deer hunting you are ALWAYS deer hunting, because they can be anywhere. Like bedded beside the truck. In fact, I went a little further and told him that maybe he needed to check in the BED of the truck too, and maybe behind the door before going into his house. “You never know” I told him.

He didn’t appreciate my sarcasm, I guess. It was a really, really big buck.

Same with bass fishing. They live in the water, so any time your lure is in the water it has the potential to get clobbered. You just have to be ready to capitalize. Simple. Huh.

There is also an art to making up for these blunders. Sometimes a quick follow up with the same lure, or more usually a different lure, can trigger another strike from the same bass, or possibly one that was nearby who is now excited from the response of the first bass.

Musky fishermen have a technique that they call a “figure eight” that’s employed when a musky follows a lure to the boat (which they do frequently) or strikes and misses, or is lost, at the boat. The rod tip is stuck in the water with a short distance of line out, and big, sweeping loops in the “figure eight” pattern are used to try to trigger the fish to bite again. It works often enough to be considered a solid technique. And it works for bass too, although I’ll be darned if I’ve ever seen another bass fisherman do it.

Be ready. Be vigilant. Don’t let the bass surprise you at the beginning or end of the cast. Actually, don’t let them surprise you in the middle of the cast either. It’s just not what we’re trying to do here. And you might want to check the swimming pool when you get home. Maybe the bathtub, too. You know?

Now, go get ’em…

D.W. Verts


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