Finding BIG bass
After years of chasing bass I said, “Little fish are liars, big fish hold the secrets”. Of primary concern is does the body of water you kayak in actually have big bass? Word of mouth, pictures and a history of producing trophy size bass are all good indicators. Prior to the development of electronics dedicated bass fishermen learned to “read” their waters by studying the shoreline and mostly common sense applications. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West; this makes the Northwest side of your fishing hole get the longest exposure to the sun and makes it a few degrees warmer ,a huge advantage in the late winter and early spring. The goal is to find fish quickly and efficiently and replicate results. If you gaze at most old artificial baits they were mostly made to fish topwater. Some in-line spinners and a small assortment of lipped lures were available and all artificial baits were held dear by the owners. Eventually technology yielded tools for the ardent anglers anxious to apply new-fangled “sonar” devices to help determine the bottom contours, depth and even little hump like figures indicating fish. With the advent of crystal clear images and marking waypoints with GPS, fishermen can easily navigate to within mere feet of spots that have previously produced fish. Hopefully when choosing and using your electronics you do not fall into the trap of separating yourself from your senses.
When a body of water gets an inordinate amount of boating and fishing pressure the bass adjust by moving to the next offshore cover, finding a more remote area or even change their feeding habits and possibly go nocturnal. It is generally believed that fish in more than 8 feet of water are not affected by boat traffic. In conjunction with this theory my records indicate the majority of my trophy fish catches come from the magic depth of three to eight feet. One flaw the trophy hunting bass anglers is to establish what I refer to as a “milk run”. They return to the same spots, on the same body of water, throw the same baits and wonder why they never catch any large fish. There are many flaws with this habit. What does convince folks to use this approach is the almost accidental success of catching the occasional big bass. Sorry but this is explained as lucky cast, lucky catch. It doesn’t diminish the achievement but id if you want to consistently catch lunker bass adjustment are required. Eric Jacksons approach to finding bass is explained,” I struggle to get myself to fish areas or types of cover where I am not already catching fish. Once I have caught a few fish and am ready to catch big fish, I tend to focus on the best spots only, and stop pounding the banks, or smaller cover locations without a break”.
Fish location is dictated by water temperature, food sources and what I term the four bass factors. Bass want / need oxygen, food, cover and deep water close by. Oxygen speaks for itself, if you can’t breathe very little else matters. Water with in flowing creeks, aquatic vegetation, moving waters, springs, areas below dams and the windy side of the specific body of water all are highly oxygenated. It’s also likely an abundant food supply will be there for the same reason. Largemouth bass are object oriented creatures (cover). Smallmouth relate to deep water like a largemouth relate to objects. (Don’t try to force largemouth tactics on smallmouth) largemouths are ambush and chase predators. Cover offers the opportunity for both, concealing themselves and darting out to catch their prey is how they catch the majority of their meals. Target weeds and wood, both types of cover are bass magnets. Besides being cover wood grows algae and brings baitfish in and weeds provide oxygen so necessary to the lifestyle of the largemouth. What do bass eat? A big bass will eat anything that fits in their cavernous mouths and comes within range, that’s how they get and stay big. Always remember another of my frequently used quotes” all creatures are slaves to their stomachs”. Find the food = fond the fish. The last factor, deep water only matters because it gives the fish the comfort of an escape route, a very common trait among many other wild creatures. Secondary cover, off shore objects has the potential to produce that one huge bass. Mental note, find a compact area that serves all these needs and you can drop the anchor, put the Power Pole down or just start saturating the water with lures and begin your quest for Mr. Big. These types of places will consistently produce monster bass.
Your approach in the hopes of catching a big fish cannot be stressed enough. My term for this is “ninja stealth mode”. Fitting in and becoming part of the entire scenario is critical. Look for natural signs, herons and fishing eating birds are there for a reason. Minimize noise, fish with the sun in your face as to not cast a shadow on the fish you are trying to catch, let the wind drift you into the zone, pitch cast underhanded to make the least amount of splash and create a silent entry of the bait. Using small kayak directional and positioning adjustment with the paddle is a gigantic advantage to the silent approach! For this reason the Bending Branches Angler Carbon Pro is my constant companion in the kayak. Consider even dressing to match the background of the place you are fishing. Bass relate to any kind of an edge, this is the shoreline, the bottom, the surface. Bass can push bait and school of shad to edges and gorge themselves. Think edge! Don’t discount that sixth sense, intuitive feeling that you are in the right place at the right time. The great anglers have this.
Trophy Tip: Start by using the quietest baits that you have the most confidence in first. Then move up each time you change lures in size and sound. For example, try the plastic worm, jig, spinnerbait, crankbait and then topwater noisemaker. If the bass are spooky you increase the odds of hooking and catching the biggest fish in the area using this trick.