We picked 5 of our favorite bass fishing tips for each season and put them into a guide that’s easy to follow. No matter what time of year it is, you need to be in sync with what bass are doing. Choosing the right lure, technique or presentation can make or break your day out on the water. Whether it’s knowing how to use your electronics to catch bass suspended in the water column or applying some simple old school tips and tricks, there’s something in our guide that can help everyone find the big ones.
1. Line Watching for Ice Fishermen
Watching your line is a great way of detecting strikes in many types of fishing. It can be tricky at times, and especially when ice fishing with different light conditions. Fishing in the open usually is the best to see the line, but when in a shelter, or in situations when line color blends with a snowy background, early strike detection can be a problem. It is these times when certain things must be tried to change the background or lighting conditions. A simple tip to make for a better background is to use other items. One, which is normally with an angler, is the flasher. I position my Vexilar so that the black base, black/red cover bag, transducer cable and float, or transducer itself (if watching the line in clear water, inside the hole), will contrast with the line. It can be anything though… a small piece of wood, coil of rope, and even a spare bucket, set on the backside of the hole, can make it much easier to see your line.
2. Winter Thaws
Many people relate ice out to the spring, but there are times throughout the winter when lakes and ponds will freeze over and then ice out repeatedly. If you like pond hoping, finding open water can sometimes tell you exactly where the bass are in the winter. I big misconception about bass is that the go deep in the winter and stay deep until the spring. That is not always the case. These types of conditions offer anglers the opportunity to catch bass that will gravitate towards slightly warmer (or warming) water. Many times rain can cause a lake or pond to partially thaw and rain brings food via run off. Worms get washed out of the ground and even into the water when it rains. In turn, bass will move into the shallow water to take advantage of an easy meal. You can take advantage of this opportunity too. Try searching for ponds that are thawing out from a warming trend and especially right after it rains during the winter.
3. Vertical Jigging
One of the best times of year to fish vertically is by far during the winter. When the water starts dropping below 50 degrees and you’re looking to target the bass that are wintering deep, there’s two lures that really come into play. A blade bait (like a Silver Buddy or Sonar) and a Rapala Jigging Rap. One of the biggest mistakes people make with a blade bait is that they move the bait too far off the bottom. It’s usually a game of inches, not feet. Smaller movements tend to get a better reaction from wintering bass. There’s an expression called “burping the blade” and all it means is to just lift your rod tip up until you feel the bait vibrate like a burp and the stop and feel it back down to the bottom. Many strikes come on the drop so pay attention to your line. If it stops before you stop it, set the hook.
The Jigging Rap is such a great tool because it will actually swim off to the side when you let it fall. I know a lot of ice fishermen who like to use a Jigging Rap through the ice for that reason. A lure drifting towards the face of a bass will often invoke a reaction strike and that’s what makes a Jigging Rap such and effective tool when fishing vertically.
4. Dress For Winter
If you’re not properly prepared to be out on the water or ice during the winter, you’re asking for trouble. Here’s some basic tips that you need to keep in mind.
a) Dress in layers, pack an extra set of dry clothes to leave in the car and bring a couple of hand towels.
b) You want moisture to be pulled away from your body when you sweat, so choose wicking materials
i. Base Layer tight to your skin and should draw moisture away
ii. Second Layer Also should be wicking, but opt for a long sleeve tee shirt
iii. Third Layer should be for warmth, fleece is one of the best choices available
iv. Outer Layer (Typically your jacket) should be breathable, but water resistant.
Skiing and Hunting gear work great. Make sure it has a hood and plenty of pockets…
especially ones to put your hands into.
c) In the winter, it’s “feet first”. This is not the time of year for your boat shoes or sneakers… you want to be wearing insulated, water proof and wind resistance boots. A thin wicking sock that will draw moisture away from your feet covered by a second cotton/wool sock is a great option.
d) My favorite gloves are micro fleece fingerless that have pull over mittens attached to cover your fingers. I always keep a second pair of heavy water proof snow gloves in my boat and/or ice sled. Hand warming packets are nice to have to make things more comfortable under more extreme conditions.
e) Do you think a hat might be a good idea? Also it’s really nice to have a face mask to cover your entire face. Under Armor’s Head Gear is pretty good stuff.
f) Sunglasses to protect your eyes from snow on bright days.
5. Inventory and Organization
Winter in the northern half of the U.S. is one of the best times to get your tackle and equipment back in order. I always empty out my boat in the winter. Then I clean out my boxes, bags, etc. While I’m straightening up, I keep an inventory of the lures, fishing line, tools etc. that need to be replaced or replenished. Get rid of all rusted hooks, split-rings and terminal tackle. Neatly pack up all of your soft plastics, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, etc. in labeled bags and boxes. If you don’t own a label maker, it’s worth the investment to be able to easily find what you’re looking for. Check all of your rod guides (eyelets) for nicks that can wear down and cut your line.
TIP: Use a cotton Q-tip to check your eyelets. The cotton will scrape against any exposed ruff surfaces and key you in that there’s a problem.
TIP: Don’t store your reels with the drags tight. Loosen the drag on every reel to ensure the drag functions properly and last as long as possible.
Reels need to be oiled and greased to ensure smooth operation. Here’s a couple of good videos that will walk you through the process for a baitcaster and spinning reel.
1. Suspending Jerk Baits
When fishing suspending jerk baits in the spring, most baits require some tuning before they will work effectively. Most suspending baits will actually float to the surface when taken out of the package. A simple solution to this problem is the application of “suspend dots or strips”. They can be order through most bass fishing equipment catalogs and are not expensive. Simply apply the stick-on led strips or dots until your bait suspends at the desired depth range. I would recommend testing these baits in a pool (if available) or a bathtub to ensure proper placement of the led. You may have to play around with the amount of led and placement to get the bait to suspend and fish properly, but it is definitely worth taking the time out to do so. It can really make a big difference when fishing for suspending bass
2. Document the Drawdown
In many parts of the country, lakes are drawn down several feet in the fall and winter to kill off weeds and minimize damage to docks and bulk heads. This offers an excellent opportunity to visually see and document large areas without idling around for hours and hours using side imaging or structure scan. You can find some of the best structure and spawning areas for the upcoming spring and summer months. Use a GPS, take pictures and/or a video to record as much offshore structure you otherwise would have missed. You can often learn more about a lake in one trip during drawdown than you could in a whole season with your electronics. Use caution, as low water can lead to dangerous boating conditions.
3. Key Baits to Throw in Early Spring
When fishing in early spring, a very small jig 1/8 to 3/16 oz. with an uncle josh no# 101 pork frog is the hot bait in icy water. My second choice is a tube bait. These are two of my favorite baits to throw in early spring when it’s not easy to get a limit sometimes. You have to remember to fish these baits very slow. Find the warmest water in the body of water you are fishing and start there. I look for any backwater area that has docks or brush piles in it. Pitch your jig in and around cover and make sure the jig falls straight down. You have to feed line out after your jig hits the water to make your jig fall straight. Begin making little shaking motions with the rod tip, do not move the jig 6 or 8 inches at a time, move it 2 to 3 inches at a time. This time of year you must be a line watcher, the bites maybe very subtle, just a small jump in the line, if you are only going by feel, you will miss these light strikes. Sometimes in very cold water the bites can also be a hard thump, so be ready. At this time of year more than any other you need to fish your bait all the way back to the boat. Bites may occur right in the cover or they can come 2 to 15 feet out in front of the cover, so fish all the water in front of you.
4. Spring in The North Country
In Minnesota, where bass fishing is closed until late May to protect the spawn we have a different starting point then our southern fishing brethren. Pre-spawn is a time when fishing is fast and furious, and fish in this stage can be found and targeted even in early June, if you know where to look. Most natural lakes have areas which just don’t warm as quickly as the rest of the lake. Sandy bottoms, deep shorelines, wind-swept eastern shores. Look for smaller areas which offer ideal spawning areas, after the spawn has occurred in other parts of the lake. You will find fish still moving in, aggressively feeding and not yet on the beds in these areas. The best areas have boat docks and pilings for docks not yet put in for the year. Target these areas now, rather than trying to catch fish off beds in the warmer parts of the lake.
5. Ice Out Largemouth
In early spring 1 to 4 weeks after a lake thaws out after the winter freeze you can find some nice largemouth bass in some very predictable places. Look for shallow coves or bays that are protected from the wind, with dark bottoms, located in the north, west, or northwest corners of the lake. These Coves and Bays will be the first to warm up, because they receive the most sunlight at this time of year. In these areas insect activity will begin earlier, which will attract baitfish, which in turn, will attract bass.
1. Summertime Fish Handling
Most people don’t realize how much stress that they put on bass in the summer months. Hot water, boat traffic, and a whole list of other factor can turn what you thought was a winning sack of bass to you going home with your feeling hurt due to dead fish! In the Summer month put your aerators on recirculate what that will do that will allow you to put ice in your livewells and cool that water down and you won’t be pumping in any new hot water!
TIP: Save your old soda and water bottles, fill them with water and then freeze them. You can add them to your live well without introducing tap water into your live well and bring down the temperature to a more comfortable level for your guests.
Rejuvenate is a must in the summer months what I like to do is get sum empty bottled water bottles and put some rejuvenate mixed with water in the bottles and freeze them overnight (the night before a tournament) that way when I do catch a fish all have to do then is take that bottle with the frozen rejuvenate and take the cap off and drop the bottle in the livewell. The bottle adds the right mix of rejuvenate to the water and it will help keep the fish cool cause the bottles are frozen they will thaw naturally! Tight Lines!
2. Summer Night Fishing At Ramps
If you have problems backing your boat down ramps with poor lighting at night, here’s a little tip for you. Take out the bulbs in your back up lights and replace them with Halogen bulbs sold in most auto part stores. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll be able to see when you’re backing down the ramp on those hot summer nights and early mornings.
3. Summer Night Jitterbugs
To me the most productive and exciting summer bassin’ I know of is Nighttime Jitterbuggin’ on my favorite lake. Sometimes the strike is just a sip of the plug off the surface and other times the violence of the strike will propel the bass 3 feet into the air. This is easy, just cast and retrieve with a steady pace. No stop and go, and no buzzin’, we want this lure to look like a little mammal swimming home from his girlfriend’s. Slow and steady is the key.
Color TIP: Color selection is a Henry Ford decision, any color as long as it’s black.
Size TIP: Get a selection of sizes from musky down to the 3/8 oz., and pick up a couple of jointed ones too. Size is important, some places smaller is better and the preference may change on any given night.
I make some changes to my plugs when I get them home from the store. First I change the hooks to the next size up from what comes from the factory on every model except the musky. I set the new hooks so two hooks face up and one down and then I clip off the down pointed hook of the treble. This makes it a bit more weedless and it slides over snags a little better. Make them as sharp as you possibly can!!!! Then I take a pair of square nose pliers and curl in 1/8 of the bottom and outside edge of the lips of the bug to make it grab and push more water.
Finally to make even more noise I have drilled out a hole and added brass and glass beads to the bug to give it a loud rattle. These noisier bugs attract more attention, but on a flat calm night may be a bit too loud, so pick your spots when you use noise makers. Add a strip of reflective tape on the back to help you find the lost ones and the last thing to remember is don’t set the hook until you feel the fish! Enjoy
4. Know Your Weather
It’s so important to pay attention to the weather, especially in the summer. The most recent weather report is vital to planning a day of bass fishing. Phone apps like weather bug, give you all the data you need including weather radar and severe storm alerts. Make note of the barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, temperature before you start your trip and keep an eye out for any changes coming your way.
5. Off Structure Bass
Everyone likes to share tips about targeting bass in the heat of the summer. It’s no secret that bass love to get around deep water structure like humps and ledges. When venturing out to these areas, pay attention to your electronics. If you have side imaging or structure scan look for schools of baitfish and bass that may be using the open water off the sides of these structures. After you’ve worked the structure itself, try positioning your boat on top of the high spot and cast a deep diving crankbait or a swimbait out into the open water and bring it back towards the shallower high spot. Many times you can draw bass in from the open water that you might have been overlooking. For the most effective way to capitalize on this technique, a Humminbird 360 can show you exactly where these bass are in relationship to your boat. Not only where they are, but also where they are moving as they chase open water baitfish. It takes the guess work out of where to cast.
1. Big Baits for Big Smallmouth
Though it is true that smallmouths often become finicky and typically prefer smaller lures, at times the exact opposite is true, particularly in the fall. Smallmouth bass feed heavily in the fall and they tend to key in on larger prey in preparation for the winter. Big topwater plugs, jerkbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits and jigs really come into play for those fall lunkers. If you’re looking for that smallie of a lifetime this autumn, try a larger than normal tube, big spinnerbait or mega topwater on your favorite smallmouth waters. You’ll be surprised how big a lure these northern giants will chase down in the fall.
2. Schooling Shad
We all have encountered all those big black balls of shad in early summer, migrating out of the creeks heading to deeper water and again in the fall heading back into the creeks. When the fish are keyed on the shad they are tough to catch. While spinnerbaits are a good choice to catch these fish, but I’ve found that a rattletrap is more reliable. When you see these schools burn a 1/4oz trap through the middle of the school and kill it once the school starts to scatter. This will draw a strike from even the wariest of fish. It’s always important to have a follow up lure to toss back at bass that chase your lure back to the boat. Try an underspin jig head with a 3″ – 4″ fluke style bait to get a strike from those followers.
3. Run and Gun Fall Schooling Bass
So many people don’t take advantage of the feeding bite of fall bass fishing. When that water starts to cool down and those days start to get shorter one thing happens… BASS START FEEDING AGGRESSIVELY! People like to sit on a couple of spots all day and wonder why they are not catching fish. I look for aggressive biting fish in the fall I have a run and gun approach to it. If I get to a spot and I have not got a bit in 15-20 minutes then it’s time to move. I could hit as many as 20 spots in an hour looking for those aggressive fish. The feeding window change on each spot so that’s why you need to cover a lot of areas. If it’s your home body and you know those feeding windows then make a milk run hitting those spots at the proper time. Try the run and gun approach in the fall it will help you put more fish in the boat. Tight Lines!
4. Down Size Your Jig
Yes in the fall big baits are generally the rule, however under tough frontal conditions and water that starts dipping into the low 50’s and high 40’s, it’s time to start thinking about finesse again. One of the best fall lunker hunting tools is the micro jig. Try using a small 1/8 – 1/4 ounce compact jig with a small 2”-3” trailer. In the northeast United States, there’s always some big largemouth lurking around the shallows looking for one more meal. This is a great lure for anyone fishing the bank as well. Target isolated cover with access to deep water nearby.
5. Slow Rolling Swimbaits
Once the weed starts really dying off in the fall, search for the last remaining areas that hold a good outside weed edge. This is a great time to find big smallmouth and largemouth cruising along these areas. Try paralleling the deep outside weed edge with a big swimbait like the Keitech Fat 4.8” rigged on a 1/2 football head jig. On a 7’ bait casting rod with 15 pound test fluorocarbon, you can cast this bait a long way and cover a lot of water. You want to use a very slow and steady retrieve… just barely turn the reel handle. You want to keep in contact with the bottom as much as possible. Hold on, because they hit this rig so hard they knock the paint off the jig head!