Everything a beginner needs to know to land a bass
There are times when it doesn’t seem like there’s a fish in the lake, and it can be frustrating because you know you’re surrounded by a million of the things -- you just can’t figure out how to catch them. But that’s what keeps you going back, the days when you get stumped, the times you can’t figure them out and get so mad you go back out to prove you can catch them.— James Hall, editor of Bassmaster magazine
Fishing enthusiasts need to know two things main things about bass. The first is that they are literally everywhere: They can be found in nearly every body of freshwater --- creeks, streams, ponds and lakes. In the UK, popular fishing spots include West Wittering in Sussex, Falmouth in Cornwall, Croyde Bay, North Devon, Hayling Island in Hampshire, as well as a number of spots in Wales. The second is that they have a brain the size of a pea. This doesn't mean they're stupid, but they are predictable, notes Greg Bohannan, a professional bass angler. Armed with these two facts, beginning fishers can feel confident in their chances of catching a bass their first time out. But there are several tips experts say can help beginners elevate themselves to the next level.
The glorious thing about fishing for bass is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money: For £20 a beginning fisher can go to the nearest sporting goods store, buy a basic rod and reel, plastic lure and fishing line with a strength between 8 and 15 pounds. Since bass can be found in streams and the shallow water of lakes, having access to a boat is not necessary.
“This past weekend I was wading in a river no deeper than my knees catching smallmouth bass. It’s a very intimate experience,” said James Hall, editor of "Bassmaster" magazine. “Generally, there are not many people around you and you’re really close to the fish you catch. They’re smaller but generally plentiful, and the environs are drop-dead gorgeous.”
The next trick is knowing where to find the fish, and this is where their predictability comes into play, said Tony Impellizzeri, a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Bass Federation in the US. Bass are ambush feeders, so they like to hide behind objects and lay in wait for their prey. Look for rocks, trees, docks or areas with thick weeds, and there are likely to be bass, Impellizzeri said. They also like to hide in the shade of lily pads where their favourite food can be found, such as minnows, crayfish and insects.
“Some fish roam the waters in a never-ending search for food. Bass are not like that,” said Ken Duke, senior editor of B.A.S.S. publications. “They may occasionally group and follow schools of baitfish, but for most of the year, they're going to be living and feeding near structure and cover. There's an old saying that's very true: If you're not getting your lure hung up once in a while, you're not fishing where the fish are.”
Temperature also dictates where bass can be found, Hall said. In the warm summer months, they dive to the deeper parts of the lake to avoid the heat. In the spring and fall they are typically found near the surface. Once the bass are located, the lure must be cast out into the target area, and this can often be one of the trickiest aspects of fishing, Duke said.
Beginners should start out using either a spincast or spinning wheel. After that it’s a matter of trial and error. “Casting is one of those skills that require plenty of time and patience,” Duke said. You can practice it in the backyard if you can’t get to the water, but you’ll definitely benefit from the practice. After all, you can’t catch the fish unless you can get your lure to the fish.”
Once the lure is cast, you wait until you feel a tap on the line, Bohannan said. When that happens, pull back hard on the rod to set the hook and let the fun begin. Bass are strong, aggressive and put up an explosive fight. “That’s the whole part of the thrill,” Bohannan said. “Feeling that bite and the surge of adrenalin until the fish makes it into the boat.”
The difference between a good bass fisherman and a great one is not just technical, it’s mental, Hall said. The more people fish the more they will come to understand the behaviour of bass. “Some guys spend so much time on the water they almost think like a fish,” Hall said. “I’ll go out as a weekend guy and have a pretty good idea where the bass will be and what they’ll be doing and what they should bite. But there are these guys who have a sixth sense that lets them know precisely to the inch where these fish will be and how long it will take them to eat a lure.”
The best way to stay on top of all the best tricks when it comes to bass fishing is to study and interact with other fishermen, Duke said. Join a local bass club, purchase magazines or DVDs and read Internet message boards devoted to the sport. “There’s more bass fishing information out there today than ever before. Find it and use it,” Hall said.
One of the pitfalls people succumb to when learning how to fish for bass is the frustration of not catching anything. In the end, patience is the greatest tool at the bass fisherman’s disposal. That and sheer determination. “There are times when it doesn’t seem like there’s a fish in the lake, and it can be frustrating because you know you’re surrounded by a million of the things -- you just can’t figure out how to catch them. But that’s what keeps you going back, the days when you get stumped, the times you can’t figure them out and get so mad you go back out to prove you can catch them.”
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