Whether you’ve fished a few times or you’re still wet behind the ears, getting good at bass fishing isn’t as hard as you think.
When I first started fishing, I thought I would never catch on, and I’d be sitting there on the shore, casting for hours with nothing on the other end.
After a few hundred, then a few thousand casts, I started to catch on.
What really made a difference for me is when I started to learn more about how the bass behaves and how that impacts what we have to do to catch them.
Fishing is a lot like raising a child.
You can try all you want to force them to do what you want, but they’re still not going to do it.
You need to be smarter and manipulate them a little.
This comprehensive A to Z beginners guide contains more information than you ever thought you could know about bass fishing.
Go through it, come back later for more, and be sure to check back to the site every week for new and updated articles.
- How to Catch Largemouth Bass
- How to Catch Smallmouth Bass: Best Tips
- Top Rigs for Bass Fishing
- Bass Fishing 101: Best Lures
- Bass Fishing Setup for Beginners
- Final Thoughts
How to Catch Largemouth Bass
In my humble opinion, the largemouth bass is the epitome of freshwater fishing. There’s nothing better on the planet than the feeling of hooking a largemouth. They put up a heck of a fight, they strike hard, and they’re pretty good to eat too. Here’s everything you need to know about catching largemouth bass.
Where to Look
Let’s keep things simple here. The answer is you want to look at the shoreline. Whenever possible, largemouth bass will hold up along the shore and they’ll hold to any type of structure they can find in that area.
Largemouth Fishing Techniques
The best technique is a Carolina Rig and a soft plastic. There are few things that will entice a bass more than this because you’re basically bundling everything the bass wants into one presentation.
Your bait is free-floating, it’s presenting itself naturally, and if you’ve chosen the right pairing (a soft plastic) then it should look delicious to any nearby bass. In addition, the reflection of the ball and swivel will reflect the light in both clear and murky water which will draw even more attention and tick off the ornery bass.
Plus, you also have the beautiful action of a soft plastic worm flowing through the water while the weight maintains the bottom and ensures maximum accuracy and realism for your fake lure. This technique will work in most situations whether you’re fishing deep or shallow.
Now, if you’re really fishing deep for big lunkers you might want to pull out your crankbaits. These work great in depths of 20-feet or deeper in the middle of the day when the bass have moved out from the shallows.
Largemouth Fishing by Season
Let’s break down some of the best fishing techniques based on the time of year.
Spring largemouth season starts up around March or April depending on where you live. There are a few things to keep in mind about fishing this time of year.
First, bass has moved from the deeper water into the shallow now. They’ve done this because late Winter to early Spring is spawning season. The water will warm up faster in the shallow areas so it makes for the perfect location for spawning.
In a recent interview we did with Shaw Grigsby, he said his eyesight is the most important tool when fishing the spawn:
“I think some of it has to do with me being blessed with excellent eyesight,” Grigsby said. “But I’ve picked up little tricks along the way. For example, I like amber, yellowish sunglass lenses because they collect light and make it easier to see a fish moving or a shadow.”
Something I think that personally goes hand-in-hand with what Shaw said is the murkiness of the water. This might not impact the Florida waters as much but in the North, Spring is known for murky water which can really kill your ability to see anything. You’re dealing with a lot of runoff from melted snow and moisture in the ground.
All of this creates extremely murky water which means you need to be more aggressive with your presentation and choose spring bass lures that will shine or make noise because the bass won’t be able to see them otherwise.
The weather is hot, the sun is shining, and the water has cleared up because of a lack of rain. Fishing during the Summer is great but again, it requires you to think outside the box a little. We know that bass are cold blooded which means that barometric pressure impacts the way they behave and temperature also impacts their behavior.
It’s generally assumed by experienced anglers that bass bite best during periods of extended low pressure and mild-moderate temperatures. Science tells us that barometric pressure is lowest early in the morning and continues to rise with it’s peak being around midday.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that bass fishing is best early in the morning and late in the evening. Best of all, bass bite the most during falling barometric pressure which occurs throughout the night. Fishing for bass at night can actually be the best option in many cases during the summer.
Fishing in the rain is also a time known for lower pressure as the air begins to fill up with moisture and bass rise to the surface to reduce the pressure on their swim bladders. This is what makes topwaters like spinnerbaits and frogs such a great option for hot summer fishing.
Again, you’ll want to pay attention to the weather. The bass have been feeding hard all Spring and Summer. Fall is when they start to slow down a bit which means you’ll want to size down your lures and line accordingly.
In fact, the legendary Gary Yamamoto said it best in a recent interview we had with him. When talking about his Senko worms he mentioned:
“I’ll see people using the Senko and they’re fishing way too fast. Then they can’t figure out why they’re not catching anything,” Yamamoto said. “I just tell them, ‘Slow down.’ They’re amazed at the difference it makes.”
It’s hard to argue with greatness!
I also find that the color of your lure plays a more pivotal role in the fall. With all the changing colors happening around, believe it or not, the bass pick up on that too. As a result, you need to make sure you’re catering the changes around you by picking up lures to match your surroundings.
Fall bass lures like shallow jerkbaits, swimbaits, and worms will work best this time of year. Bass tend to school up when it gets colder so pulling a jerk or swimbait through the school can be a great way to get a lot of attention without spooking them too much.
I’ll be honest, winter bass fishing isn’t fun unless you know what you’re doing. You’ll end up with blood suckers like pickerel on your hook every cast and it’ll ruin your time if you’re not specifically targeting bass with the right winter bass lures and techniques.
This time of year you want to stay away from fast moving lures like crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Bass can’t keep up with them and unless you dangle something perfect right in their face, chances are, they won’t take it.
This time of year is better suited for slow movers like jigs, spoons, and blades. These will reflect a lot of light and move more subtly so you don’t intimidate the bass. Make sure you naturally move slower as well. Don’t create too many sudden jerks and move the lure through the water as fluently as possible.
Now, what about ice fishing for bass? It can be done, but it’s hard. I won’t get into all the gear you need because you can find it in that ice fishing article I just linked.
The best way to approach ice fishing for bass is to do exactly what you would do if there wasn’t ice. You’re still going to use jigs and blades so just drill holes in the places you would fish even if the ice wasn’t there. Approach it in a similar fashion by looking for weed beds and structure.
Can You Eat Largemouth Bass?
Now that you understand how to find and catch them, what’s next? Do you eat them? Do you throw them back?
Depending on where you live you’ll have a bass fishing season. If you’re like me and live in the North, the season kicks up around April or May and runs through June. During this time, you’ll be able to catch bass and keep them as long as they meet specific size requirements.
Keep in mind that you can only keep them with the intention of cooking and eating them. You cannot keep bass as pets even if you have a pond in your yard.
Again, the law may be different where you live. Many states simply want to prevent you from taking bass home and having them get infected and end up damaging the population if the fish works its way back into public waters.
Long story short, you can absolutely eat bass.
I find that they have a muddy taste because the way they taste is, of course, based on what they eat.
How to Cook/Prepare Largemouth Bass?
Preparing bass will require you to have a little experience or the ability to carefully watch a Youtube video. You’ll need to gut, scale, wash, and fillet the fish.
If you’re interested in preparing your own bass, I highly recommend reading this article I put together on how to fillet a bass.
How to Catch Smallmouth Bass: Best Tips
Smallmouth bass fishing is like an art form and it’s one that I’ve tirelessly tried to perfect over the years. I have some of the best smallmouth bass fishing anywhere in the country right in my backyard and I’m excited to bring my experience to you.
Where to Look
Unlike largemouth, smallmouth tends to hold to different structures. Smallmouth prefers rocky bottoms with gravel. Gravel flats are some of the best areas to find smallies. During the pre-spawn season in late Winter, you’ll find them holding around 10-15-feet in these areas and as the weather begins to heat up they’ll move deeper.
One other significant thing to understand about smallies is that they’re much more common in moving water. Largemouth tends to prefer stagnant water that allows them to feed on everything resting in those areas.
Smallmouth bass is commonly caught in various rivers and streams. Intend on casting in eddies and along rocky shore beds.
Best Fishing Techniques
When it comes to smallmouth bass lures, soft plastics and jerkbaits are most preferred by everyone. Topwaters are another great option especially if you’re fishing around heavy cover. I like Berkley Powerbait tubes for smallmouth bass because they come with a built-in scent and they work great for smallies in most scenarios.
Even Professional Bass Angler Kevin VanDam told us in an interview that he looks forward to the crisp fall days when big bass are busting topwater lures. He also catches fish on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits.
3 Expert Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips
Instead of going super in-depth on preparing smallmouth bass or talking about the various seasons, I’d rather just supply you with five great tips to help you catch more smallies. Most of that other stuff will stay the same.
Smallmouth is still cold-blooded so they react to barometric pressure and temperature pretty much the same as largemouth do. Let’s get into some details that can really help you catch some smallmouth.
1. Look for bait – If you find baitfish in the water, you’ve found where the smallies are. They’re highly attracted to baitfish and crawfish so really lookout for that.
2. Finesse – I think finesse techniques work even better for smallies than they do for largemouth.
3. Wacky rig – Use your wacky rig when fishing in non-moving water for smallmouth. The presentation won’t work right in moving water but it’s a great option for bass fishing lakes and ponds.
Top Rigs for Bass Fishing
There are a few things I love talking about more than different bass fishing rigs. One of the best things about bass fishing is the fact that you can get really creative with how you set up your tackle.
Now, before you click away. You don’t have to do any of these. You can still tie a hook on the end of your line, put some live bait on it, and catch plenty of bass.
But, over time, as you begin to learn more about bass fishing, some of these rigs will start to intrigue you and you’ll realize that they can help take your game to the next level. Here are some of my favorite bass fishing rigs.
The Carolina Rig is one of the more popular options for bass fishing, especially with soft plastics. To set this one up you’ll place a sinker on the mainline attached to the pole. Then you put a glass or plastic bead in between that and the swivel which comes next. People prefer plastic beads because they’re less fragile.
In between there and the lure is where you’ll put a 12-48-inch leader depending on how deep the water is. Hook up your soft plastic and you’re good to go. The goal of this presentation is for the weighted section of line to drag on the bottom while the lure stays suspended in the water above.
It creates a natural presentation that entices bass.
The Drop Shot is a rig used by professional bass anglers like Randy Howell. The reason it’s so popular is because of its similarities to the Carolina Rig in how it creates the presentation. To get started, you’ll start by stringing up your hook like you normally would.
You want to leave about four feet of line at the end of the hook. This will vary based on where you’re fishing.
If you’re fishing really shallow water, you can downsize that to one foot if you feel it’s necessary. I almost always leave around four feet, and it’s worked pretty well for me. Next, you’ll tie your hook up, and now you have that extra line at the end. Attach a drop shot or sinker to the end and boom; you’ve got yourself a drop shot.
The Texas Rig is one of my favorites and one I used most commonly. The reason I use it is because of where I fish. With your hook exposed, you’re bringing a lot of muck back into your boat and onto the shore.
To counter this, the Texas Rig enables you to hide the hook end while still ensuring that a striking bass can bite deep enough to get a good hookset.
You’ll set this up by taking the hook and turning it around towards the worm. Push about a quarter-inch of the hook into the worm, so it pokes out the other side. You want the hook at a perfect 90-degree angle. Keep pushing the hook out until you reach the eyelet. You don’t want to expose it.
Remember that the most important part of this rig is protecting the tip of the hook from exposure to vegetation. So, you want to push the end of the hook back into the worm if it pops out. The first couple of times you do this, you’ll probably rip the worm, so I suggest testing it out on something you can afford to lose.
Some swear by their Wacky Rig and I’m certainly one of those people. When you’re fishing open water with soft plastic, there are fewer ways better to do it. You’ll take a plastic o-ring and run it to the middle of the worm. Insert a size 1 gap hook and loop it through the worm until the eye is barely exposed. Line it up and you’re ready to go.
Bass Fishing 101: Best Lures
Now, let’s talk lures. Bass lures come in so many different colors, styles, shapes, and purposes that it is hard not to want one of each.
Unless you are a professional, or you have tons and tons of storage space, the reality is that you probably don’t need or have the space for every lure that you come across. Ensuring that you grab the best bass lures is what’s most important.
You must buy the right kinds of bait for the waters that you’ll be fishing most frequently, for the typical weather conditions of your area, and the size of bass that you are most interested in catching. We have eight different types of artificial lures for you to read about.
Each of them will work best in certain situations and not in others. It’s important to understand how to use each one properly to create the best opportunity to catch bass.
Soft plastic worms and tubes are intended to be added to hooks and imitate prey animals in shape, color, and texture. These baits often work well for enticing fish to hold on to a hook, giving you more time to set your hook. We’re huge fans of Senko worms.
Spoons are not typically used for bass fishing but can be effective in this arena if you are willing to give them a shot and have patience. These simple lures, consisting of a shiny metal “spoon” attached to a hook, work similarly to spinnerbaits. They work well in open water when the sun is shining bright.
Swimbaits aren’t as popular as other types of baits, but they are growing in popularity. Swimbaits are jointed and hollow-bodied, which allows them to mimic the swimming motions of small fish and other prey animals. Swimbaits come in both hard and soft versions.
These baits should mimic baitfish like minnows and shad that have become shocked by cold water and struggle. Jerkbaits entice bass by looking like minnows and mimicking their movements. These often have a paddle tail and moving appendages. For best results, use quick jerking actions with your rod, combined with a fast reeling motion.
Frogs are a great option when you’re fishing dense cover with heavy vegetation. A lot of these lures are rigged to be weedless so you can pretty much cast them directly into the muck without bringing anything back with you. Create a stop and go presentation with spinning gear and you’ll be surprised by the lunkers you pull out of the weeds.
Jigs were designed initially to mimic crawfish, one of a bass’ favorite meals. These lures are very versatile and are one of the essential lures for every tackle box. These lures work well under a variety of reel and rod movements.
Topwater poppers are made so that they look like scared or injured prey animals when they are dragged through the water. Anglers can make this action more pronounced by twitching and jerking the rod and reel.
So, Rapalas aren’t exactly a “type of lure” and are more of a brand. I chose this to include because Rapala is one of the most popular brands out there and a lot of the lures you find will come from this brand. I highly recommend shopping around and getting yourself a couple of these.
Fishing a hair jig for bass is all about navigating your lure through the water without touching the bottom. This is a finesse presentation that requires you to have a lightweight rod and reel setup with fast action because you’re going to attract a lot more smaller bass.
Stickbaits are about as old school as it gets and using stickbaits for bass fishing is a surefire way to get your grandfather excited. They look similar to a crankbait or topwater but they’re more basic. They don’t come with a fancy rattle or anything shiny, they’re just… there.
These lures generally float on the top or suspend a few feet below the surface. Choosing the best stickbaits requires you to understand where you’re fishing and what size bass you’re going after.
Bass Fishing Setup for Beginners
Choosing the ultimate bass fishing setup is a fun experience. I can remember going to the local tackle shop with my dad when I was barely ten years old. We’d go almost every weekend and he’d shoot the breeze with all the guys in there while I’d walk around and look at everything.
It was really where I started to fall in love with the sport and the camaraderie of it.
If you’re just starting out, don’t think too hard about it. You don’t need an $800 rod and a $1,200 reel to get started in bass fishing. Get something that suits your budget and get out on the water and get some experience. You’ll learn better that way.
Here’s everything you’ll need to get started.
If you’ve never fished a day in your life, this might be a little overwhelming, but there’s no need to worry. Understanding the purpose of a bass fishing rod is very simple.
The rod comprises a few parts not limited to:
Some rods will come in one piece while others split apart to make it easier to transport. The butt of the rod is on the bottom, and this will supply you with the necessary leverage needed to handle a big fish. If you’ve got a monster bass on the hook, you’ll need something to hold onto so the rod doesn’t fly out of your hands.
This is where the butt comes in.
Next, you’ve got the reel seat. The seat is usually two corkscrew-like sections that you can spin back and forth to secure the reel in place. This part of the rod allows you to remove the reel without having to scrap the rod.
Some rods also come in the form of “combos.” Rod and reel combos are a great option for beginner bass anglers.
These feature both a rod and a reel in one which makes deciding on the two much simpler if you’re not that familiar with various rigs. You won’t have to worry about lining up the right rod and reel because the manufacturer has already done that for you.
Now that you understand the components of a rod, let’s talk more specifically about how to choose the best bass fishing rod.
With spinning rods, the reel seat is on the bottom, and the eyelets are on the bottom as well. This ensures that the line flows smoothly off the reel through the eyes so you can get a fluent cast.
We always recommend spinning rod and reel setups for anyone learning how to fish because they’re easier to manage and don’t tangle as much. When you’re fishing with a baitcasting setup, bird-nesting becomes a real problem, and spinning rods and reels make that much easier to manage.
When you’re just starting out, managing your budget and not spending a lot is important. Bass fishing can get expensive and most average spinning rods won’t break the bank.
Baitcasting rods for bass are a great choice because they often provide a bit more durability than their spinning counterparts, but what you gain in strength you often sacrifice in weight as well.
The main difference between a spinning rod and a casting rod is the location of your reel. A casting rod will have the reel on top of the rod with the line guides on top. That’s because the line flows from the reel, through the guides, and off of the rod on the top portion of the rod rather than the bottom.
Casting rods are more commonly used in bass fishing tournaments, and professionals prefer them because of their added sensitivity. Professionals feel that baitcasting reels provide more sensitivity, allowing them to work the lures better and create the ultimate presentation.
For a beginner, it’s challenging to use these reels, and that’s why we recommend spinning gear when you’re starting.
There is also a fourth rod, the fly rod, that you can use for bass fishing, but fly fishing for bass isn’t that popular.
One of the most challenging things to understand about bass fishing is choosing between a baitcasting and spinning reel. They each have their own set of pros and cons so it’s crucial that you know which is right for you. Choosing the best bass fishing reel is not easy.
Generally, beginners should stick with a spinning rod and reel setup as previously mentioned. If you’re a beginner, I couldn’t possibly provide you with a stronger recommendation. Let’s get into it.
The spinning reel is the best choice for beginners because they are the most straightforward reels to jump into and start fishing with no experience.
Spinning reels have an open spool with the line exposed. These reels are on the bottom of the rod, and they’re much less likely to backlash. Spinning reels are great for bass because they can manage lightweight lures better than baitcasters, which is essential for catching bass.
- Not as expensive as baitcasting reels
- Easy for anglers of all skill levels to fish with
- Greater versatility than baitcasting reels
- Many different fishing techniques can be done with it
- Using lightweight fishing gear is more enjoyable
- Lower gear ratios, making them slower to reel in
- Do not cast as far as a baitcaster
- They do not handle big fish as well as a baitcaster
- Less accurate casts
- Less line capacity
A spinning reel should be used when you are planning to use light tackle. Spinning reels shine when lighter lines and lighter lures are needed! We mentioned earlier that most bass anglers prefer to use a baitcaster but that doesn’t apply when speaking about beginner anglers.
A few instances are when a spinning reel will be in their hands in place of a baitcaster. One such example is when they are finesse fishing. As menti oned above, spinning reels shine when the lightweight tackle is needed, and finesse fishing requires the right line.
A spinning rod should be used when an 8lb test fishing line or smaller is needed to catch fish effectively. If your situation requires a 10lb test fishing line or larger, a baitcaster will likely be the best choice.
Baitcasting reels sit on the top of the rod blank instead of the bottom. They have a closed spool with a portion of exposed line. The number one reason why we don’t recommend these reels for beginners is because they’re known for backlash which is when your line gets tangled up in the reel.
This can really cut into your fishing time and make for a miserable experience.
The reason baitcasting reels experience so much tangling is because of the way the bearings and braking systems operate. With a casting reel, once your lure hits the water, the reel continues to spin.
So, even though you’re not sending any more line out, the spool is still spinning. The line has no where to go and ultimately, it just unravels inside of the reel causing a big mess.
- Higher gear ratio means a faster retrieval
- Handles heavier line and fish
- Easier to present more complex lures
- Longer casting distance and more accuracy
- Greater line capacity
- More expensive than spinning reels
- Requires more experience
- Not the best option for lighter tackle
A basic rule of thumb for deciding when to use a baitcaster is the heavier the tackle; the more likely a baitcaster will be what you need to use. This is why you see so many saltwater fishermen use baitcaster reels. They need heavier lines and lures, and a baitcaster can handle the heavy tackle and larger fish much more easily than a spinning reel.
Another instance when you should use a baitcaster instead of a spinning reel is when casting distance matters. A spinning reel will not cast as far as a baitcasting reel will. Many bass fishing techniques require long casts so you’ll find that many professional bass anglers recommend a baitcaster.
Lastly, a baitcaster should be used when pinpoint accuracy is needed to catch fish. This is another reason why bass fishermen often prefer a baitcaster to a spinning reel. Baitcasting rods and reels are much more accurate than spinning rods and reels. So when you need to place your lure in the perfect spot, use a baitcaster!
Trolling for bass might not be the most popular method but we should still discuss it. It’s a great way to locate large schools of bass and it’s a great option for midday fishing once the bass have moved out to deeper water.
I find that trolling works great with hot summer bass lures. This is because the bass will move out to colder water earlier in the day because of how hot it is in the shallow. This closes the door much earlier and requires you to fish earlier in the day and later in the day if you expect to catch anything.
Trolling is also popular with offshore fishing for striped bass and peacock bass. This is the most common method of fishing used on charters.
Choosing the right hook for bass fishing is a complicated topic. You could spend an entire day in your local tackle shop talking about nothing more than hooks. Or, you could walk up and grab the first bag you see on the shelf and get out of there. Honestly, I think the second option is the right choice in most cases.
While the hook you choose will make an impact on your ability to catch bass because some hooks will gather more weeds, some won’t disguise as well, and the weight can have an impact too; I still think your time is better spent on something else.
I’ll break down each type of hook quickly for you but I just want to say that a straight shank hook is the best option for beginners.
Straight Shank – These don’t have a bend at the top, and they work well for heavy cover conditions because they don’t have that snag area where you’ll take weeds with you.
Offset Round – The wide gap design simply allows for more space between the barb and the wire. The goal here is to limit their ability to swallow the hook so you don’t lose it, so it doesn’t kill the fish, and so they don’t cut the line.
Offset Wide Gap – This is set up almost exactly the same as the offset round but instead, it has a wider gap in the hook area to allow for larger lures and bigger fish to not swallow the hook.
Treble Hooks – A treble hook is a type you would typically see hanging off a topwater, crankbait, or swimbait. These have three hook ends with barbs sticking off the end.
Drop Shot Hooks – The drop shot requires a specific fishing technique to suspend small plastics in the water to create a natural presentation. Some people consider octopus hooks and drop shots the same.
You’ve got pretty much everything figured out by this point, now it’s time to talk about the best bass fishing line. Line might not be the most exciting thing in the world but it’s important to understand the various types of lines and why we use specific kinds for each purpose.
This line is the most popular choice because it comes in a variety of different strengths and colors. It’s less expensive and stretches well too. Choosing monofilament for beginner bass fishing is essential because you need something that will resist abrasion and spool evenly, so you don’t have a loose line.
Monofilament floats and is larger in diameter than the other types of lines. This will cause lures to perform differently. Mono is the most beginner-friendly fishing line.
The main difference between monofilament and fluorocarbon is that fluoro sinks and is typically used as a leader because it’s invisible underwater.
The leader is the part of the line closest to the lure. It helps prevent the bass from seeing the line.
Fluorocarbon sinks, which is why it is often used as a leader. It is often stiff or wire-like when spooling out, and this can cause significant problems. That is the main reason fluoro is not a beginner-friendly fishing line.
We love braided lines, and here’s why. It’s twice as strong as monofilament, and it casts much further due to the added weight. You don’t have to worry about braided twisting either, and it works great for spinning reels.
The reason it’s not a beginner-friendly line is that it’s easy for fish to see. Braid is often a solid color instead of translucent. It has a tendency to spin around your reel if you do not place a little monofilament on the spool first.
So, you made it. You’ve read through the entire bass fishing for beginners guide. What did you learn? Do you feel more equipped with the knowledge necessary to get out on the water and catch more bass? I sure hope so.
One of the greatest things about bass fishing is that there’s a certain level of comradery involved. Anglers are always looking to help one another out by providing tips, tricks, and lessons.
That’s what I love about writing for Anglers.com and I hope you can take what you’ve learned and apply it in your life. Good luck out there!