10 Tips for Rookie Bass Fisherman

I didn’t really get into bass fishing until about 8 years ago.  Up until then, I had gone catfishing with my dad several times at a neighbor’s farm pond when I was a young kid, but catfishing is nothing like bass fishing. I quickly learned a few things from trial and error and from talking to other anglers and I have to say that I got really good at fishing, really fast. Here are my top 10 tips for anyone who is just getting into bass fishing for the first time.  

Tackle Tip #1 - Buying lures that attract you, maybe not the fish - I will admit, I bought a lot of eye-catching lures in the beginning.  If it looked good to me, it should look good to the fish right? WRONG! I have two Plano Pro Stowaway Rack Tackle System boxes full of lures I haven’t touched in years. Some stuff are still in the packaging.  My suggestion, start with time tested lures so you can learn your style of fishing. Once you learn how to fish these lures efficiently and how to manipulate them, then you can start exploring more down the rabbit hole with swimbaits, drop shot rigs and everything else. It’s really easy to go crazy in the tackle aisle so hopefully this will give you a good start. Here is my list of selected lures:

  1. Crankbait - Shallow and/or medium depth Squarebill Crankbait

  2. Soft Plastics - GYCB 5” Senko (any variation of green color); 2/0 EWG hooks

  3. Topwater - Zara spook or Zara spook junior

  4. Bladed Jig - White or White/Chartreuse Z-Man Chatterbait

  5. Football Jig - Outkast Touchdown 2 Jig Black and Blue; craw trailer

Tackle Tip #2 - Educate Yourself - Now that you have a couple of lures in your arsenal, educate yourself on what they do, when to use it and how to fish it properly. There are so many videos on youtube now about how to fish every lure out there. A little research before you hit the water will teach you a lot and save you from wasting time and money.  I have a little pond near my house that I love to fish. There is a log about 10 feet out from the main spot I fish. Most people don’t know it’s there until their lure gets stuck on it. Every now and then I hook into a lure that has been lost and manage to pull it to shore. You have no idea how many deep diving crankbaits I have found in a pond that has a maximum depth of 6 feet.

Tackle Tip #3 - Expensive gear doesn’t equal more fish - Fishing is probably one of the few things in the world where you aren’t guaranteed more output just because you put more money into it.  My first rig was a 5’ 6” Shakespeare spinning combo. I loved until the reel fell apart in my hands when a screw on the bail worked itself loose. But still, I replaced with with a Shimano Sienna 2500 (…. and so began my love of Shimano reels). Many of you will have your first set up already and let’s face it, if you are reading this, you aren’t ready for the pro tour yet.  If you choose to upgrade your gear, here are my under $100 suggestions which will ensure you a better fishing experience without the pressure of having to catch a fish. There is nothing like spending over $100 on something and then feeling like you have to produce or you have just wasted a lot of money.  

Tackle Tip #4 - Bring only what you think you will use - This goes back to learning your fishing style.  When I am bank fishing or kayak fishing, I see new anglers all the time with so much gear that it make it hard for them to maneuver around or their selection is so vast they spend a large amount of time changing lures.  My tackle bag is pretty small. It has room for one small Plano box.I have my go-to lures in it plus maybe a couple of new things that I am trying out and that is it. The lure that I bought 6 years ago and have never caught anything on it, it’s in the garage.  If I’m on a boat, then I bring one or two other Plano boxes of lures. The point is, I find that if I travel light, I have more fun fishing.

Fishing Technique #1 - Casting pattern - Okay, enough about wasting money. The next couple of tips have to do with actual fishing. I am very methodical when I pick a spot to fish. I have a pattern I start use especially if I am fishing an area for the first time.  My first 5 casts are to the right as parallel to myself as possible. Then, I continue at 15 degree intervals, 5 casts each until I end to the left parallel with me. This is how I search for fish. In those 5 casts, I have varied my depth and/or retrieval rate.If I go through my entire pattern and I haven’t gotten a bite, I move to the furthest edge of my parallel casts, change lures and repeat the entire process again.  It’s kind of monotonous and robotic but, once I have the pattern down, I can pretty much work out how to fish the entire lake and it will become the technique the next time I visit this body of water. On a side note, if you are bank fishing, please keep in mind that as you approach the water, don’t just walk up to the edge and start casting toward the middle. A lot of times, you will just spook the fish you are trying to catch. Stay back about 6 feet from the water and target the areas along the bank before moving to the water.    

Fishing Technique Tip #2 - Slow down - I watched a father and son fish the other day. The father noticed there were lots of frogs on the bank of the lake so they both switched to a frog lure.  The father proceeded to rip the frog as fast as he could through the water while the son was much slower with his retrieve, mostly because he was reeling while being distracted by a frog on the bank.  Guess who got the first blow up. I see this all the time, fisherman who crank their baits so fast back to them that I seriously doubt the fish even new what just went by. If you have tried everything in your tacklebox and nothing has worked, slow down your retrieve.  Experienced fisherman will tell you, fishing too slowly doesn’t really exist. Also, if you watch baitfish, they don’t constantly swim. They often stop to feed or to check out their surroundings. You should try to mimic this by pausing your lure on your retrieve. 1 or 2 seconds is enough to catch the attention of your next catch.

Fishing Technique Tip #3 - Move -  If you aren’t having luck in a certain location, move on.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter what or how you fish, the bass just isn’t interested. Who knows, maybe she just had a baby duck and isn’t hungry anymore. I know, that was dark, but I’m trying to see if you are still reading.  If there isn’t any action after you feel you have thoroughly fished an area, there is no shame in moving on to another spot. Take a look at the area you are fishing and aim for an area that looks different.

General Fishing Tip #1 - Learn how to remove gut hooks - It’s going to happen. You will miss detecting a strike and next thing you know, you have a fish on.  You reel it in just to find out it’s gut hooked. In the old days, they used to say “Cut the line, the hook will dissolve and the fish will be fine.”  Well, that’s not true. The metals used in making today’s fish hooks don’t break down easily. It will take time for them to rust and dissolve; definitely more time than the lifespan of a largemouth bass.  If you are practicing catch and release, you must learn how to remove gullet hooks and release the fish as unharmed as possible. This is a great video on how to remove a hook safely. While we are on this topic, I carry a 5 inch pair of hemostats. It allows me to do this procedure faster and better than a pair of needle nose pliers. It hate accidentally killing fish but fish death rate is pretty close to 0% once I learned how to do this correctly.

General Fishing Tip #2 - Bring water - The summers here in Texas are nothing to joke with.  We often have week after week of 100+ degree weather. Because of this, I always have a stash of bottled water in my car.  Actually, even in nice Spring weather, there is water in my car and in my tackle bag. Fishing is not like going for that morning jog around the block where you know you are sweating and exercising.  Our form of “exercise” is much more subtle. Yet, we too must pay attention to our water intake. We can get tunnel vision as we are making cast after cast and not even realized we are starting to get dehydrated. 

General Fishing Tip #3 - Call it day while you are ahead - You can run around all day long chasing a bite.  Sometimes, especially when you’ve been out for a long time and bites are few and far between, you hit mental fatigue and start doing questionable things.  It’s important to remember that safety is and should be your number one priority when you are out on the water. While kayak fishing one time, I ended a fishing trip an hour later than I should have. Fatigued physically and mentally, I nearly dropped my kayak on myself as I was trying to lift it onto the roof of my SUV. Alone on a peninsula on a weekday, it would have been a while before any help would have showed up.  When I start feeling tired, I tell myself 5 more casts. I cast 5 more times. Within that 5 casts, if there is a bite or I catch a fish, I start my count back at 1 on the next catch. When I hit the fifth cast without any action, I call it a day.

So there you have it. What do you think about these tips? Do you have tips you would like to add? Are you a beginner and have a bass fishing question? Leave a comment below and let us know. I hope you will find some of this information useful and as always, 10-4 Good Buddy.

image: "Six Assorted Fishing Rods Beside Rod Rental & Bait Signage" by Jaymantri from Pexels

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