Basic Bass for Beginners
If you’re relatively new to lake life and long to experience the simple pleasure of catching fish from your own lake with any sort of regularity, this story is for you.
In South Frontenac, when it comes to fishing, there’s really bass and then everything else that swims. Bass, and largemouth in particular, tend to dominate many of Our Lakes – both large and small – making them the primary quarry for anglers in this area.
There are many ways to fish and plenty of things to fish for, but far and away one of the most accessible species for people new to the sport is bass. Yes, there are people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and live their lives in pursuit of big bucketmouths, but you can easily outfit your family for less than a weekly trip to the grocery store and start enjoying this benefit of living in the middle of our pristine, lake-filled paradise. Beyond gearing up with the basics it doesn’t take a lot of know-how to be a successful bass angler. As you can fish for bass from canoes, kayaks, Seadoos, aluminums, cedarstrips, bowriders, pontoon boats, bassboats, sailboats, innertubes, or even from shore, let’s assume you’ve got that part covered. Other than that, here are eight tips to get you out and catching bass consistently before the end of this summer.
1) Look for Package Deals
You can purchase affordable rod and reel combos at retailers all around this area. The ideal combo for young adults and older folks who are just starting out is a medium to medium-heavy action spinning rig strung up with eight-pound test monofilament line. For younger kids look for closed-face combos, but don’t bother with the ones that come with free tackle as it isn’t generally worth using. The most important things are that the rod feels comfortable in your hands, the drag is relatively smooth (When you pull line out like a retreating fish, does it come out of the reel consistently or does it seem to surge and stick periodically?), and do you like the look and colour (you’re hopefully going to be photographed a great deal with your gear, you should like the look of it).
2) Other Items You Need
The fishing world is full of gadgets; most are superfluous and designed to catch fishermen not fish. There are, however, a few basics everyone should have if they are getting into the sport at any level. These include: a tangle-proof net with suitably long enough handle for the size of boat you’ll be fishing from; a set of jaw spreaders, particularly if your lake also hosts northern pike; needle-nosed pliers, same reason; if you are uncomfortable handling fish, invest in rubberized gloves; snap swivels; a bucket or stringer if you plan on keeping any fish and your boat doesn’t have a livewell; a hat with a brim; polarized sunglasses; and, a camera – when it comes to the big ones, it’s always better to just take a picture and let them swim another day.
3) Bait Selection
If you are just starting out and building your tackle arsenal from scratch, here are the first five bass lures you need to own and when to use them: A) Safety pin spinnerbait – When fishing weed flats or working in and around fallen trees, docks or other snaggy structure, this lure produces. Chartreuse, white and black are the top colours in descending order of popularity. B) Cotton Cordell Big O – A versatile rattling crankbait, both largemouth and smallies will gobble this lure. Thick weeds and fallen wood are the only obstacles that slow it down. White is the best colour. C) Jig and 3-inch plastic tail – 1/8-ounce, hot pink tungsten heads with scent-impregnated Berkley Gulp tails in smelt or emerald shiner pattern lead the league. Fish this vertically over rocks and deep weeds, or even swim it over flats… bass can’t resist it (by the way, neither can walleye). Head-to-head, this combo will consistently out fish live minnows. D) Len Thompson Five of Diamonds – Especially in the fall when bass are scattered over vast weed flats getting ready for winter, this iconic spoon allows you to cover a lot of water quickly and trigger a pile of hits from active fish. E) Jitterbug or Hula Popper – The former is easier for beginners as it only requires a straight retrieve while the later needs jerk, pause, reel, repeat, which for young children can be too much. Either way fish these surface lures around weed edges or over shoals from early evening until the fish start missing your lure because it’s too dark. Other than the jigs and spinnerbaits, tie on a snap swivel first and then attach your lure… jigs and spinnerbaits should be tied directly to your line.
4) The Easiest Knot to Tie
There are countless knots with detailed instructions available online to learn and depending on the line you are using, each has its place. One you won’t find there that is the absolute easiest way to attach a lure to monofilament line is the simple loop knot. Tie a loop in the end of your line making sure to wet the line in your mouth before pulling it tight (otherwise the heat from tying can melt and weaken your line). Put the loop through the eye of the jig or swivel, pull the lure through the loop and finally pull the whole thing tight. This is not the strongest knot nor the best knot by any measure. It is simply the easiest knot to learn, especially for young kids.
5) Picking Your Spot
Largemouth: Early in the day start shallow around weedy areas. Target three to seven-foot flats, especially near any drop-offs to deeper water. Go deeper during the day as the mercury rises; weed beds in 10 to 15 feet of water are barely visible with polarized sunglasses in most of Our Lakes due to the water clarity. If the lake is calm, try surface lures at dusk. Smallmouth: Focus on rock shoals and again start shallow earlier in the day, moving deeper as the sun gets higher in the sky. If a shoal has a shady side (remember light penetrates water and still casts shadows), target that portion in particular. Again, surface lures in the evening are a hoot – especially with topwater-dancing smallies. With both species look for transitions between rock, weed, sand and bottom colour; these are all spots likely to hold fish.
6) Hooksets & The Fight
When a bass hits your lure, you want to set the hook firmly in its mouth by abruptly pulling back on your rod while starting to reel. Don’t let the fish get any slack line or it could spit your bait. Especially while the fish is still deep slowly work your rod tip down closer to the water roughly in the direction of the fish … this is the best position from which to fight as you have maximum range for reacting to the fish’s movements allowing you the best odds for not having it get off. If you feel the fish swimming for the surface, pull your rod off to the side away from your dance partner and reel a little faster. This will help keep your bass from jumping – it’s primary tactic for throwing your lure. Don’t reel your rod tip down too close to the fish, keep four to seven feet of line between the tip of your pole and your fish. Instead, when you get this close, stop reeling and just gently lift the fish toward the submerged net using the leverage in your rod.
7) Handling Bass
Congratulations, you just landed a bass. Now you gotta deal with it. Bass are easy to handle as they don’t really have much that can hurt you. The best way to handle them is by the lower lip – their teeth are like sandpaper and won’t hurt you at all. All fish have a protective slime. If you touch their bodies’, you remove a certain amount of that slime which opens the fish up to greater risk of disease or infection. If you must handle a bass you plan on releasing, wet your hands first and it will at least minimize the impact on that protective layer of slime. When releasing bass, especially larger ones, hold them under the surface upright until they are ready to swim away under their own power. If the fish is particularly tired, gently manoeuvre the bass forward and back while holding it just in front of its tail. This will force more oxygen-rich water through its gills and help it recover. If you release a bass and it floats up and lays on its side on the surface, retrieve the fish and repeat the resuscitation process otherwise birds will quickly locate it and kill it by first pecking out its eyes before it can recover on its own.
8) A Few Final Suggestions
Take your kids with you and take plenty of photos. Always wear a hat. Keep a few to eat if you are so inclined as a meal of fresh caught bass is a nutritious, tasty treat. Always catch your limit but limit your catch!
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