If you’re in the USA, chances are a bass swimming somewhere near you. Creeks, rivers, and streams can hold bass, and most ponds, lakes, and reservoirs do too.
And on top of being easy to access, at times bass become patternable and some would say foolish, which lets anglers interact with a hard fighting predator fish through things like vicious strikes, reel screaming runs, and acrobat leaps.
However, bass can also be highly finicky or nearly impossible to understand, and the combination of these two things is what makes the chase so great. In addition to being fun to catch and sometimes easy to fool, bass are among the most accessible fish in North America, making them obtainable to anyone.
Bass fishing might seem unachievable right now, but with the right tools, a few fishing basics, any angler will be ready to hit the water with confidence. We’ll break down species identification, simple rigging techniques, and the need to know the basics to get you on the water crushing bass.
Largemouth, Smallmouth, & Spotted Bass
What Are Bass? - A group of closely related freshwater within the black bass subspecies of the sunfish family. The largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass are the three most popular subspecies of the black bass in North America and millions of anglers target them each year.
The largest, most distributed, and popular member of the black bass family. Largemouth bass are ferocious eaters known for gobbling down minnows, crawfish, and frogs. Scientists have identified two subspecies of largemouth, the Florida and Northern strain largemouth.
Florida strain largemouth grow faster in their warmer climates, mainly because of the extended feeding season. Because of this, a four-year-old bass in Florida should measure around 17 inches, while a four-year-old bass in Wisconsin is likely still under 12 inches.
Depending on the waters, largemouth bass are pale, green, or olive-colored and feature a series of black blotches called a lateral line that runs horizontally along the mid-section of their body. The world record largemouth caught in Georgia in 1922 weighed over 22lbs.
A bronze, brown, and sometimes slightly pale-tan-colored member of the bass family known for hard fighting abilities, spectacular colors, and relatively small mouths compared to their largemouth counterparts. Smallmouth bass have horizontal striping that runs along their body, and distinguishable red-eye shows up on some smallies each spring.
While they inhabit so many water types, generally, smallmouth prefer clear, tannic, or swift-moving water that stays cool. Smallmouth bass are opportunistic feeders, and their diet really depends on where they’re found. Young smallmouth bass eat insects, minnows, and plankton before advancing to larger meals like crawfish, baitfish, and perch.
Smallmouth living in shallow streams generally grow to be smaller in size, while smallmouth living in larger lakes, rivers, and reservoirs have the opportunity to grow over 5lbs. Any smallmouth bass over 12” inches will put up a noteworthy fight, but they usually need to measure over 15 inches to become picture-worthy fish.
Spotted bass looks very similar to largemouth but are known to act, eat, and fight more like smallmouth. The jaw of a spotted bass will not extend past their eye and they have rough sandpaper-like tongues. There are multiple strains of the spotted bass, including the Kentucky Spotted Bass, Alabama Spotted Bass, and more.
Depending on location and experience, spotted bass will typically grow between 16-25 inches and weigh up to 10 pounds; however, any spotted bass over three pounds is considered a big spot. The current spotted bass world record weighed 10.8 pounds and was caught in Northern California’s Bullards Bar lake.
Bass Behavior & Patterns (when bass spawn and what they eat)
Bass have tremendous appetites and it begins when they are small by eating zooplankton and invertebrates in the water before progressing to small minnows and bugs. As bass grow, their appetite expands to include minnows, frogs, crawfish, worms, mice, and even small birds.
Depending on where a bass lives their diet changes. In lakes filled with shad, or baitfish, bass will adapt to feed mostly on fish. In lakes with rocky bottoms loaded with crawfish, bass might adapt to eating more of a crawfish diet. Understanding what fish are eating and then using your lures to help “match the hatch” is an effective way to catch more fish. Different bass baits help anglers resemble minnows, crawfish, worms, bugs, and frogs while other baits resemble nothing natural and instead leverage the aggressive and curious nature of fish to trigger strikes.
The Best Bass Fishing Spots (where to find bass)
Bass are found in 49 of the 50 US states and can swim in ponds, creeks, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Their ability to adapt and thrive in so many different places is part of what makes bass fishing so popular. State websites and local fishing clubs are two ways to better understand where there are catchable bass around you. Smallmouth are native to waters in New England and the Midwest but have since been introduced to many states across the south and west. Spotted bass are native to the southeastern sections of the USA along with parts of the midwest. The best places to catch spotted bass include the Coosa River in Alabama and select trophy lakes in northern California that have been stocked.
Ponds Fishing For Bass
Many if not most ponds in North America are home to a population of largemouth bass. Depth, current, and amble forage like minnows, crawfish, or bugs are things you want to look for when exploring bass in ponds. Exploring little fishing ponds is the easiest way for bank anglers to constantly catch largemouth bass.
Bass Fishing Creeks & Rivers
Creeks narrower than a driveway will hold fishable bass populations and so does the Mississippi river. Depending on where you live, smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted might be swimming the local creeks and rivers near your house. Deep water, current breaks, channel swings, inflowing water, and below dams are all popular places for bass to hang out.
Best Baits For Creek Bass
Largemouth bass tend to hang out in the slow-moving water neaR grass and wood while spotted bass and smallmouth are more likely to be found somewhere near the river's current.
Bass Fishing Lakes & Reservoirs
Healthy bass populations thrive in lakes naturally but have also been widely introduced to America's lakes and reservoirs. The Tennessee River has over 40 dammed reservoirs which all hold thriving bass populations. Large lakes and reservoirs are home to the nation's largest bass populations.
State Fishing Guides
Bass Fishing Gear To Get You Started (essential lures and tackle)
Getting dialed in with the right bass fishing gear isn’t hard or expensive if you take the right approach and start simple. With just 1-2 fishing combos and a handful of bass fishing lures you effectively target fish all year long. Picking versatile baits to help cover the bases is a good way to get started and then start picking up more gear as you go.
It all starts with the right fishing rods. A medium-powered spinning rod and a medium-heavy powered casting rod can cover a bass angler in nearly every situation they find themselves in. Tying heavy lures to baitcasting equipment and the lighter and more finesse stuff to spinning rods is a simple approach to start with.
As bass anglers advance, they learn new techniques which usually require specific gear. This leads to people buying more rods to help them with things like casting, retrieving, setting the hook, or just feeling their bait better. But remember, to start you only really need one or two fishing set-ups. Pick up everything else as you go.
Before You Buy
Learn To Cast
Bass Fishing By The Calendar (catching fish through the seasons)
Bass are cold-blooded creatures meaning their habits, moods, and aggressiveness is significantly impacted by changing weather conditions. Bass spawn each spring when water temperatures reach above 60 degrees. During this time, they move to shallow water and feed aggressively before taking a break to focus on reproduction. After mating, the bass continues into a summer pattern. In the warmer months, the warming water temperatures increase the bass metabolism, making them more hungry. During the summer months, anglers can catch fish using nearly any technique. Some of the most popular being - topwater, texas rigged plastics, and introduce the months & seasons when bass fishing most often occurs
- Bass Fishing In The Spring
- Bass Fishing In The Summer
- Bass Fishing In The Fall
- Bass Fishing In The Winter
Bass Fishing For Beginners
Beginner Bass Fishing Rods, Reels, & Line
When you hit the water it’s essential to have a rod & reel combo spooled with the right line to help maximize your fishing experience. To start, try spooling 6-10lb monofilament or fluorocarbon to your spinning combo. For baitcasting gear, beef up to between 10-20lb for clear line and use between 30-40lb braided line. Monofilament is the cheapest, and fluorocarbon is the clearest in the water.
- How To Choose The Proper Fishing Line For Your Technique
- The Best All-Around Baitcaster Set-Up For Bass Fishing
Bass Fishing Lures For Beginners
There is an endless amount of bass lures available, helping anglers catch fish in specific scenarios across the country. Still, with all of the different colored, sized, and shaped fishing gear on the market today, bass anglers can start off with minimal fishing tackle.
Bass primarily eat bugs, minnows, crawfish, and frogs, and using a mix of lures to mimic those creatures is the key to success. At times, bass also feed out of aggression, and by using loud or oddly shaped lures anglers can trigger bites which are commonly called “reaction strikes”
Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and swimbaits are moving baits that require a constant winding motion to help bring them in, typically these lures represent small fish and help anglers cover water quickly while triggering strikes from aggressive fish.
Slower moving baits that are worked along or near the bottom represent fish, bugs, crawfish, or other small creatures creeping along the bottom. Jigs, drop shot rigs, and ned rigs are all popular slower moving baits that can be worked near the bottom.
Topwater - Topwater baits help anglers draw surface strikes from bass who might see the bait as a distressed frog or small fish, fluttering at the surface. Topwater walking baits and poppers are ideal for fish feeding near the surface in open water. Anglers switch up to buzzbaits or topwater frogs to target bass swimming in the shallow grass.
Soft Plastics - Soft plastic is a catch-all term for a hookless, flexible bass bait constructed from a soft plastic material. Anglers combine soft plastics with fishing hooks, jigs, or weights to create a bass fishing rig. The natural movements from a flexible and nearly endless rigging capabilities make soft plastic baits the most widely used lures in bass fishing.
Drop Shot Fishing 101
The Best Bass Fishing Tips For Beginners
Bass are crepuscular animals which means they become most active during dawn and dusk. Anglers who fish near sunrise or sunset generally find more success than anglers fishing during the middle of the day.
The more people fish, the better trained the fish become and the harder they catch. Finding spots or times where you see less angling pressure will generally improve your chances of catching fish.
If fishing around a crowd is inevitable, try finesse and subtle tactics to help make your presentation look more natural than the person fishing next to you.
Hooksets are free! - If you think you have a bite, set the hook! It doesn’t cost you anything, and sometimes the subtle little bites that are nearly impossible to detect are the only indicator you’ll get from a fish before it decides to spit your presentation back out and move right along.
Popular Bass Fishing FAQ’s
Catch and release angling helps provide more fishing opportunities for other anglers while giving fish the chance to grow even bigger. If you’re interested in keeping fish, remember to look at your local fishing regulations before bringing anything home.
Limiting fish time out of water, having tools to remove the hook nearby, and providing a gentle release are three easy catch and release practices.
Updated January 10th, 2022 at 1:12 AM CT