Bass season kickoff presents plenty of options for N.Y. anglers
New York’s season for both smallmouth and largemouth bass traditionally opens the third Saturday in June, which this year means June 15.
Bass are a favorite among fishermen because of their relative numbers and the fact they readily adapt to life equally well in large, shallow lakes or even farm ponds.
Newcomers to bass fishing should look for bass near obvious cover such as lily pads, weedbeds, stumps or fallen trees. A lot of big fish, like largemouth bass and northern pike, prefer these areas because it’s easier for them to ambush their prey. Locate some weedbeds in the lake you’re fishing and try using a weedless lure like a Scum Frog or other such type of floating, weedless lure in that area. The weedbeds that lead to deeper water and create a breakline are typically the best.
Popping a weedless lure in thick cover is one way to fool a big largemouth, but another good technique when fishing from a boat in thick weeds is to use a jig tipped with a rubber worm. Just be sure to use a jig heavy enough to penetrate the thick cover. When I fished Black Lake with my neighbor we would simply drop the jig and worm straight down in open areas of the weedbed and move it vertically to attract attention. Although we were targeting bass, we often caught northern pike. Keep in mind when using this technique you’ll likely lose a jig or two to the sharp teeth of the pike. It’s amazing how they can almost surgically cut the line without the angler even feeling the hit.
Experienced bass fishermen can tell almost immediately if the fish they have hooked is a largemouth or smallmouth bass because of the way they fight. If the fish at the end of the line is gamey, courageous and unyielding all the way to the net, then it is most likely a smallmouth. If the fish seems to give up without much of a struggle, then it’s a safe bet the fish is a largemouth.
Smallmouth bass prefer a different habitat than their largemouth cousins and are rarely found in lakes less than 25 feet deep. Look for smallmouths in shallow, rocky areas of lakes and in the clear and gravel bottom runs and flowing pools of rivers. This is why sections of the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers here in the Southern Tier are such popular fishing destinations for area anglers.
Adult smallmouths feed on crayfish, small minnows and a variety of aquatic insects, but the most popular bait when fishing area rivers are hellgrammites, stonecats or crayfish. As a teenager, fishing the Susquehanna River with several of my friends was a weekly thing. Any fish caught of legal size was brought home for supper and I can’t remember a single fish that I cleaned that didn’t have a crayfish in its stomach.
Most bass fishermen practice catch-and-release, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a fish or two home for supper. Some may argue bass aren’t as good-tasting as walleye, but there are those of us who would disagree. If taking a few fish home for supper, just be sure to take the smaller ones of legal size. Personally, I think they taste better.