Bass angling Pennsylvania waters with live bait pays off
Mainly due to the ice sheets of the last ice age only reaching a small section of northwest and northeast Pennsylvania, and glaciation the chief design mechanism, this state has very few naturally formed lakes.
However, discounting Lake Erie, this shortage of naturally formed water bodies is offset by the high number of man-made lakes, impoundments and reservoirs that dot the landscape. Throw in the many large rivers and streams and smaller versions, and one can safely say Pennsylvania is indeed a wet state.
When it comes to fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, that is great news, because just about all these waters hold good numbers of these fish species.
Now I’ve done my fair share of bass fishing across the state, in both lakes and moving water. And although I cannot be considered a bass fanatic – fly-fishing for trout is my passion – I have enjoyed many, many hours of bass fishing.
In all of those different outings I’ve used at least one fashion of just about every jig, spoon, plug and plastic imitations of live bass food that is sold to the angling public. What I have come to understand is that of all these choices, I enjoy using live bait for bass more than any imitation available on the market.
Here is a short list of my favorite live baits:
- Nightcrawlers: The bigger the better. You can hook them just as you would any synthetic replica, using weedless hooks and weights. You can work them along the bottom, over heavy grass and pads, or dangle them beneath a bobber.
- Minnows: Big shiners are good, especially in lakes. Same with any naturally occurring lake minnows such as alewives. I love black-nosed dace, which I can catch myself. They are great in rivers and streams.
- Crayfish. They are not hard to acquire. You can often see them moving in the shallow water of small streams (most kids that spend time exploring waterways catch them bare handed — I did). A minnow net held downstream a few yards by one person as another moves stones and bottom cover toward the net holder can put a bunch of these clawed critters in the bait bucket.
- Hellgrammites: When it comes to fishing for smallmouth in flowing water, this is my beloved choice of bait. Catching them in the same manner as crayfish by net and overturning rocks and gravel along the bottom, good spots will provide plenty of these caterpillar-bodied-with-a-strong-head pincher bugs. Smallmouths will nail them when all else fails.
I might add that I do not kill bass, which is only my choice. To help in assuring their live return to the water I de-barb my hooks, and if one still deeply swallows bait and hook, I cut the line, leaving the hook where it is stuck. It will eventually rust away.
Bass anglers may choose any lure they wish at the end of their lines. But for the time I do spend angling for these great fighting fish, I can’t beat a hook with live baits.