Bass fishing lessons
Ok, I get it. Trout may be the darling species for many but, it’s bass that are the most sought after species by the majority of fishermen. In many areas of the state, save for the Adirondacks, Great Lakes, and their tributaries, trout are a put and take species that have mostly a springtime following. Bass however can be caught almost year-round and they can be found in most lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout New York.
As a kid, my friends and I fished for trout to be sure, but after school was out for the summer we targeted bass, and we learned how to catch them the hard way by foraging our own bait. Largemouth bass were pretty much only read about in magazines and for us, Susquehanna river smallmouths were the targeted fish of choice. All that changed when I moved to New York back in the late 1960’s. As luck would have it, my new neighbor Bob was an avid bass fisherman, and one day he invited me to join him for a weekend of fishing at his camp on Black Lake. It would be the first of many trips to the lake for us.
Bob and his uncle Bud were excellent fishermen and knew the lake well. I thought I knew a lot about fishing for smallmouths but, largemouth bass were different. Thanks to them I learned a great deal about the lake and its finny inhabitants. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
To consistently catch fish you have to put your lure where the fish are. To do that, you have to find the type of cover where fish may be lurking wherever you are fishing. Largemouth bass hide in or around a lot of different places including rock piles, dead trees, boat docks, grass, lily pads, and a whole lot more. Bass love to hang around cover because it helps conceal them so they can easily ambush their prey. One of the first lessons I learned about catching Largemouth bass at Black Lake was to find likely looking cover. Bays covered in Lilly pads were favorite fishing spots for us.
Because bass are predators, it’s important to give them what they want. For example, Black Lake has no shortage of weeds and lily pads that provide excellent cover for fish of many species to hide and ambush prey. Most of the time we used topwater Hula Poppers or weedless frogs working them through the grass or pads. The main idea is to present a lure that imitates the type of forage on which bass are likely to be feeding.
If topwater lures aren’t working, consider using a drop shot rig with a rubber worm especially around shoals or rock piles. This arrangement proved effective for catching the hard fighting smallmouths who loved hanging around these places.
The third lesson I discovered, was to be aware of the weather. On cloudy days bass tend to be much more active and willing to expose themselves to feed. On cloudy days moving baits like spinnerbaits, and topwater plugs seemed to work the best for us.
On clear, sunny days bass seem to hold tight to cover and wait for a meal to come to them. To catch bass on sunny days we often used a bottom bouncing bait like a jig tipped with a rubber worm or Texas-rigged soft plastic. Flipping and pitching the bait to the base of cover often elicited a strike. Allowing the boat to drift with the wind while dropping jigs between gaps in the Lilly pads often got us strikes as well.
Finally, another lesson learned the hard way was to use a good, strong knot to prevent lost fish and even more importantly, an expensive lure. Learn how to tie one. Learning how to tie a good fishing knot is one of the most important of all bass fishing tips. Simple knots like the Palomar and Clinch knots are great options for nearly every technique. I prefer using an Improved Clinch knot, and if you don’t know what that is, there are plenty of great videos and diagrams online to help you become a knot-tying expert.
Remember, you don’t need to fish a world-class bass fishery like Black Lake to have a good time. Small ponds often hold bass as well and some really big bass can be found in these smaller ponds that are often overlooked by many fishermen. Give one try. You might be surprised as to what lives there.