What angler doesn’t wish to catch bigger bass? It’s not just a stroke of luck… Follow these tips to catch more lunker bass.
Whether you’re looking to make a splash on your local tournament trail this season, catch a trophy for the wall, or simply want to catch bigger bass than your dad on your next family fishing trip, you’re not alone.
Follow these 10 simple tips and start putting lunker sized bass in hands.
10. Use Bigger Baits
This seems like a pretty basic strategy to target larger fish. We’ve all heard the adage, “Go Big or Go Home!” and this can apply when targeting trophy bass too. Since using “bigger baits” is far too general, you’ll need to get a rough idea of the size of baitfish that are in the lake before determining what “big” really is.
If you’re fishing out west where trophy bass gorge on large trout, you’ll find that the possibilities are endless when it comes to up-sizing your bait. West Coast anglers frequently use large swimbaits, some as big as 12 and 14 inches in length, to target trout-eating bass.
In the Midwest where I am from, a trophy bass has a wide variety of food types to choose from; ranging from bluegills, shad, and shiners, to crawfish, frogs, or mice. The range of prey sizes is also much narrower than on the west coast. In the Midwest, six- to eight-inch baits are considered quite large. It is important to take this into consideration when attempting to use oversized baits for big bass.
9. Use Smaller Baits
I’m not trying to trick you here by listing two opposites back to back. Bass fishing is a situational sport. Experienced anglers know that conditions change weekly, daily, or even hourly. Fishing conditions can turn on a dime and suddenly catching any fish, let alone trophy fish, becomes a serious chore. This is when you’ll want to employ finesse tactics to land trophy fish. Try using shaky head jigs with finesse worms, or drop shot four-inch wacky rigged senkos.
Don’t be surprised when that little worm entices a great big bass!
8. Buy a Bigger Boat
It’s not the boat that catches the fish. In fact, many of the world’s largest bass have been caught in microscopic-sized lakes and ponds out of microscopic-sized Jon boats. However, if you really want to increase your chances of consistently catching BIG bass, you’ll want to have a boat that can handle some of the roughest water conditions out there.
Fiberglass boats in the 18- to 21-foot range with 150 horsepower or more are ideal. Some of our nation’s greatest trophy bass lakes are huge and can get extremely rough at a moment’s notice. In summer months especially, trophy bass tend to school in open water far away from the bank, making it extremely challenging to catch these fish; let alone even come near them if you don’t have a big enough boat to navigate and position in harsh conditions.
7. Optimize Your Gear
I’ve seen far too many large fish get missed, come unhooked, or break lines due to inadequate equipment. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, but I am thankful that it is one I learned years ago.
When fishing for large fish, make sure that you are using line, rod, and reel sizes that can handle the task at hand. Here’s an example: If you are frog fishing, use a 7’6”- 8’ medium heavy or heavy action rod, a high speed (7:1 gear ratio) reel, and at minimum, 65-pound braided line.
I’ve seen many anglers attempt to frog fish with 6’6” medium action rods, low-powered reels, and light or non-braided line and the result is always a disaster. Make sure that you have the proper equipment to pull monsters out of wherever they might be hiding. After all, when you’re talking about catching trophy bass, hooking the fish isn’t even half the battle. You have to get them in the boat!
6. Fish in the Fall
Fall is a phenomenal time to not only catch a lunker bass, but potentially several of them in one outing. In the fall, large fish migrate to shallow water and feed aggressively on bait fish before phasing back out to deeper water for the winter.
Find the key areas that fish are using to feed, and cash in! Large bass gorge themselves on shad or whatever other forage is available in an attempt to store fats for the winter, so the fish are generally fat-bellied and heavy at this time of year!
5. Fish in the Spring
If you’ve only got one time of year to fish, but you want to catch a lunker bass, spring is the time to do it. When fish are prespawn or spawning, they’re usually predictable, relatively aggressive and easy to catch. When you find a lunker, you’ll have the bonus of her egg and winter weight. Often times a four- to five-pound “summer fish” can weigh six to seven pounds in the spring. Water temperatures of 52-68 degrees will be your ideal temperature range for catching prespawn and spawning giants.
Just remember to catch and release those monster females, as they are the future of bass fishing!
4. Find the Funnels
No matter the time of year, fish are constantly moving and adjusting to the conditions around them. They have a couple of jobs: eat, reproduce, and avoid dying. This keeps them moving, but they use contours and bottom types to orient themselves on their journeys. As a result, one of the best places to find bass, especially big ones, is what we refer to as a funnel.
The funnel can be of horizontal or vertical orientation, and could be feet or blocks across. Areas where contours come together sharply and narrow the horizontal or vertical water column for bass are often places where the largest fish in the system will ambush unsuspecting prey that become trapped in the “bottle-necked” area.
3. Find Where the Big Fish Live
Simply “finding where the big fish live” is a whole lot easier said than done, but there is some hope. At the local bait shops, forums for general information will help you narrow your search. Often times tournament results will tell the tale as well. Tournaments are consistently won out of the “Monkey Box” on Lake Okeechobee. Why? Because big fish live there. Bottom line is, there are some parts of any body of water where the biggest fish in the system just tend to gravitate toward.
Find these sections and you’ll greatly increase the odds of connecting with a lunker.
2. Locate Larger Forage
In most lunker bass lakes and rivers, there is an abundance of forage present. It’s hard for bass to grow to true lunker size without having plenty of food. The trick becomes finding the right size baitfish in a system where there seems to be baitfish virtually anywhere. Luckily the baitfish can provide us signs of their activity and help us locate quality areas.
Look for birds diving the water and feeding on fish. The birds are looking for the biggest possible meal too. Sometimes baitfish will come up and out of the water. Pay attention to their size, and when you see a larger-than-average one, take note. Lastly, watch your electronics. When you find larger than average bait, they’ll often appear more pronounced and separated on the screen.
Contrary to popular belief, catching lunker bass is not simply a stroke of luck. The hands-down best way to catch more and bigger bass is simply to spend more time on the water.
Get out there, see what the fish are doing day in day out. Chart their movements and behaviors like a deer hunter would pattern a trophy whitetail. In time, you’ll see patterns emerge and history repeating itself, and the next thing you know you’ll be hoisting yet another lunker bass.