What is good bass bait? Here are four to try

There are two types of Black Bass in the US. The Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmoides), and the Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus Dolomieu). They have different behavior, and inhabit different enviornments, although they can over lap. They do not inter-breed. There is a subspecies of Largemouth known as the Florida Largemouth (Micropterus Salmoides Floridanus). It only lives in Florida, and it’s habits are identical to the Largemouth, the main difference being size. There are a few physiological differences, but they are unimportant to the average angler.

The Largemouth Black Bass is a bruiser, by freshwater standards. They are mainly sight-feeders, but can also use smell and vibration to locate prey. They eat just about anything they can get into their huge mouths, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, ducks, and birds, hence one of their nicknames…Bucket-mouth Bass. They can swallow things almost as big as themselves, and are perfectly willing to do so most of the time. They are ‘ambush’ hunters, prefering to hide near structure and ‘pounce’ on unsuspecting prey, swallowing them whole, in the blink of an eye. And, if it happens that what it has swallowed is not edible, they can ‘spit’ it out just as fast. Many a bass angler has wound up with a multi-hooked lure in his lap from a forceful ejection by an enraged Largemouth Bass. They can ‘spit’ a lure 20′ or more. Largemouth Bass can exceed 15 pounds, and 20 pounders have been caught. Largemouth Bass prefer slow-moving, slightly turbid water with lots of cover. Hydrilla beds, and submerged timber are some of their favorite haunts. Although they can be found in rivers, they are mainly a lake fish. They spawn in shallow water in late April in the south, to late May in the north. Their metabolism slows down in winter, but they can be caught all-year, using the proper techniques.

Smallmouth Bass , on the other hand, prefer moderately moving, clear, cooler water. Except for temperature, the prefer the same conditions as trout…clean, clear, easy moving water, around 72 degrees F. In fact, one of their nicknames is Green Trout. They can be found in lakes, and in fact, some lakes are famous for their Smallmouth Bass, such as Dale Hollow in Tn., and Kentucky Lake in Ky. Smallmouths are also ‘ambush’ predators, lying in wait, in cover, for an unsuspecting meal to drift by. They are particularly fond of crawfish. Most baits and lures that work for Largemouths will work for Smallmouths, albeit in smaller sizes. Also, Smallmouths are not known to eat birds or mammals, but probably only because their mouths are smaller. Smallmouths only grow to around 5-7 pounds. The record is slightly over 10 pounds.

Largemouths and Smallmouths can have similar coloration, and markings, depending on where they came from. And their habitats can overlap. The way to identity the species is to look at where the mouth corners end. If the mouth extends beyond the eye, it is a Largemouth. If it only comes to mid-eye, it is a Smallmouth.

Both Largemouths, and Smallmouths put up a tremendous fight when hooked. Some will go deep and slug it out in the depths, with wild evasive manuevers, and even trying to wrap the line around obstacles. Other times, they will shoot out of the water like an out-of-control Polaris missile, repeatedly, and perform acrobatics that would make any trout proud.

One trick to entice moody Largemouths, and to a lesser extent, Smallmouths, is to hook a live worm through the center, ‘wacky’ style, and then hook a minnow right behind it, on the same hook, so that the worm extends out on both sides of the minnow. It looks like the minnow grabbed a worm, and is trying to swallow it. This drives predators insane, because they think they can get two meals for the price of one.

Another trick, that works on almost all predators, is to rig a live baitfish, worm, or crawfish under a bobber. Then, with another rod, cast a small spinner, jig or crankbait out beyond the bobber, and reel it in quickly just past the bobber. To the bass, it appears that another fish is about to chomp the tidbit they have been watching. Nothing enrages a bass more. The strikes will be particularly vicious.

When fishing with a minnow, sometimes it helps to take a pair of fingernail clippers, and clip the lower lobe of the minnow’s tailfin. This makes it swim with a wounded motion that can drive bass crazy.

Another way to entice finicky bass is to rig a soft plastic minnow-bait, or jig about 2′ underneath a top-water ‘Chugger” or ‘Popper’. As you work the top water, the noise draws bass in, and it appears that an unwary smallfry is tracking the lure underwater. Sometimes the bass will try to beat the minnow to the punch and engulf the Popper, and other times, they will attack the jig for having the audacity to try to steal it’s supper. And sometimes, you can double up, and catch a bass on each one at the same time.

Happy fishing


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow bass fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on bass fishing since 2004.

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