This 5-step bass fishing guide is a plan anyone can follow. One reason some anglers fail at bass fishing. They overthink the sport of bass fishing. On the other hand, a few do not put enough effort into the sport. A 5-step guide will up your bass fishing. In other words, it is a basic plan for success in bass fishing.
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes, 39 seconds. Contains 3133 words
Table of Contents
- Step 1 Location; Where to Fish for Bass
- Step 2 Weather for Bass Fishing
- Step 3 Water Conditions for Bass
- Step 4 Lures and Techniques for Bass Fishing
- Step 5 Making a Plan
If you go fishing without a plan. That is a recipe for failure. The best anglers always plan their day on the water. Experienced anglers take into account the location, weather, water conditions, and time of year. These items determine the lures and techniques you need for success.
Follow these 5 steps for success with a bass fishing guide.
- Water Conditions
- Time of Year
- Lures and techniques
Making a plan using these steps gives you a plan simple and easy to enact. Does the location have habitat suitable for the bass? What effect will the weather have on fishing? Is the water clear, cloudy, or stained? Is the time of year good for bass fishing? What lures and techniques work best under the previously asked conditions?
Before you can catch a bass they need to be found. Bass desire a specific habitat to live in. The closer to the ideal habitat the more productive an area will be for success. This requires understanding the target species. The various bass species have different preferences for habitat. They thrive in the preferred habitat. In other words, find what they like to catch the bass.
The structure is the land contours under the water. This includes old streambeds, roadways, humps, points, drop-offs, and other features. These spots give fish a pathway to move along. Fish avoid flat areas without some type of structure. Find the structure first to catch bass.
The cover is where fish hide for protection or to ambush prey. Weeds, fallen trees, docks, rock piles, and manmade items fish hide in or around is cover. The cover holds the prey for larger. The large fish will use the best spots to ambush a meal. Smaller fish use the cover to hide for protection.
As an angler, the cover needs to be worked thoroughly with lures. Fish may hang on the cover. You need to present a lure at multiple anglers or speeds. Do not leave cover until it is worked completely. This may take a 1/2 hour in each spot.
Experienced anglers hit a spot from every angle and with a few lures. This is done until the fish hits. It may take a few spots to hit a productive spot. Take the time to fish the cover and move on if non-productive. In a short time, you will find a few very good spots.
The weather does influence fish behavior. Fish like stability in the environment. Cold fronts or heat spells can make fish seek shelter in deeper water with heavy cover. You need to know what the fish do in different weather conditions.
The weather conditions have other effects.
- Rain will change water temperatures
- Rain can raise water levels
- Wind pushes plankton and baitfish to the shore
- Sunlight makes fish seek heavier cover or deeper water
Sudden changes in water temperatures cause fish to get sluggish. Cold fronts and rain cause this effect on fish. Be prepared to use finesse fishing. The slow presentation is more enticing to a slow fish.
Higher water pushes fish towards shore in streams and rivers. Extremely high water on lakes will do the same. Fish will find areas with stable temps and less current.
Whenever possible fish the shore the wind is blowing into. The small aquatic creatures drift towards shore. The baitfish follow since it is their food source. The bass follows the baitfish.
Bass do not like a lot of sunlight. Fish cloudy days, early mornings, or in the evening. Clouds block sunlight. In the morning or evening, the angle of the light causes most of the light to be reflected away. Take advantage of the light conditions while fishing.
Time of the Year for Bass Fishing
The seasons of the years have an effect on bass. The water temperature, length of the day, and bio-rhythms of fish change throughout the seasons. What works in early spring does not apply to mid-summer. The fish’s behaviors have changed. You need to adjust to the time of year.
Angler’s Note; Fish are cold-blooded. Their metabolism changes with temperature. In warmer waters, it increases, along with the need to feed. Use temperature to help with when to fish.
Each season will require going over the 5-step bass fishing guide. The seasons will change fish location and habits.
Spring is one of the best times to fish. The majority of species are becoming active to prepare for the spawn. Fish feed a lot before they spawn. During the spawn, most fish will not eat. They prepare before the event.
An angler needs to prepare also. Find the deep water close to the spawning grounds. The fish will be in the deep water and come into the shallows to feed. Bass has a preferred habitat to spawn. Largemouth seeks weedy bays or areas with a lot of cover and structure.
A smallmouth goes for sandy or gravel areas in the shallow water. Plus weeds or other cover makes the spot better. Once you find a place with the correct conditions. It is time to fish in the area. The lures will vary daily in the spring.
Fishing in the spring an angler must have finesse lures and reaction lures. The finesse lures are soft plastic rigs and jigs. Reaction lures for spring include jerk baits, spinnerbaits, and lipless crankbaits.
- Texas rig
- Drop shot
- Wacky rig
- Neko rig
- Tube jig
- Bass jig
- Shakey head
- Jerk bait ( a few sizes and colors)
- Lipless crankbait with rattles
- Spinnerbait (Colorado blade and willow leaf blade models)
During the summer fish enjoy the warmer weather. During periods of a lot of light, they retreat to deeper water or heavy cover. When the sun is not bright fish go into the shallow water to feed. In some instances, it will be 3-4 feet and others 6-10 feet. Shallow water is relative to other conditions.
Water clarity is a factor that influences sunlight penetration. Stained and muddy water blocks the sun’s rays. This allows the fish to come into the water with less depth. Bass will still use the cover. They will not be as far or tight in the cover.
The opposite is true for clear waters. Bass will go into the cover farther and stay in the cover. You need to find a way to reach the fish in either condition. This affects lure choice and presentation.
In the summer all lures work. The conditions and time of day determine what you choose. In cover, lures with single hooks are best. They do not grab weeds or snag as often. In the water that is open. Lures with treble hooks work well.
In thicker cover, the rigs and jigs are the best. Spinnerbaits work around logs, brush, and rock piles. The areas with sparse or little cover use jerk-baits or crankbaits. Experiment with retrieve speed. The fish will prefer a certain speed at times. Sometimes speed is not much of a factor.
In summer, a thermocline may form. This is when water separates into different temperature and oxygen level zones.
The top-level is warm and allows too much sunlight. The bottom zone lacks oxygen plus tends to be toxic. The bottom of lakes has decaying organic matter releasing toxins. The habitable zone is where the bass will be during the summer. Water clarity and flow affect the layers making up the zones. As a result, the layers form at different depths from one lake to another lake.
In the fall, the days get shorter and the waters start to cool. This alerts bass to a change in the seasons. They begin to feed more. This is how fish prepare for winter. This is the time of year to catch bigger fish. They have another year of growth.
In addition, to the weather changing, the prey has grown. The prey spawns in the spring and many throughout summer. The shallower water is abundant with food. Bass will come in shallow water frequently in the fall.
Besides, the surplus of food. Bass feed more often to put on the weight for winter. Fish are the same as other animals. They put on fat and weight to keep them during the lean season of winter. The feeding periods will be longer. Plus as fall proceeds, bass will feed anytime during the day.
Lures for the fall include all types. When the weather is stable go with reaction lures. On the days after weather fronts use the finesse baits. The weather change makes bass slow down for a day or two.
Winter is tough for bass fishing. The lower temperatures slow down the bass. This is when slow presentations of lures are a must. The lure or bait needs to be close to the fish. You also must move slowly. A fish will not waste energy on a poor chance of success.
There are a few things to improve your chances. Find the warmer water. Areas receiving the longest period of the sun will be a few degrees warmer. It makes a difference. Water discharges from plants are usually warm water. This heats up the surrounding water. Fish will congregate in these areas.
Once you find warmer water. Fish the area slowly or use live bait. Using a lure requires a pause of 15-30 seconds and sometimes longer. Fishing live bait let it sit for a while. Then move it a few feet and wait again. You need to get the bait close and it must stay motionless long enough. Fish will not chase a bait or lure moving too fast.
In the southern latitudes, winter has less impact. In the north, water can freeze over. You have to judge the region you live in. Is it even worth fishing for bass at the temperature at the latitude?
Water conditions affect bass. The current, temperature, and water clarity are the primary factors. A stable temperature is preferred by bass. Largemouth avoids current, whereas, smallmouth like some current. The water clarity affects the ability to see.
It was mentioned earlier how temperature affects metabolism. Plus, temperature changes make bass slow down. They need time to adjust to the changes. Inexperienced anglers overlook this element of fishing. You need to adjust to temperature changes with your techniques and presentation. Understanding the temperature is important to the 5-step bass fishing guide.
In general, bass will be active in temperatures ranging from 55-85 degrees. As long as the temperature is stable. The temperatures outside of the range cause stress on the bass. The hotter water lacks oxygen. Fish will go into deeper water to find suitable conditions. In colder water, their metabolism slows down dramatically.
These extremes make fishing tough. When it is too hot or cold you will catch fewer fish. The fish do not expend energy to feed during these extremes in temperature. Their energy is applied to survival. Avoid temperatures outside of the active range for bass. This applies to the water temperature and not air temperature.
Largemouth will not be in or near currents. Smallmouth will be near current if present. This is a difference between the two species of bass. Largemouth lives mostly in lakes, whereas smallmouth thrives in streams and rivers. Consider this in the 5-step bass fishing guide. Where you fish is determined by which bass is targeted.
Smallmouth uses current as a structural feature. They wait along the edges of the current for food. They hang on the edges of the current facing upstream. This allows the bass to watch for food being washed downstream. In rivers, when water is high and swift the bass can be close to shore. It is common to catch smallmouths 3-5 feet from the shore.
Largemouth avoids currents. They prefer calm water. Largemouth will use drop-offs and cover to wait for food. In lakes, fish along the edges of weed-beds, brush piles, and drop-offs. These are the primary places to catch largemouth bass. This type of cover blocks currents and provides an ambush point.
Water clarity influences lure choice and color. Fish have to see the lure to strike. It is true the lateral lines will draw the fish close to the lure. But, they need to see the lure to eat it. Choosing the correct lure and color takes experience. They are a few guidelines that do help.
The color needs to produce a good silhouette. Fish do see color but seeing the shape is more important. The water clarity will change the color and the ability of the fish to see many colors. In deeper water, all lures turn to black or dark grey.
Bass has a fairly good color vision. Most productive colors include green pumpkin, chartreuse, black, blue, and yellows. These should be the primary color of a lure. Lures often have several colors. Look for silver, gold, or white on a lure to contrast the primary color.
In shallow clear water, avoid lures that are too flashy. In stained or deep water, use bolder colors for a better silhouette. There are times the color is critical. But most of the time the action of the lures is what counts. A good action catches more fish than the color will produce.
Inexperienced anglers tend to pick lures based on a favorite. This is fine if the conditions warrant the type of lure. There are many times it is the wrong choice to use the method. An angler needs to know what lure is best in every situation. This does mean you need every lure made. You need some reaction lures and finesse lures.
Look at how a lure performs. Does it have a steady retrieve? These are reaction lures. Lures with a stop and go retrieve tend to be finesse lures. A jerk-bait falls somewhere in between. They can be used with a fast or slow retrieve based on conditions. Less experienced anglers are served best with a lure of each type.
Using any lure requires learning to use it effectively. Retrieving the lure incorrectly will greatly diminish the amount of strike it receives. Practice with 2-3 types until you have a good understanding of how to use them. This will lead to catching more fish than having every lure and color.
Using finesse lures is the slower pinpoint style of fishing. Finesse fishing takes a touch and feel. These lures allow an angler to target small areas or tight cover. The lures are cast into the desired location. Then retrieving is done by short hops or drags along the bottom. A pause is added in between the pop or dragging action.
Jigs are tied to the line and are straight forward in that regard. The rigs vary and an angler needs to know how to rig each one. There are five basic rigs for bass fishing with a few variations. The rigs use soft plastic bodies on a hook. The bodies mimic nightcrawlers, lizards, and frogs to name a few. The majority of rigs can be weightless or use weight.
The Texas rig is common for largemouth bass fishing followed by the other rigs. Smallmouth anglers use tube jigs and drop shots as their primary choices. Any of the rigs will catch any game fish. All anglers need to learn finesse fishing for the intended conditions.
When to Use Finesse Lures
- Heavy cover
- Cold fronts or changing weather
- Colder weather or water
- Pressured fish ( waters that see a lot of fishing )
- Fish that are less active
- Anytime reaction lures do not work
Reaction lures are easy to use types. These lures use steady retrieves with some variation to the speed of retrieval. They do not require the touch of finesse fishing. The fish tend to hook themselves with reaction lures, although you should set the hook to be safe.
The common mistake with reaction lures is a hookset too fast or hard. You need to give the fish a second or two to get a good hold on the lure. This is especially true for top-water lures. In other words, do not set the hook as soon as the fish hits. Wait until the fish turns or has a good hold. This is a learned skill.
In cover, spinnerbaits are better. They have a single hook reducing snags. In open water use jerk-baits or crankbaits. These lure types use treble hooks and will snag weeds or brush easily. A top-water lure uses multiple point hooks. Since they run on the surface snags are minimal.
The reaction lures have variation also. Crankbaits come with different body styles, fat, and shinny. Plus the lips have different designs affecting depth and action. Jerk-baits use the same variations with body and lips. These differences influence when to use the lure.
Spinnerbaits use weight, blade style, and arm configurations to change effects. Heavier lures sink faster and run deeper. Colorado blades create more vibrations and are seen head-on. Willow leaf blades have a lot of flashes and are seen from a side view. Plus the lures can have short or long arms. The arms should be shorter in brush and long in open areas.
The final part of the 5-step bass fishing guide is making a plan. Each season and body of water should have its own plan. Professional and experienced anglers do this by habit. A fishing notebook is recommended for this purpose.
All the previous information will let you make a guide for each water and season you fish. Use the following list to start.
- What season is it?
- Where are you fishing?
- What is the weather forecast?
- Be prepared for the water conditions.
- Choose lures based on all the above conditions.
Following the list puts all aspects in order. Add in your knowledge of the species. Each species has tendencies and preferences. Understand the fish to catch them.
Making a plan is the best you can do to become a better fisherman or lady angler. This applies to any species of fish. Learn the fish’s behavior and habitat. Study the waterways you fish. Find the structure and cover on the waterways. Take into account the weather and seasons. Base lure selection and color on conditions. Success is in the details. Do not skip any part of what it takes to make the plan or understand your targeted species.