The Largemouth Bass is the most widely chased game fish in the US, and likely the world, with anglers targeting the fish from California, to Texas, to Japan. Few fish are so widely distributed, and can be found in such a variety of bodies of water. Much like the whitetail deer, bass have a tradition and culture that can be appreciated by nearly every outdoorsman.
Every small town bar in rural America has a 10 pound bass on the wall, and everyone’s grandpa has a story of the giant they caught when they didn’t have a camera. Catching a bass with weight into the double digits is on nearly every angler’s bucket list. Here we will highlight techniques that will help you join this exclusive community, and tell your own story of the 10 pound bass hanging on your wall.
While big bass can be caught everywhere, several factors go into growing them. First off, places with mild winters and long growing seasons seem to consistently produce big largemouth. Places like Florida, Texas, California, and Mexico are well known for growing bass well over the 10 pound mark. Different from northern regions, these states rarely if ever experience temperatures below freezing, and have climates that allow bass to grow all year long. In addition, these areas are also known for having massive bodies of water.
Places like Lake Okeechobee in Florida, Clear Lake in California, and Lake Sam Rayburn in Texas all cover many thousands of acres and provide bass with the high-quality habitat and food sources required to make them big. While these larger bodies of water hold giants, big fish can also be found in small ponds and lakes, provided there is the necessary cover and forage.
Finally, the different genetics between the Northern strain bass and Florida strain bass help these southern fish grow much larger. While Northern strain bass rarely exceed 10 pounds, the Florida strain has the genetics to grow to over 20 pounds. This is largely due to the Florida strain’s more linear growth rate after two years, where they will reach 14 inches in two years, and add one pound every year, whereas the Northern strain’s growth rate tapers off significantly after three years.
Bass fishing gear is highly tailored to the type of lure or bait you are fishing. For example, anglers prefer heavy action rods, high ratio baitcasting reels, and 60 pound braid when fishing top-water frogs in dense cover. On the contrary, when finesse fishing drop shot rigs or weightless worms, a spinning rod with light line is required to feel the subtle bites. However, due to the fact that we are fishing for giants, we recommend gearing up on the heavy side of things.
For throwing big topwaters and 7+ inch swimbaits, a heavy casting rod paired with a quality baitcaster spooled with 30-60 pound braid is preferred. While this may sound like overkill to some, both the size of the lures and the heavy cover these big bass occupy requires the heavy gear. If fishing soft plastics, use a medium heavy spinning rod paired with a 4000 size spinning reel spooled with 20 pound braid.
The top big bass lures can be broken into three categories: topwater, swimbait, and soft plastic. While all three are extremely effective, each has their place. Likely the most exciting bait to use is a topwater, as large bass can be especially voracious when taking a lure on the surface. Favorite topwaters include the Heddon Zara Spook, the Spro popping frog, the Zoom horny toad, and oversized jitterbugs designed for musky and pike.
Time and time again, anglers have watched lunker bass abandon everything in an effort to smash a big topwater. However, conditions must be right for this to occur. Low light scenarios are best, with the last hour of light in the evening being preferred. Calm, cloudy days can also make for some great topwater fishing as well.
While the commotion from a topwater almost always elicits a strike from aggressive fish, it can prove fruitless if fish are not fired up, or the sun is high in the sky. If this is the case, move subsurface and throw a swimbait. From firsthand experience, big bass eat big baits, so we typically recommend saltwater swimbaits designed for snook and tarpon. Our favorite is the 4.5 inch Vudu Mullet, but we have also had great results using the 4 inch Spooltek swimbait. Gambler also makes a line of swimbaits called the EZ that can be rigged weedless, and are exceptionally effective.
Moving on, some of the most effective baits for big largemouth are soft plastics. Going with the theme of "bigger is better," baits like the Zoom Baits Magnum Ol’ Monster swimming worm in red shad and their 8” Magnum Lizard in Pumpkin Chartreuse are recommended. Fish these baits with big, quality worm hooks like Gamakatsu’s 6/0 Screw Lock.
Techniques are tailored to the type of structure you are fishing, however, a few general rules apply. Look for heavy cover such as reeds or lily pads that are close to a drop off and deep water. Big bass are ambush predators, so they require cover to feed, but like to have deep water close by in case they need to make a quick escape.
Try fishing these types of areas with topwaters like the spook or jitterbug. Make a long horizontal cast that lands out past the drop off, and work the lure along the drop off. This helps prevent spooking fish hiding within the cover, as well as drawing fish from lower in the water column that may be staged on the drop off. The spook and jitterbug are perfect for this, as they put off a lot of vibration and noise that will draw fish in from a good distance.
Don’t be afraid to pause and let your lure sit motionless every once in awhile, as this may elicit a strike from a wary fish that has been following your lure but has yet to commit.
When fishing a topwater, have a second rod rigged with a weightless soft plastic worm at the ready. If a fish misses the topwater, quickly reel it in and cast the plastic to where the strike occurred, let it sink for a few seconds, and then give it two hard twitches. 9 times out of 10, that fish will take this easy offering right after the second twitch, whereas he would likely pass on the topwater in the event of a follow up cast. This technique works especially well with the Zoom Horny Toad, and you do not need to run two rods.
The Horny Toad is simply a weightless soft plastic frog that is rigged weedless on a wide gap worm hook. If a fish misses the frog or you miss a bite, quickly recast 10 feet past where the fish hit, reel it quickly until you reach the spot, and then let it sink for a few seconds before giving it one aggressive twitch. This twitch causes the frog to jackknife, and the fluttering of the tails is too much for the fish to handle. This technique works nearly every single time and has resulted in many second opportunities.
Finally, when using topwaters, there is a slight learning curve on when to set the hook. Anglers often want to set the hook immediately after a fish blows up on their lure, but this almost always results in a missed fish. Patience is the name of the game here, with a full two seconds being the ideal waiting period before you set the hook. While this will feel like an eternity, it is essential for getting a good hook set.
After a fish eats, reel up your slack, give it a two count, and then hit them hard, as most topwaters have thick gauge hooks or weed-less designs that require a good amount of force to drive the hooks home.
If conditions are not suitable for topwaters, cast a large swimbait. Fish these in similar areas as you would the topwaters, however, you have to be more mindful of weeds. Because of this, in addition to making long casts along drop offs and weed lines, you should also make short pitches into likely areas.
Sometimes you only need to run a swimbait five feet through a likely area to get bit, so feel free to make short, calculated presentations in good looking pockets of cover. It takes a lot of energy to get a big bass moving, so they typically prefer large, slow moving meals over small fast ones. With this in mind, fish swimbaits slowly when targeting monster bass.
Finally, if the fish are being finicky, will switch to a soft plastic. Rig up a 12 inch worm on a 6/0 wide gap Gamakatsu worm hook with a spring lock, as the extra wide gap improves your hook up ratio and the spring lock extends the life of each worm. In doing so, the spring lock also keeps your worm from sliding down the hook and looking unnatural, which ultimately increases your chances of a follow up bite in the event that you miss the first.
Finally, soft plastic lizard imitations can prove extremely deadly when bass are spawning. Salamanders prey on largemouth eggs in many areas of the country in spring, so a weightless lizard imitation placed on a big female’s bed can be an exceptional tool when looking for a reaction strike.
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