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Entries in bass fishing (40)


A Touch of Mink --- and Catfish

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Seeing this mink with its catfish breakfast was the highlight of my morning in the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Fishing for us humans was slow, as two of us managed just three fish.

For the afternoon, I moved to the Arkansas River and caught about 20 spotted and largemouth bass, with largest just under 3 pounds.

It was a long, long day, starting at 4:30 a.m. and ending about 8 p.m., but any day in the outdoors, and especially on the water, is a good one.


B.A.S.S. Missing Spiritual Leader

As a newspaper outdoors editor, Gene Mueller has a longer history with B.A.S.S. than I do. I first met him at one of the many Bassmaster Classics that we attended, along with dozens of other journalists from across the country --- and even around the world --- back in the glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s.

 In an opinion piece on his website, Gene Mueller’s World of Fishing & Hunting, he laments the loss of passion that founder Ray Scott brought to the organization.

 Here’s an excerpt:

 “These days, B.A.S.S. for the most part has become a fishing tournament group. When was the last time you heard of B.A.S.S. fighting the good fight, taking on polluters or dictatorial government regulators the way Scott and his company did on a regular basis. When was the last time B.A.S.S. has supported a bass-boater in court after he was threatened with bodily harm by an angry shoreline owner who figured that he not only owned the land but also free-flowing water, or perhaps arrange to study the piscatorial inhabitants of a large reservoir so his company could learn about the health of the fish?”

 As the first and still the only Senior Writer/Conservation for B.A.S.S., I will say that many in the organization still care about such issues as pollution, invasive species, and access threats. That concern is evident in the coverage that B.A.S.S. Times provides for these topics and in the work that National Conservation Director Noreen Clough does behind the scenes with government agencies and other conservation organizations. It’s also exhibited in the many good works performed by the conservation programs of state Federation Nation chapters.

But Gene is right in that B.A.S.S. certainly isn’t the same without a Ray Scott to fire up the constituency and lead the way on issues of concern to anglers. And, while former owner ESPN glamorized tournament fishing with its glitzy coverage of the Classic, it possibly did more harm than good among rank and file B.A.S.S. members.

I’m hopeful that the new owners, all of whom are anglers, are remaking B.A.S.S. in the organizational image that Ray Scott brought to bass fishing. 


Anglers Argue Fishing Better by Light of Full Moon

Shamelessly exploitative image of fishing by moonlight. From the Fantasy Within Collection by Lorlei.

Many bass fishermen will tell you that fish bite better at night just before, during, and just after a full moon. Others like the new moon. Little evidence, however, supports the notion that bass eat more at night during certain phases of the moon.

Little evidence, that is, except angler success. And who’s to argue with that?

“It’s definitely not a coincidence that a lot of big fish are caught three days before and after a full moon,” according to C.B. Bowlin, a legendary Illinois guide and tournament fisherman.

Secret: Just before, during, and after a full moon, you’re more likely to catch bass, especially largemouths, by fishing from dusk until midnight, when the moon is high. With a new moon, your best bet will be from midnight until dawn.

Still, the fact remains that bass don’t see well at night, even under a full moon in a clear sky. If they are biting better during this time, perhaps it is because insects, at the base of the food chain, are more active and this, in turn, triggers heightened activity all the way up to the top predators.

“It’s my gut feeling that changes in the weather, whether temperature, pressure, day length, or light, may be affecting lower things on the food chain. These are things we can’t measure, but they have a profound influence on bass behavior,” says Gene Gilliland, a fisheries biologist and tournament angler.

Put some clouds over a full moon, though, and you darken the theory that more insect activity is occurring because of increased light. On the other hand, if the water is clear, it makes sense that aquatic life will be more active than it would be in murky water, because moonlight can better penetrate--- even when filtered by clouds. Perhaps that is why night fishing is most popular on clear-water impoundments.

In saltwater, no question exists that the moon affects when and how well fish will bite. That’s because the moon determines the length and strength of tides, and this tidal flow turns fish on and off. Typically, fish bite better on incoming tides, as they wash in food and allow predators to move into previously inaccessible shallows.

But high tides also can provide good fishing in some waters, as can outgoing tides. Outgoing tides, though, will send fish in the other direction, and anglers must act accordingly if they want to catch them.

You can learn more about how the moon and weather affect bass fishing by reading my book, Better Bass Fishing. Buy it from me, Amazon, or other booksellers.


The Power of Patience

Photo of Activist Angler by Dave Burkhardt.

(Following is another excerpt from my book, Better Bass Fishing. If you keep following this website long enough --- a couple of years, at least --- you will be able to read the entire book for free. Or you can buy it here or at Amazon or other booksellers to read at your own pace --- and help me pay the bills.)

With soft plastics, action often isn’t as nearly as important as it is with other types of baits. Rather the fish need time to approach and examine.

On several occasions, I’ve spent a minute or two picking out a backlash and then found a bass on the end of my line. Others have told me of similar experiences. This tells me that, too often, we fish too quickly with soft plastics.

Secret: In fact, lure designer and tournament angler Troy Gibson recommends letting a soft plastic sit for 120 seconds after you cast it.

“I will find the fish by power fishing with spinnerbaits and crankbaits,” he says. “And sometimes this is all I need to fill the livewell.

“But when I come across an area that looks as if it will produce 3- to 5-pound fish, then I will slow down with a fluke or worm and be very patient. I will present my lure to a tree, bush, or creek channel and let the bait sit still for at least 120 seconds.

“The bass is just like an old cat that can not leave well enough alone and will pick up, move, eat, or play with the fluke or sinking worm. It can’t help itself, for that is its nature. Understanding that, along with patience, will make you a much better fisherman.

“By doing this, I am more likely to cull the first five fish with larger fish. To me, the smaller fish that I caught by power fishing are the locator fish for areas that are holding the larger fish.” 


'Confidence' Bait Can Make You a Better Angler

For many anglers, the old reliable plastic worm is a "confidence" bait. It's not one of mine, but I've still caught plenty of bass --- large and small --- on it.

“Confidence” baits sometimes are more an accident of timing than they are truly superior lures.

 Every bass angler has a confidence bait, or sometimes two or three. It is his “go to” bait when the bass won’t seem to bite anything else. It has become his favorite because he grew up throwing it or because he first tried it on a day when the fishing was tough and it produced.

Using a confidence bait gives you a psychological boost, and that’s important when the bite is slow--- maybe more important than the bait itself. It heightens your concentration and makes you more eager to fish. It makes you more attentive to where you are casting and to detecting subtle bites. In short, throwing a confidence bait makes you a better angler.

Secret: If you don’t have a confidence bait, work on developing a couple. You’ll be a better bass angler for it.

But also don’t forget that many, many variables play into whether a bass is going to bite your bait. Some we understand. Some we think that we understand. And some we don’t even know about. That watery world below the surface is so different from ours that we simply cannot know it in the same way that we know our air environment.

Once in awhile, we really do catch bass because we have chosen the “right” bait. Other times, they hit because they are in an aggressive, feeding mode, or because we have found a concentration of fish that stirs itself into a competitive frenzy when a lure passes through. During such times, just about anything in your tackle box might work.

Secret: So, when you are catching bass on a confidence bait (or a new lure that you just bought at the store), pay attention to more than just what is tied on the end of your line, its color, and the way it moves in the water.  Look at water depth and clarity. Determine where the bites occur in relation to cover, structure, and current. Note the weather conditions and wind direction.

In other words, benefit from the “confidence” that throwing a favorite bait gives you, but also be smart enough to realize that bass probably aren’t biting it because it’s your favorite or because it is vastly superior to others. Likely, they are biting because of a complex combination of favorable variables, of which the lure is just one.

This is an excerpt from my book, Better Bass Fishing --- Secrets from the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Buy it here or at Amazon.


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