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Entries in Better Bass Fishing (50)


Want to Be a Better Angler? Here's How

When you catch fish, don't just take note of the bait. Pay attention to lake conditions, weather, and time of day. If you were fishing visable cover, how close did you throw to it? What kind of retrieve were you using?

When you share a boat or shoreline with someone who seems to be a better angler than you, watch his behavior as well as your own.

Learn from him by paying attention to all of the little things that he does, especially if you are both using the same bait and he is catching more fish. How is he holding his rod? Is it higher or lower than yours? Is his retrieve steady or erratic? Are you retrieving as slowly or quickly as he is?

Also, are you using the same kind of reel that he is? That can make a big difference. Different models of reels retrieve line at different rates, depending on the gear ratio. Some are a blazing 9.1: 1. Others are 5: 1. The higher the first number, the more line is retrieved on each turn of the reel handle. That makes it a "faster" reel. You can slow down with a fast reel, but it's really tough to speed up with a "slow" reel. So, if your angling partner is using a faster or slower reel than you are, that could make a difference.

If the fishing is tough for both of you, here are some angler-behavior strategies that might work: Slow down your retrieve, especially if you're fishing a worm or other soft plastic. Use a smaller bait. When fish aren't aggressive, they sometimes prefer smaller prey. Use a different color bait. "Shades" (dark, light) usually are more important than specific colors. But if fishing is tough, a slight variation can make a difference.

Excerpt from "Angler Behavior" in my book, Better Bass Fishing.


Fishing's Fascinating History Documented in Book by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson

If you like to fish and you enjoy reading about history, then The American Fisherman: How Our Nation's Anglers Founded, Fed, Financed, and Forever Shaped the U.S.A. is just the book for you. Written by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson and historian William Doyle and illustrated with 75 photos, it traces the significant, and often surprising, role that angling has played.

For example,  in "The Fisherman Who Created America," find out how fish, saved Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge from starvation, although actual events might not be as dramatic a "fish story" as originally believed. The "Greatest Fishing Trip of All," meanwhile, was Lewis and Clark's trip up the Missouri River, in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase. An Army private from Massachusetts, Silas Goodrich, even was brought along as an angling expert.

"We don't know where he picked up these skills," Robertson and Doyle wrote, "but as soon as they hit the water, he was reeling in fish all over the place," including "the men's favorite, catfish, some as huge as 100 pounds."

In this book, you also can learn about "the fish that won the last battle of the Civil War," the whaling era, and the golden age of sportfishing. The latter possibly is the most fascinating, as it traces development of the sport, both salt and freshwater, from Ernest Hemingway to Kevin VanDam.

Female anglers are recognized too, as are U.S. Presidents who fished. A final chapter documents the remarkable healing power of fishing.

Appendixes provide interesting reading as well, including an article by former President George H.W. Bush and another entitled "Great Moments  in American Fishing."

Why We Fish and Better Bass Fishing, a couple of my books, provide nice complements to this historical perspective on fishing.


Don't Overlook Small Baits for Catching Big Bass

The Texas state record largemouth bass was caught by accident.

Chances are that you don't know the amazing story of that fish, which weighed 18.18 pounds and was caught in 1992.

I do. I talked to the angler who caught it and included his tale in my book, Better Bass Fishing, in a chapter about catching big bass with small baits.

St. Clair had been bass fishing on Lake Fork with two friends. They decided to stop and catch a few crappie for the table. St. Clair didn’t have light tackle with him, so he simply put 12-inches of 8-pound leader and a 1/0 gold Aberdeen hook onto his bass rod and reel, which was loaded with 14-pound line.

The strength of that line and the backbone of the rod played no small part in the battle that was about to occur.

“At first, I didn’t know what I had,” St. Clair told me. “But I never panicked. That’s what helped me get the fish in.

“I put pressure on it, and it started to move. Right away, I thought it might be a big catfish. But it didn’t act like a catfish.”

The fish ran three times, but stayed deep. “I took the time to wear her out,” St. Clair said. “Then I eased her toward the surface.

“When she came up, it was like an exploding buoy coming out of the water. We all were stunned. Then I screamed ‘Get the net!’ at my buddies.”

Once he had her in, St. Clair noted that the big bass “filled the bottom of the boat,” and he saw that the delicate wire hook was bent nearly into a circle. “Once more run and she would have been gone,” he said.

Since that memorable day, St. Clair has learned that his experience was not unique.

Secret: In other words, big bass will eat little baits, just as elephants will munch peanuts.

“I’ve run across numerous examples of others who were doing the same thing (crappie fishing) when they hooked something big,” he said. “A few got them in, and the fish were in the 13-pound range. Others couldn’t do it. I was lucky that I had tackle stout enough to handle the fish.”

Here’s another example of a big bass dining at the hors d’oeuvre tray instead of the buffet table: In April 2006, Randy Beaty Jr. used a 1/8-ounce Blakemore Roadrunner to catch a 15.68-pound bass at Florida’s Bienville Plantation.

And my personal favorite: I caught a 12-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass on a 3/8-ounce Cordell Spot, while fishing in Mexico’s Lake Guerrero. In case you’re not familiar with it, that lipless crankbait is a mere 3 inches long, seemingly hardly an appetizer for a big bass.

Why do big bass sometimes eat little baits?

Find the answer in Better Bass Fishing. The book has been out for a few years, but most of the information  does not go out of date because it's about bass behavior and intelligence, seasonal patterns, weather, etc. In other words, it's about the "big picture" of bass fishing.


Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 4

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Also, here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble

Secret: Bass don’t see artificial baits the same way that we do. That new shad-shaped crankbait that you bought might look so lifelike that you expect it to flop off the table. But what makes it lifelike--- and attractive--- to bass is how it moves through the water. Yes, a realistic appearance helps, but good action that imitates an injured or fleeing baitfish probably is more important. That’s why spinnerbaits, which don’t resemble any kind of living creature when motionless, are such effective bass catchers.

Secret: With soft plastics, however, sometimes action isn’t important at all. 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.” 

 Secret: To obtain the most up-to-date information on bass biology and behavior, as well as new strategies for catching them, read Bassmaster Magazine and BASS Times. These are the most authoritative sources on bass fishing in the world. Many of today’s young pros say that they grew up reading Bassmaster and the knowledge they gained from the magazine was critical to their success. 

Check out all my books at Amazon.


Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 3

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble. Also, Amazon carries it, but often is sold out. As of 7/29, it had two left in stock.

Secret: Many anglers believe that Florida strain largemouth bass are more difficult to catch than northern strain. If that’s true, it’s probably because most of the waters in the Florida strain’s natural range are shallow. That can make for some awesome fishing when conditions are right.

           But it also means you’ll get the cold shoulder when trying to catch them during or just after a cold front. Without deep-water refuges where they might be more inclined to bite, Florida bass often move in tight to protective shallow cover during cold weather and become very lethargic. Just about the only way to provoke a bite during such times is to drop a jig or soft plastic bait on the fish’s nose.

          Even in deeper waters of Texas, Louisiana, California, and other places where they have been introduced, Florida strain largemouths still tend to “shut off” more completely during cold weather than do their northern counterparts.

Secret: Sight is the most important sense for a bass in finding food. That’s why, when given a choice, it will move to clearer water to feed. And that’s why you should seek it out too, especially in fisheries where most of the water is stained or muddy.

          The late bass pro Ken Cook, a former fisheries biologist, has this to say about how bass see: “Underwater, a bass’ eye is far superior to the human eye, probably so much better that we can only imagine what its capabilities are. Some studies have indicated that bass can see up to 12 times as well in muddy water as the human eye can in the same conditions.”

Secret: But also check out muddy or stained water pouring into a lake, especially if it is warmer than the main body of water. The runoff contains insects, which attract forage fish and, they, in turn, attract bass.

Secret: Bass often will follow this discharge of warmer, stained water out into the lake, and you should too.

Secret: Sometimes, muddy water is just on the surface, with clear water below. For instance, that can happen when a smaller, rain-filled tributary empties into a larger stream. Sometimes you can catch bass that are using the surface mud as ambush cover.     

More "secrets" about the bite upcoming at Activist Angler.

Check out all my books at Amazon.