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How to Catch Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are like apple pie, and catching them is like a baseball game at Fenway Park. In other words, they are the quintessential American freshwater sport fish.

With tournaments, classics, pro shops, and tackle all centering around this species of bass, there are plenty of gimmicks or sure-fire ways guaranteed to catch largemouth bass.

In a market saturated with 100 of the next best things, it’s essential to master the fundamentals of angling to ensure a successful trip for largemouth bass.

Rather than buying an overpriced lure or reel with one new feature, anglers should focus on locating the right habitats, selecting the right lures, and improving their retrieval.

This article is a beginner’s guide on how to catch largemouth bass.

how to catch largemouth bass
Largemouth bass by Dave Doe

How to Catch Largemouth Bass: Things to Consider

Here are a few things to consider when trying to catch largemouth bass.

Location

Just like humans, largemouth bass are creatures of habit. They have water temperature, color, current, depth, bottom, food, and cover preferences. Anglers who find three or more of these preferences in one body of water are likely to hook into a lunker. 

Water temperature

There’s a reason largemouth bass territory extends from the lakes of Mexico to just over the Canadian border – warmer water. 

Largemouth bass prefer the temperate waters of North America to spawn in. While waters north of the Canadian border can be too cold and water south of Mexico too warm, the largemouth finds its Goldilocks habitat in the Southern half of the United States.

The extremes in water temperature can make a largemouth bass lethargic, oftentimes seeking deeper water and losing aggressiveness.

Water temperatures beneath 60° and above 80° means the bite slows tremendously for is nonexistent. The optimal range to angle for largemouth bass is water temperatures of 71 to 74°.

Water color

Water color is an essential factor for largemouth bass as they are ambush predators and use their murky surroundings to sneak up on their prey.

While their smallmouth cousins prefer clearer water, largemouth bass prefer waters murky, brown, or lightly hewed with green. This does not mean they cannot be found in conjunction with smallmouth bass in clear water, just less frequently.

Current

Largemouth bass prefers slowly to moderately moving water. This is why they can often be found in southern rivers, creeks, ponds, and lakes. They often utilize the vegetation which pops up along slow or still water, like lily pads or grass, as cover for their ambush feeding.

Largemouth bass will still thrive in moving water. However, they tend to locate eddies or pools out of the main current to ambush prey being brought down the river or stream.

In lakes or large ponds, bass can be found near offshoots, drains, or other small waterways feeding into the main body.

Depth

Largemouth bass can be caught at a variety of depths, ranging from several inches to an excess of 20 feet.

Depending on the body of water you are angling in, the bass may be holed up in underwater ledges beneath root balls and other structures or just sitting just under the lily pads close to shore. 

Throughout spring, fall, and the early portions of summer, bass can usually be found from 8 to 12 feet.

During the height of summer, when water temperatures reach its peak, bass can often be found in the depths of the lake or river in search of cooler water. During the winter months, bass can be found near the shore but will return to the depths.

Bottom 

Largemouth bass prefer muddy or clay bottoms rich with vegetation and structure. Not only did these muddy and clay bottoms help the watercolor to stay murky, but they also provide footholds for the aquatic vegetation from which the largemouth bass predates.

During spawning, bass will seek out sandy or gravel bottoms to lay their eggs in.

Food 

Minnows, aquatic crustaceans, insects, small fish, amphibians, reptiles, and even small birds and mammals find themselves on the voracious largemouth bass’s menu.

An ambush predator, largemouth bass prefer to work the upper and middle portions of the water column, striking from cover in explosions that make the front page of many sportsman magazines.

Anglers should factor in two things when throwing a lure that matches a largemouth bass’ food chain. Is it a naturally occurring bait, and will the color work with the environment?

Anglers looking to capitalize on this hungry fish’s appetite should locate areas rich with prey, leading us to the final factor.

Cover 

Cover can be separated into two categories. Underwater and overhang. While these two may coincide occasionally, it’s important to know the difference and how they work.

The underwater structure includes boulders, rocks, logs, root balls, submerged grass or trees, and other significant structures a bass could hide in.

Overhang is structure that sits above the water, providing shade and a potential location for creatures such as insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, or amphibians to launch from into the water or fall in. 

With underwater structures, you’ll want to cast above or past the structure and attempt to lure a bass from beneath. With overhangs, you’ll want to cast beneath or in front of, attempting to replicate prey that has fallen from their perch.

Lures

The vast majority of largemouth bass are caught on lures. From soft plastics to spoons, there are a variety of lures anglers can tie to the end of their line.

Attention to the environment and time of year can help anglers decide which lure to use.

Top 5 Lures for Largemouth Bass

Topwater Frog

The combination of chugging and splashing created by this topwater lure is impossible to resist, for an ambush predator is the best. Relatively weedless, this lure can be thrown up into lilies or vegetation to draw out hidden lunkers.

Plastics 

Worms, lizards, flukes, and minnows are all solid choices to throw for bass. Paying attention to the watercolor and size can help anglers hook into everything from fingerling to trophy bass.

Easy to cast with a variety of ways to retrieve, this is an excellent lure for anglers of all skill levels.

Crankbaits 

A lethal combination of sound, sight, and vibrations, the crank is one of the most effective baits on bass. Whether it’s shallow running or deep diving, this bait can be retrieved in several ways and draw out even the most stubborn bass.

Spoons

Metallic spoons that usually come in silver or gold, these lures could be cast for distance or incredibly streamline and simulate a wounded fish swimming its way across the shallows. Excellent for varying light conditions, the spoon is a simple answer to the complex question of what bass want.

Spinners

The combination of a lead head, skirt, and spoon, all attached to a wire frame with a bass hook, makes for a strong lure for long casts. With blades that vibrate, 3D eyes, and a colorful skirt, this lure is perfect for working across lakes or rivers.

Bait

Though rarely used, live bait is incredibly effective when lures have failed for bass. I have accidentally caught a few 3 to 5-pound bass with minnows on a Carolina rig and several on a worm and cork.

Minnows 

Minnows or shad both work well for bass fishing. Thrown on a Carolina rig, anglers can catch anything from catfish, bass, gar, or even pickerel in the southeastern United States. The key factor with this bait is keeping the minnow alive as the spasms of the wounded fish attract and trigger the predatory instinct of the bass.

Worms

The basic combo of a worm, hook, and bobber are generally the first setups novice anglers will use when beginning their fishing journey. While many experienced anglers stray from this setup, nightcrawlers and worms can still hook bass if used in the right settings.

Cast out and placed in the middle to upper portions of the water column, largemouth bass will bite a wriggling worm if it’s hungry.

When to Catch Largemouth Bass

Time is an incredibly important factor when angling for largemouth bass. Anglers often overlook the difference a few hours can make in the day or that a prime-time fishing location is changed since last season. Here are the best times of day and year to catch a largemouth bass

Time of Day

Generally speaking, anglers will find the highest level of success from spring until fall during the hours after daybreak and the hours before dusk. This is because the water is warming up, and after a long night with no food, the bass are eager to get their first meal of the day.

Additionally, there are higher shade levels during these times, and there is less exposure to the sun than at midday. 

There are two deviations from this. The first is in the winter when the sun is at its zenith, warming up the water, making the middle of the day can be the best time to fish. The other is the middle of the summer when night fishing can be an effective technique.

Time of Year

Angling for bass can be a year-round sport. However, there are a few times that are better than most. The spring spawning season is one of the busiest times for bass. Aggressive and protective of their nests, anglers will be able to observe a higher level of bass in activity locations.

Many locations don’t allow anglers to cast and fish directly over the spawning grounds, but the bloom of baitfish during this time also means that the bass will be hungry and on the prowl.

Warmer water often means more active bass. If the water temperature does not exceed 80°, largemouth bass will live up to their name, stretching their massive maw to accommodate their voracious appetite.

Fall is a time of transition. The earlier months and fall are marked with high activity from bass trying to squeeze in their fattening meals before the hibernation months occur.

As the temperature begins to drop, the bass’ activity level will lessen, but large species members can still be caught if angled in the right places.

Winter is marked by a decided lack of activity, so anglers have to pick and choose their months. Winter bass fishing is all about picking the most temperate days and finding sunny spots and warmer water.

Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

Natural 

Select a lure or bait that is naturally occurring in the environment. In both color scheme and body type, this can be the difference between a beautiful strike that bursts from the water surface and a dozen fruitless retrieves.

Transitions

Whether it transitions from still to moving water, clear to brown water, light to shade, or into different parts of a lake or river, transitions are an angler’s friend.

Cover 

Find the cover, find the bass. Largemouth bass are ambush predators, so covered can be anything from lilies to root balls beneath the water surface. Mainly cover that juts out and causes a break in the current is prime real estate.

If first, you don’t succeed

Just because bass isn’t biting on one lure doesn’t mean they aren’t biting. If a lure isn’t working, switch colors, styles, or sizes. If topwater isn’t working, try a plastic. If a spoon isn’t working, try to crankbait.

Where would you go

Before your first cast, take stock of the body of water you are going to angle. Where would you hide it up if you were a bass looking to ambush unsuspecting prey? Which direction is the water flowing, and where is there structure?

Conclusion

Largemouth bass are an incredible fish to angle for and taste delicious on a dinner plate. Anglers incorporating this article’s understanding of cover, temperature, bait selection, time of year and day, and more will find themselves with A full stringer in a short time.

As always, good luck and stay safe out on the water.

Jacob Pelle
Fishing Expert
Jake Pelle is a third-generation outdoorsman and Eagle Scout. He grew up fishing ponds and rivers in South Louisiana and Mississippi and graduated to fishing brackish/marsh and coastal waters for redfish, drum, and speckled trout. When not on a flat range, he can be found with rod and reel in hand searching for the next greatest fishing hole in South Louisiana.
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