Largemouth Black Bass
By: Gary Buchannan
Posted On: 2009-01-24
This big fresh-water tacklebuster is a favorite of anglers because of his savagery when he attacks a lure, and because of his head-shaking, leaping battle when hooked. Due to transplanting, he now can be found in ponds, lakes and rivers throughout the United States, and even in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, France and Africa. His general color is greenish-bronze on the back, a lighter green on the sides, and yellow-white on the belly. A line of black marks extends along each of his sides from jaw to tail, giving him the name "Linesides." An easy way to distinguish him from his close relative, the Smallmouth Black Bass, is by the joint of his closed jaw which lies to the rear of his eye, while in the Smallmouth it is directly below the eye. The Largemouth averages 2 pounds in Northern waters, 8 pounds down South. The world record is 22 pounds, 4 ounces.
The easiest time to catch him is at daybreak and dusk; the best place is close to shore, especially near lily pads, underwater rocky lairs and large surface snags such as fallen trees. He enters this shallow water during the night to hunt for minnows and fry (young fish), night-crawlers that may have slipped off the bank, frogs, lizards, field mice and, in fact, any living thing that can fit into his cavernous mouth, which is large enough to hold another fish two-thirds his own size. Bass have been known to gobble baby ducks, and even to try to swallow one of the parents!
Under these conditions, any of the above natural foods can be used to catch him. But none of them is necessary. When Bass are feeding at sunup and sundown, they'll grab almost anything. So, use artificial lures. The lures that "swim" on the surface or just below it are the best since they aren't likely to get "hung up," or snagged, on bottom grass or rocks. Besides, the strike of a Bass at a surface lure is spectacular, a thrill you'll long remember. You don't need a leader to connect your line to the lure. Tie the line to it directly or attach it with a small snap-swivel. Use bait-casting or medium-weight spinning tackle and nylon line of at least 8-pound-test (breaking strength).
Shortly after daybreak, as the sun begins to warm the shallows, the Largemouth Bass stops feeding and moves to deeper water, not returning until late evening when he works his way shoreward again for his nightly hunt for food. Bass fishing during the day, when the sun is high and the Bass are deep, usually mystifies anglers. They don't know how to find Bass in deep water! And even when they find them, they can't get them to strike! "The Bass aren't feeding," is the old excuse. Maybe so, but if the only Bass caught were those that were feeding, there would be many more empty stringers. Catching a feeding Bass at dawn or dusk is comparatively easy; catching a non-feeding Bass at midday can be almost as easy—if you remember (1) he's the biggest bully in the lake, and (2) it's easy to get him to prove it!
To find Bass in deep water, first find a submerged weed bed. The Bass will be hiding in it. To find the weed bed, drag a treble-hook on a line-and-sinker from the rear of your boat until it snags fresh weeds. Then back off to within casting distance, anchor your boat, and cast to the weed bed with a deep-swimming lure.
The Bass's bully instinct is his downfall. For a century the most successful Bass lure has been a plug with a red head and white body. Can you guess why? Fish, unlike many animals, aren't color blind. When the flash of a plug's white body attracts a dozing Bass, it draws his attention to the red head. And in his world, red signifies only one thing—blood. The red on the white minnow means it has been injured, and an injured minnow can't swim fast enough to escape even a lazy Bass; it's an easy prey. Should he snap it up ? The bully in him begins to stir.
Maybe the first few times he'll let the "cripple" swim by. Keep casting to the same spot, retrieving the plug in sharp jerks to simulate injury even more authentically. Every time he sees this teaser stagger past his nose, he'll fin a little faster. Eventually, the bully in him takes over. He comes in a rush—and you've a fight on your hands.
Remember, when there doesn't seem to be a sign of a Bass anywhere, go to deep water over a weed bed with a red-and-white plug or a red-and-silver spoon. Add a sinker to the line ahead of it to sink it deeper, if necessary. Give it lots of "wounded" action, and cast at least a dozen times to the same spot before shifting to a new one a few yards to the right or left. If you don't get a Largemouth then, it will be because there aren't any left in the lake!