There is a famous quote attributed to an old Montana flyfishing guide which goes something like: "Trout don't live in no ugly places." While trout waters almost always seem to possess a high degree of water clarity, scenic beauty and cool temperatures, the opposite holds true for bass.
Bass live and thrive in some of the ugliest waters known to man. When I think of bass waters, descriptive terms such as dark, murky, warm, weedy and nasty come to mind. After all, bass are a warm water species renowned for seeking structure.
Structure is an accepted euphemism for "lots of crap in the water to get snagged on." It's bass crap, the old pilings, thick weeds, downed trees, roots and stumps, rocky shoals, cribbing or anything that has sunk to the bottom of a lake. Find it and you'll likely find bass.
Bass remain the most popular game fish in the country, pursued by the common man. They are also the most widely distributed fish species in the United States, which now shares the World Record for bass with Japan, of all places. Bass go hand in hand with Skoal, Budweiser and NASCAR. In fact, I've been told that bass fishermen are really just off-season snowmobilers that couldn't get tickets to NASCAR.
We're not talking about speckled beauties or iridescent rainbows that fall prey to tiny flies cast on delicate leaders and fine tippets. We're talking about hogs, big ol' bucket-mouthed, tackle bustin' monsters with a bad attitude, dude!
Bass are the type of fish that require a baitcasting reel spooled with Razor Wire, attached to a rod so stiff it could be used for a pry bar in a pinch. Bass can be fished from shore with a simple minnow and a bobber or out of a sparkling bass boat that goes 75 mph and is decked out with a collection of angling gizmos that cost more than my house.
In the Adirondacks, bass are possibly the most overlooked of all our angling resources. Bass inhabit more waters than trout, hey are easy to catch, great to fight and make a fine meal. They are simply a fun and entertaining species.
Although bass season doesn't officially open until the third Saturday in June, in New York, the species can now be taken year 'round, on a catch and release basis. And while there have been claims that taking bass off their spawn beds harms the population, recent research proves otherwise.
A University of Florida (UF) study, published in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society magazine, indicates otherwise.
"We found that in most cases, spawning area closures won't improve bass populations," explained co-author Mike Allen, a fisheries professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "If you lose some nests, the ones that are left have higher survival rates."
The researchers also conceded that the practice of catch and release fishing might significantly reduce any negative impact of fishing off bass nests during the spawn.
Bassin's biggest mistakes
Whether practicing catch and release or catch and eat, anglers should be aware of the most common mistakes of bass fishing. Possibly the most common error is an ill prepared fishing outfit.
Anglers should check rod guides for nicks and abrasions, oil the reel and set the drag properly as bass are one of the most unforgiving of all freshwater game fish and consistently challenge both the angler's skill and the quality of their equipment. Always start the new season by respooling with fresh line, and check the line's expiration date before purchasing it.
Another common error is a lack of patience, casting and retrieving too fast. Remember, occasionally bass must to be coaxed into taking your bait, give them time. Give the lure or bait action. Bass are a major predator and must be induced to attack. If you aren't getting strikes, change the retrieve, faster, slower, twitchy or steady, until you find out how they want it.
Stay in the game! Don't let a lull in the action break your concentration. Fish hard from the beginning to the end, and don't take a break while you still have a rod in your hand. Fish like you mean it or go home!
Set the hook slow, but set it hard! Most anglers don't realize that bass do not strike a lure fished below the surface in the same manner they take a lure on the surface. Below the surface, bass will approach a lure or worm and inhale it. They accomplish this by flaring their gills and suck in the offering along with nearly two gallons of water.
Bass don't strike sub-surface; they inhale. Anglers using rubber soft baits should recognize this behavior and lower their rod tip on the first indication of a take. A brief pause before setting the hook will almost always result in a hook-up, while an instant set usually takes the bait out of their mouth.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.