Man fishing an archigan

Bass Fishing: The Best Techniques for the Best Catches

Also available in: French

Despite their small size, bass are undoubtedly the most popular type of fish among sports anglers. Here are some tips and techniques from Claude Bissonnette, Hunting and Fishing Category Manager at SAIL, to get those bad boys to strike.

In this article, you will learn more about:

Bass fishing gear

What are the characteristics of bass and how do you properly identify them?

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass
Smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass

First, you need to know that there are two species of bass. The smallmouth bass has two linked dorsal fins and brown skin. As its name suggests, it has a small mouth that, when closed, does not extend beyond its eye. Largemouth bass have a larger head, greenish colouring with black pigmentation and a large mouth that extends beyond their eyes.

Smallmouth and largemouth bass don’t always live together in the same water bodies.

The smallmouth bass is the most commonly fished species because it is more accessible and found in more places. You can fish for bass in the southern part of the province of Quebec; there are no bass in the waters of the North Shore and Gaspé, nor in Lake Saint-Jean. The situation is similar in Ontario; bass are generally found in the southern part of the province.

 

What are the best dates to fish for bass and the best times of day?

The dates differ from one area to another. The season generally starts in mid-June and ends at the end of October in Quebec. In Ontario, the season generally starts in mid-June and ends at the end of November.

Bass can be caught in daylight as well as when the sun goes down. As a fish that can be fished more on the surface than at depth (it is rare to find bass at more than 12.2 meters, or 40 feet), the heat of the water does not affect the chances of catching them.

Can you fish for bass in the fall?

Dreaming of perfect fishing trips and amazing catches? You will need to modify your fishing habits, as bass will adopt new strategies. Before winter, they can be found huddled in schools near riverbanks to hunt, at the mouths of streams. You can set your sights on these areas. It will also be necessary to identify the type of prey the bass will be hunting and adjust your bait accordingly.

 

What are the best bodies of water to fish for bass?

You will find bass in warm, calm, shallow waters. Look for gravel bottoms shielded or covered by rocks or branches that are directly exposed to the sun. In addition, search for calm fishing sites on gravel beds exposed to the sun, but at the same time protected by “structures” such as faster currents, logs, rocks, etc. This is where your future catches will be hiding.

Fish close to shore and under docks set up along the lake or river, or under floating docks in the center of lakes. If you are fishing from a boat, cast close to shore, almost in the rocks and under the trees.

For smallmouth bass, this species prefers shallow, clear, temperate water (20 to 22 degrees). During the heat of summer, it is not uncommon for smallmouth bass to be found in deep water. Remember to target rocky or sandy seabeds, lakes and rivers with medium current.

For largemouth bass, this species loves grassy and densely vegetated areas, small lakes and shallow bays, sometimes rivers with slow currents. Largemouth bass tolerate warmer water (26 to 28 degrees Celsius) better than smallmouth bass.

 

What are the main types of bass fishing?

  • Trolling: fishing from a motorboat, where you must adjust your speed to the lure you choose and let it drag in the water, in lakes or rivers with slow currents. This is not the most popular way to fish for bass.
  • Spinning fishing: this type of fishing requires the use of a rod and reel of light to medium power
  • Baitcasting: This type of fishing requires the use of a rod and reel of medium to heavy power (the reel is on top of the rod).
  • Dead sticking: This type of fishing does not require a lure, but rather a hook on which you add a worm.
  • Wading: This type of fishing is done by immersing yourself in the water and you will need the same equipment as for light tackle.
  • Fly fishing: This type of fishing consists in imitating insects and uses a rod and a reel quite different from casting.

 

What are the main lures for bass fishing?

There is no shortage of lures to choose from when fishing for bass!

Jerkbait

Jerkbait lures

To track down bass, select jerkbait lures. A jerkbait is a type of lure that is used to attract and hook fish by making short, quick movements. These erratic movements imitate a fish that is dying. Go for this lure if you’re planning on fishing in clearer water for the fish to be able to see it more easily. For water with more seaweed, go for a soft swimbait.

Spinnerbait

Spinnerbaits lures
Ideal for clear water and seabeds covered in seaweed

Spinnerbaits are a good choice for areas with more seaweed, as it spins to attract a fish’s attention, in addition to resembling a smaller fish in motion. Select this type of lure in shallower waters. And here’s a tip: opt for yellow or orange-coloured lures – bass seem to be drawn to these colours. All you have to do is cast your line and reel it in; there is no specific movement that you need to make.

Crankbait

Crankbait lures
Crankbait lure – attracts lots of fish over a longer distance, can be used in shallow or deep water

Using something like a tube or crankbait and plastic lures is recommended for when you’d like to attract bass over a large area of water. You can find crankbait lures for shallower or deeper water. This type of lure is perfect for attracting fish that eat other, smaller fish. During the summer, bass move deeper down into the water. A crankbait suited to deeper water would be great in this case.

 

The techniques and best gear for bass fishing

Trolling

  • Rod and reel combo types: you can use a 7-foot (213 cm) light spinning rod with medium power and weight and a light spinning reel. It’s the perfect combo to get you started bass fishing with good, basic gear.
  • Fishing line types: add some braided line, which will help you have some great fishing experiences
  • Lures and techniques:
    • Jerkbait
    • Deep diver

Dredger Hard Bait

    • Floating bait

Floating bait

    • Suspended bait

Suspended bait

Spinning fishing and wading

  • Rod and reel combo types: you can use a light spinning rod from 6.5 feet (1.98 m) to 7 feet (2.1 m), medium stiff action with a reel size from 2000 to 4000.
  • Fishing line types: Use 10 to 20 lb (4.5 to 9.1 kg) braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. 
  • Lures and techniques:
    • Spinners

Comet Spinners

    • Drop Shot: for fishing in the weed beds. This rig is composed of a hook on which the lure is pricked and placed over a lead or tungsten sinker (a non-toxic material, therefore preferable, because the lead is often lost when the line is reeled in).

Trick Shotz Soft Bait

    • Wacky rig: For fishing in all conditions with a stick bait. Or, a Texas rig for fishing in seaweed beds.

Yamamoto Senko lure

    • Jig: this technique consists of mounting a lead head with a soft, plastic worm underneath or a lure with hair.
    • With an imitation crayfish, frog, or leech.

Lure with an imitation crayfish

Baitcasting

  • Rod and reel combo types: You can use a 7 to 8-foot (2.1 to 2.4 m), baitcasting rod with a reel ranging in size from 100 to 400. The baitcasting rod is much stiffer than the spinning rod. Baitcasting lures offer more traction and pull more, so it prevents the rod from bending too much. 
  • Fishing line types: Use 20 to 65 lb (9.1 to 29.5 kg) braided line with a fluorocarbon leader, especially if you use the flipping technique.
  • Lures and techniques:
    • Flipping: This technique consists of fishing in very dense grass beds, targeting clear water holes in which you fish vertically, with an anti-debris jig mounted with a sinker, as it must sink quickly to the bottom.

Brush-Less Flipping Jig Lure

Fly fishing

  • Rod and reel combo types: you can use a 9 foot 4 inch (2.84 m) fly fishing rod with a reel that balances well with the rod, so it is suitable for the weight of the rod and the size of the line. 
  • Fishing line types: count on a number 8 floating line with a 6 to 10 lb (2.7 to 4.5kg) leader.
  • Flies and techniques:
    • Flies used specifically for bass: Wooly Bugger (which imitates leeches), Popper and Muddler. Bass eat crayfish, frogs, leeches, gobies (small invasive fish that have been brought in by cargo boats), so try to imitate these little creatures.

Popper Green Frog Fly lure

Are sonars useful for bass fishing

A sonar is a very practical and effective tool for detecting bass, especially the two-dimensional (2D), dual-imaging sonar models that scan on either side of the boat up to 100 feet away. Read more about sonars in this article.

 

What are some other essentials to keep in mind?

In addition to the essentials listed in this article and the essential fishing clothes also listed in this article, remember to bring a landing net so you can unhook your catch and leave it in the water.

Polarized sunglasses are a must for bass fishing to help you get a good look at your potential catch swimming in shallow waters.

 

What about catch and release?

There are many releases for bass fishing. First, this fish is easy to release and has a good survival rate. It’s also a voracious fish, making it a sport and a challenge to fish, so it provides a lot of fun and challenge while fishing.

At the same time, the largemouth bass has an enlarged mouth, so lures tend to latch on to the edge and not in the back of its throat or at its gills. When you unhook the hook, leave the fish in the water and do not handle it with dry hands.

Finally, bass fishing is done more with lures and artificial baits, so catch and release is possible. If you are fishing with worms and the bass bleeds, do not release it and count it toward your quota.

 

Pro tips

  • Remember that the waterbody does not get warm in the same spots. So, early in the season, walk to your lake of choice and map out the spots where the water is warmer.
  • Fishing line, plastic lures, reels or casting rods…if you’re still unsure, take a look at Cyril Chauquet’s tackle box recommendations for bass fishing and his choices for gear adapted to suit your needs.
  • Locate the docks, walk around the lake, fish near the shore, under the trees and near fallen trees. You’ll increase your chances of catching them.
  • Watch the surface of the water; you’ll see bass jumping out of the water as well as small fish running away from them. If you see any, there are several bass in the area.
  • Bass are competitive with each other. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see two bass biting the same lure; one at the front and one at the back. When a bass struggles, it often vomits to throw the lure away and other bass approach. Be quick to warn your fishing partner to throw a line in the water if you’ve just caught a bass.

Also available in: French