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Becoming a Better Angler by Gary Klein – Understanding How Bass Feed to Pick the Right Tools

Last time in our series about becoming a better bass angler, we talked about getting to know you and your own style.  Knowing how you prefer to do things can help you better identify techniques that you will be proficient at.  That’s the fish to your strengths side of fishing.

This time, we are going to turn our focus to the different types of bass, and how we apply the right tools to catch them.  Not only will we look at the right tools, but we’ll also discuss modifications to the tools that improve the fish catching ability based on the conditions you’re in, and the type of bass you’re chasing.

When I say the “type” of bass we’re fishing for, I’m not referring to the species.  In this case, I am referring to how a bass in a certain lake is going to feed based on the current conditions.  We refer to these two types as sight feeders and lateral line feeders.  The type of bass we chase will depend on the conditions on a body of water, and it will dictate the types of techniques we choose, and how we choose to use them.

Sight feeding bass are those that live in clear water; that with two feet of visibility and more.  Lateral line feeders are those that live in water with two feet of visibility or less.  While bass become conditioned to their type of waterway, the conditions of the moment can also change the way they need to eat, and they must adapt to those current conditions if they want to feed.  This usually affects the sight feeders more than the lateral line feeders, but they do adapt.

In order to be prepared, we must stay current with the conditions.  I do that now by monitoring the conditions on a lake for a few weeks prior to us going to the lake we are fishing.  Each morning, while I am enjoying my coffee, I spend that time on my iPad researching local weather and water conditions on the lake with public means.  I can find the weather conditions, water temperatures, and lake levels for just about every body of water we go to.  I do look at fishing reports from guides and locals for specific information, such as water temperature, but I don’t let their fishing catching styles dictate mine.  I know how I fish a body of water in regard to the current conditions, so I begin preparing myself for those.

Along with following the current conditions, I start to envision what those fish will be doing based on the seasonal patterns.  Bass are creatures that go through the same cycles of their life every year.  That doesn’t mean that it happens on the same calendar date each year, but it happens when the conditions are right for those parts of cycles to occur.

By the time I’ve looked through all of this information and thought of the seasonal patterns, I have done a lot towards preparing myself with a game plan for once I arrive at the body of Gary Klein Battling a Jumping Spotted Bass - photo by Dan O'Sullivanwater.  Of course, the final game plan will be established once I get there and experience the environment at the lake, but I’ve used this pre-event preparation to pack my tackle and get ready for the practice period.

Having that that game plan helps me because once I arrive at the lake, I can spend my time fishing.  I cannot find the bass I need if I am frantically running around the lake taking in all of the information.  If I have a plan beforehand, then I can slow down and fish my way through practice.  That is one thing about this sport that will never change; the angler must tie on a lure and make the fish react to their lure by casting and retrieving.  If we are not doing that, ten we are limiting our intake of information.

Once we have gathered all of the information, established our understanding of the environment, and been able to decipher the type of bass we are fishing for, we can begin to select the tools we need and the modifications we need to make to trigger the bass into striking.

For terms of this conversation, were going to use general categories of techniques, but remember to consider your own personal style when applying tools to your own fishing, but to keep this simplified, we’ll discuss things based on types of water ways and type of fish.

In clear water, as we discussed earlier, fish are more likely to be sight feeders.  This means that they can see their prey for long distances and they primarily use their vision as a means to decide what to eat.  This type of bass provides us a certain set of considerations when selecting tools, modifications to them and how we should retrieve them.

Sight feeders can be coaxed into striking by employing speed retrieves and by using more realistic colors and designs.  Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and crankbaits retrieved at a high rate of speed can be excellent on clear bodies of water.  A fast moving lure does not give the bass too much time to react negatively, so speed is key.

In order to speed reel spinnerbaits we must make selections with components and modifications to lures to allow us to do so.  We should use smaller sized willowleaf blades which provide less torque to the bait, and allow us to retrieve it faster.  If the bait rolls on its side at high speeds, then we can adjust the wire coming out of the head by pushing it up, making the blades lay back a little further, creating less drag.

Gary Klein Hefty Smallmouth - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Gary Klein Hefty Smallmouth – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Selections with jerkbaits and crankbaits require choosing lighter, more natural colors and playing with the sound factor.   Translucent colors and silent lures are more likely to have results in clear water.  Although, don’t let the word “silent” fool you, even a silent lure makes noise with the hooks and hardware moving throughout the retrieve; a silent lure does not have internal rattles.

If the conditions dictate slowing down, then choosing realistic color tones in clear water are the modifications we must consider.  This is where hand poured finesse worms with lighter colors and more shades are typically more effective in these conditions.

The final thing about sight feeding fish is that you won’t have to be as precise with your casting because the lure can actually draw fish to itself when bass see it.

The same cannot be said for dirtier water and lateral line feeders.  These bass feed by feeling things in the water, and seeing them at the last minute.  With this in consideration, we must choose lures that provide the most sensation to the bass with pressure waves and noise in the water.

With that in mind, we should select lures with brighter colors and wider actions and rattles.  Crankbaits with wider wobbling actions and loud sound chambers, spinnerbaits with Colorado or Indiana blades will create more vibration in the water, and we’ll need to select darker colored jigs and plastics with more exaggerated action to make bass feel the lure in the water.

We will also need to be a lot more precise in the placement of our presentations as well.  Bass in these conditions do not typically move long distances to strike lures, so we need to almost hit them in the head to make them strike.  The good news about that need is that dirty water helps us mask our presence, so we can get closer to the fish, and make more precise casts.

These are some of the considerations that we must make when we fish in different bodies of water and in different conditions.  Starting to understand these things can go a long way toward helping you become a more complete angler.

 

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