This is a unique opportunity for me. As professional angler, I get the chance to fish all over the country, and in the process, I’ve learned a lot about how to find bass, and how to catch them. While that is a fun pursuit for many people around the country, for me it is an absolute must. If I don’t find bass, then I won’t be able to be competitive, and if I’m not competitive, I don’t have a career.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was young. Since I was a youngster growing up in Oroville, Calif. I knew that I wanted to fish for a living. Thankfully, after eight B.A.S.S. wins, two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and 29 trips to the Bassmaster Classic, I’ve lived the life I wanted to live. But, that doesn’t mean I can stop learning about how to be a better angler.
I’ve certainly learned a lot about fishing over the years, and now, thanks to Triton Boats and H&W Marine in Shreveport, I can share some of what I’ve learned over the years in this series of articles this year. My goal for this series is to help instill confidence in all of you, and help you become better anglers.
I now the fact that I’m a tour level angler probably gives me a level of credibility to start talking about the things I think can make you a better angler. But, I want you all to know that my journey as an angler has been much like yours. Outside of the help of people like my friend Richard Forhan and of course Dee Thomas in California, my learning has been a solitary pursuit, and I’ve learned mostly by trial and error. What I want to do is help share the steep learning curve that we’ve all been on for the past 40 years in the sport, and help bring you up to speed.
Let’s start by first saying that bass fishing is not as hard as most people think it is. A bass lives in his environment and respond to his own needs in that environment. It’s difficult for us as humans to comprehend sometimes because we have an intellect that helps us identify our needs and overcome the conditions, but a bass can’t do that, he must respond to his needs within that environment.
So, we must start by discussing the fact that the first thing we have to do to catch more bass is simplify our approach. I learned this the hard way as I was beginning my process as an angler. When I started out, I had one rod and reel and one tackle box that I took with me, no matter what I was fishing for.
As I got more into bass fishing, I acquired more rods and reels and duffle bags full of tackle; and I carried them all with me. That led to confusion on the water, because instead of
Gary Klein Battles a Jumping Bass on Table Rock Lake – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
searching for the fish, I was searching for the right lure. That led to less results and therefore, led to frustration.
My search for the “secret lure” became overwhelming, until I learned that there is no secret or perfect lure. There is the lure that bass are striking at the moment, but to identify yourself with a favorite lure is giving credit for your catch to the lure, and not to yourself for finding and catching them.
The first thing anglers need to realize is that lures are tools, and identifying a pattern for a day is part of picking the right tool for that job. A mechanic looks at his tools as implements to finishing a job, and because his favorite wrench is the 1/2-inch size, doesn’t mean he tries to use it when the job calls for a 7/16-inch or a 3/4-inch size. He obviously would spend a lot of time fumbling around and not get the job done very well.
What we need to do in order to consistently put fish in the boat is begin to develop an understanding of lures as tools. To do that we must begin to understand not only how they are used, but also how they fit into our own individual strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we like to do, and things we don’t necessarily enjoy doing. But, having an understanding of how lures fit within a particular situation will help us utilize the right tools for the job.
We also need to understand that there is not a “wrong” way to fish. We all see things our own way and because we all enjoy doing things “our way,” we should fish our way. That is until “our way” begins to fail us, and then we have to spend time to learn how to correct the problems we have so we don’t have to waste time thinking about it again. Instead, we can concentrate on finding the fish.
To locate the fish, we must go back to the fact that bass are conditioned by their environment, whether the lake is clear, dirty, hot or cold will affect their depth and how they relate to their surroundings. Bass have common traits that help us locate them in a variety of situations. Whether they are in a manmade reservoir, a natural lake, a river or a tidal estuary, bass have certain things that will affect their movements.
When I’ve done my homework about a body of water, and I know the usual conditions, I can arrive at the ramp and begin to look at things that will influence bass there. Those factors to consider are 1. time of year, 2. type of water, and 3. water clarity and current conditions. Those three factors will help me understand the type of feeders the bass in the body of water I’m fishing for will be.
Gary Klein with a Chunky Table Rock Smallmouth bass – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
If a lake is usually a clear water fishery, then the bass will feed primarily by sight. If it is typically a dirty water fishery, then they will largely feed by their lateral lines, which means they feed by feeling displacement and disturbances in the water. All of that has an impact of choosing the type of approach I need to take, and the types of tools I need to do the job.
If I find a bush, or series of bushes in the back of a bay, how the bass position themselves will depend on the water conditions. Those factors will also dictate how I need to present my lures to that bush. If the water is clear, they are likely to be sight feeders, so I will present my lure to edges, and they should come out and get it. If the water is dirty, then I will probably have to put my lures in the bush to get the strike. The individual behaviors of the bass in relation to their conditions dictate my response.
My main point is that we need to start thinking more about the bass, than we do about lures and presentation if we want to be consistent about our fishing. If you are a type who just enjoys the act of fishing, then this series may not be for you, and that’s okay.
But, if you are the type who wants to become an angler who catches bass all the time, and who constantly develops their fishing abilities, then come back next time. My goal will be to help you become a better angler and have the confidence to catch fish in your area, anytime, anywhere and through any conditions.