For whatever reason, even in this age of daily technological advancement, we still struggle to figure out how to catch bass, in spite of the fact that we've been doing it for survival and fun for thousands (according to some) or millions (according to others) of years. Although bass fishing is widely regarded as a matter of "luck", much like sales and making it big in Nashville, there are certain elements of skill that go along with landing the big ones, or the multitude of small to mid size ones. And as with any skill, bass fishing requires practice, observation, and some repetition. Fortunately for newer anglers, even beginners will have the occasional respite from the monotony of fruitless casts by virtue of sheer numbers of casts. Discussed are some of the major elements to take into account before, during, and after a day on the water-or shore, if a boat is out of the question, focusing only on how to catch bass and less on frivolous tips that cannot or have not been tested.
It's important to understand that bass tend to behave differently through the year, much like people.
Early Spring: This time of year, bass are in a pre-spawn "mode", in addition to acclimatizing to warmer water and metabolic acceleration, feeding takes priority in preparation for the spawning season. A lot of people consider this to be the best time of year to target bass, even to the extent of moving on to other fish throughout the rest of the year. You're more likely to find bass migrating to warmer parts of the water as spawning season moves closer, so look for them in shallower water wherever cover is available. Logs, branches, stumps, brush, and weeds are classic indicators of where bass congregate. Granted, you may lose a lure or two if you're having trouble casting with precision, but otherwise, the risk is worth the reward. Bass are universally indiscriminate eaters. Try a little bit of everything-soft plastic, top water, jigs, spinner, and the like will attract them at this point in time.
Mid-Late Spring: The vast majority of bass are going to be located in shallow water at this time of year, as spawning is now underway. Like bluegill, bass search for areas composed of soft dirt to lay eggs, so keep an eye out for shallow coves where rough water will be minimal, but sunlight is abundant. Typically, the male bass will build and guard the eggs during incubation, rarely leaving the area for food unless something is directly disturbing the nest. Females will generally stay suspended until spawning is over, feeding heavily all throughout. As a matter of conservation, avoid dragging lures across bass beds this time of year. stick with suspending lures or top water to ensure that no damage is done to the fry (bass spawn).
Summer: At this stage, bass have largely acclimated to warmer waters and are metabolically at their peak, requiring aggressive feeding until the weather cools. Areas to watch out for especially this time of year are any location involving a current-be it a drainage pipe, inlet, or even a fountain. Motion attracts bass because of oxygenation, as well as opportunities for food. As with the rest of the year, look for cover where bass may be hiding out waiting to attack bypassing prey. Bass will also take to deeper or shaded areas during midday and afternoons to avoid excessively warm water, whereas night, morning, and evening hours, you're bound to find them in shallower areas or open waters.
Fall: The transition from Summer to Fall is probably the most interesting time of year to catch bass, as many variables enter the picture during the transition. As the water cools, bass metabolism slows, but is offset by the need to gain size to account for the winter. Baitfish have increased in size, but quantity has decreased, and common sources of cover such as weeds and other growth have begun to die off, driving bass to other locations. Often, you'll find them at steep drop offs bordering shallower areas, where they can feed when necessary, but deep enough to escape if pursued by another fish. Since baitfish have become more scarce, try using soft plastics or crayfish lures near rocky areas. Another major perk to fall fishing is minimized fishing pressure-few people are out in the dropping temperatures, making bass more subject to taking bait.
Winter: Location is the primary element to bass fishing in winter, as the colder water leads to slowed metabolism. Very often, bass will school up near drop offs to deeper water, near dams and other objects, current supplying warmer water, and any other cover that hasn't died off with the season. If you find yourself fishing on a sunny or rainy day, target shallower waters that may have warmed as a result.
General: A few other tricks to keep in mind that apply all throughout the year:
-Use noisy topwater lures in open water on windy days. Bass respond well to the vibrations and scarcely make out what they're attacking
-In clear water with good visibility, avoid brightly colored, unrealistic-looking bait. Fish may not be the most brilliant creatures in the world, but they know what they eat and what they don't eat.
-If fishing in murky water with poor visibility, try weighted lures that rattle or vibrate. Bass pick up on the noise and vibration and will hunt by feel as opposed to sight.
-Okay, so not all year round, maybe this is better mentioned above- during the late fall months, pull out the big lures. By now many bass have put on tremendous amounts of weight, and will be reluctant to pursue any bait "not worth their time". Meaning, the bigger the bait, the bigger the perceived meal. Also remember that a small bass is unlikely to attack something that it perceives as a threat, so smaller bait will generally attract smaller bass.