Bass Fishing

24 March 2011 For The Angler

Smallmouth and largemouth bass may be the most exciting fish to catch in the lakes and rivers of cottage country. 
Famous for its fighting ability, a bass will often leap clear out of the water in an effort to spit the hook.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass Fishing

How do you tell the difference between a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass?
In areas where both largemouth and smallmouth bass are present, it may be difficult for a beginner angler to tell which species you have caught, especially with mid-sized fish. The easiest way to tell the difference between a largemouth and a smallmouth is to look at the lower jaw.

The lower jaw of a largemouth bass extends beyond the eye whereas the lower jaw of a smallmouth bass doesn’t extend past the eye.

Smallmouth bass also tend to have a pattern of darker lines that run vertical as in the photo above, whereas largemouth bass often have a line that runs horizontally along the side of the fish. Colours and pattern distinctions can vary from region to region so the lines may be less obvious in some cases.

Largemouth Bass

What is the best gear for beginners to use to catch largemouth bass?
The largemouth bass is one of the most popular fish in all of North America, and a serious largemouth bass angler can easily fill a garage with gear. Fortunately, a beginner can still catch big bass with some basic equipment.

Rod and Reel
Use a 5 or 5.5 foot medium-action rod and spinning reel combination with 6 to 8 pound line.

Rubber worms, light stick baits, small crank baits, spinner baits, and top-water plugs are very popular.

Live bait
Dew worms, minnows, leeches, crayfish and sometimes frogs will all catch largemouth bass.

Where do you catch Largemouth Bass?
Largemouth bass prefer warmer, shallow water and are normally close to the shore.
The best water temperature for largemouth bass, according to the Ontario MNR, is about 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).
Cast around anything that provides cover.  This includes your dock, weed beds, lily pads, and beaver dams.
Identify sudden changes in the lake bottom.  Sunken logs, tree stumps, and sharp drop offs are prime spots.
Look for points in a river.  The bass will often sit on the downstream side of the point waiting for a meal.

How do you catch Largemouth Bass?
Cast live baits and rubber worms into the middle of heavy weed beds and lily pads.  Retrieve the bait in a jerking action allowing the bait to fall to the bottom and then jerking it up quickly. a largemouth bass will often hit the bait as it is sinking back to the bottom so be ready to set the hook as soon as you feel the bite.

Cast crank baits and spinner baits towards sunken obstacles or drop-offs and retrieve quickly. The bass will often take an aggressive run at the lure and hit it hard.

Cast top-water plugs and floating stick baits into areas with heavy weeds or submerged trees.  Allow the bait to sit for several seconds before retrieving in an irregular “twitch and rest” motion. Leaving the lure on the top of the water where it lands give the fish time to investigate the disturbance. Often times, the bass will strike the lure a few seconds after it has landed.

Smallmouth Bass

How do you identify a smallmouth bass?
The lower jaw of a smallmouth bass does not extend past the eye. Colours vary from bronze to light green and a vertical pattern of green lines sometimes runs the length of the fish.

What is the best gear for beginners to use to catch smallmouth bass?

Rod and Reel
Use a six foot light to medium-action rod and spinning reel combination with 6 pound line.

Jig heads with rubber tails, spinner baits, imitation minnows, and small diving crank baits are all effective.

Live bait
Dew worms, crayfish, minnows, and leeches.

Where do you find Smallmouth Bass?
Smallmouth bass are sensitive to water temperature as they prefer cooler water.  Early in the summer they will be closer to shore, and then move deeper as the water warms up.
The best water temperature for smallmouth bass, according to the Ontario MNR, is about 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit).
Look for clear, fast moving water.  The fish like narrow points in a river with rocky bottoms.
They are more often found in groups than largemouth bass.  If you find one, there are likely others in the same spot.

How do you catch Smallmouth Bass?
Deeper Water
Use diving crank baits to cover a larger area in search of the fish.
If you know where the fish are, use jig heads with live bait like dew worms or leeches to bounce along the bottom. Smallmouth bass will also hit a jig with a rubber tail.

Shallow Water
Use spinner baits with a medium to fast retrieve rate.
Cast a dangling fat dew worm with little or no weight using very light line and slowly let the bait rise and sink as you reel it in.  The fish will often pick it up as it is falling. This is especially effective in areas with lots of rocks that will cause sinkers or jig heads to get easily snagged.

Bass do not have teeth so you can grab them by the lower lip when removing the hook. They also have a tough mouth, so it is important to set the hook firmly when the bass takes the bait. Bass are famous for leaping out of the water when hooked, and they will spit a hook that has not been well set.

Need more Bass Gear Tips?
Go to the Beginner Fishing Equipment page.
go to the Live Bait Tips page.