The key to staying on the bass bite all season long is adjusting your techniques to bass behavior during each phase of the season. Follow our guide to the tactics that work best during each segment of the largemouth bass season and check out “The Bass Blueprint” each month in On The Water for a timely bass tactic.
When the ice releases its grip on ponds and lakes throughout the Northeast, largemouths will be hungry, but still lethargic due to the cold water. To tempt ice-out bass, use suspending jerkbaits with long pauses. Some fishermen will pause their lures for as long as 30 seconds to tempt a strike.
As the water warms, the appetites of the largemouth will increase as they prepare to spawn. This time of year, the bass move to shallow water to feast. A variety of tactics will work, but some of the biggest spring bass come on shallow crankbaits, spinnerbaits or jigs.
The shallow cranks and spinnerbaits are great for covering water and picking off numbers of fish. Work over shallow weed beds, around fallen trees and over submerged stumps. Jigs are best for targeting cover where big bass have set up to ambush prey. Docks, fallen trees and submerged stumps are great places to toss a jig. Watch the line as the lure falls as big largemouths will often take the bait on that initial drop.
Largemouths stop feeding during the spawn, which is part of the reason they are so aggressive during the prespawn. Nevertheless, largemouths can still be aggravated into striking if you pitch lizard and creature baits near their spawning beds. The bass will strike not out of hunger, but to protect their beds.
In early summer, large female bass, worn out from the spawn, head to deeper water to recuperate. They can be caught by probing with jigs and crankbaits. Bluegills spawn at this time of year in most lakes, and largemouths will lurk in cover near shallow coves to ambush them. Shallow crankbaits and spinnerbaits are goodrepresentatives of the bluegills.
Bass hunker down during the heat of the day but feed heavily during the early mornings and evenings. Topwater lures are very effective during periods of low-light and even in the dark. During the day, finesse presentations like a wacky-rigged Senko will trigger strikes from laid-up bass. Bass will also seek shelter under mats of weeds and lily pads. Working through the pads with a weedless hollow-body frog is a favorite summertime technique that accounts for many lunker largemouths each year.
As the days grow shorter, bass will begin feeding more heavily throughout the day, and fishermen can catch big numbers in a single outing. Bass are aggressive, so techniques that produce reaction strikes will be your best bet. Jerkbaits fished with a fast, erratic retrieve can be deadly. If you are catching good numbers of smaller bass in an area, switching out to a larger swimbait can be the ticket to culling out a larger fish.
As water temperatures continue to fall, fishermen can still have success with coldwater techniques like suspending jerkbaits. Shallow-diving crankbaits are often effective during the afternoons when the sun has warmed the surface waters – fish them over the last patches of living weeds. Lipless crankbaits are a favorite fall presentation because their tight wiggle is a good representative of lethargic baitfish in cold water. Drop-shot rigs are another good coldwater technique for tempting torpid bass to bite.