The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is thought by many
fishermen to be the greatest of all freshwater gamefish. Whether you share
that opinion nor not, there is no denying bass are fun to catch.
The largemouth is a slender, streamlined sunfish that is named for the
size of its mouth. The upper jaw entends well past the position of
the eye. The dorsal fine has two parts, a spinous portion and a soft
portion that are separated by a deep, easily recognized notch. There is
a broad, dark, continuous stripe that runs horizontally along its sides.
Largemouth bass vary in color depending largely on the quality of the
water in which they live. If the water is dark and murky, the fish will tend
to be pale, while whose from clear water will have deep, rich colors. They
are typically green to pale olive across the back, green on the sides with
the distinctive dark lateral line, and pale white or yellow on the belly.
LARGEMOUTH BASS FISHING
The largemough bass is one of America's most popular gamefish
and has had a greater inpact on sport fishing than any other single
species. When bass fishing exploded into popularity a couple of
decades ago, it set the stage for accelerated rod, reel, boat, motor
and electronic fishing accessory development and created an
atmosphere in which increased knowledge of fish and fishing techniques
became important to even the average fisherman.
Fishermen pursue largemouth bass year-round, but most
agree the best and most productive fishing occurs in the spring.
Bass fishermen usually equate their sport with stiff casting rods,
heavy lines and large artificial lures, but regardless of how those
fishermen view their world, fly fishermen have proven they can
take the same number of fish and the same size fish as those
using heavy equipment. In fact, in some instances the fly
flinger may have an edge over other bass fishermen.
Fly fishermen have the opportunity of fishing a wide variety of
fly types that imitate the sizes and types of critters bass eat at
different times throughout the year. Because of limitations on
their equipment, bass fishermen who restrict their fishing to
spinning and bait casting gear are able to fish only lures that
imitate a very few of the larger organisms bass consume.
The small size and light weight of flies and bass bugs necessary
to imitate everything bass eat from nymphs to small fish, amphibians
amd crustaceans is of little consequence to the fly fishermen. He
can cast his fly accurately and present it very quietly to avoid frightening
wary fish. Fly fishermen have a definite disadvantage in only one aspect,
namely, it's difficlt for most flyrodders to fish very deep water. But
the good news is that a competent fly fisherman rarely needs to fish
very deep to catch largemouth bass if he used the right flies, fishes the
right spots at the right times, and uses techniques and equipment
suitable for the particular situation. Sounds simple, right?
Well, it can be, but it's also possible to do everything right and
still come up empty. But hey! That's what it's all about. If a
full fish basket was guaranteed every time you went fishing there
wouldn't be much to hold your interest.
Largemouth bass fishing begins in the spring after warming
temperatures melt all of the ice from the lake. Because farm ponds
and other small bodies of water warm rapidly in the spring, bass fishing
on these small waters starts earlier than it does on large lakes and
After a few warm spring days shallow water temperatures begin
rising and largemouth bass drift into the shallows to feed. Many
minnows and small fish look for food in that same shallow water
and become food for the larger bass. Streamer and bucktail
patterns are especially productive in the early spring because
bass are programed to depend on minnows for most of his groceries, and
a well-presented minnow-imitating fly is sure to attract his attention.
The fly fisherman should work "fishy-looking" spots as thoroughly
as possible by making several casts before moving on. Because the
fishes' metabolism is slowed by cold water, bass won't move very
far for a bite to eat in the spring, nor will they expend much energy trying
to capture a fast-moving lure. Fishing deliberately, thoroughly and
very slowly will produce many more strikes than using a quick hit-and-miss,
rapid retrieve system.
We recommend an 8-foot long fiberglass or graphite rod and size
7 or 8 weight-forward floating line for cold water bass fishing.
Streamers such as the Black Ghost Bucktail, Woolly Bugger, and
Super Silver Minnow, which were discussed in the section on
crappie fishing, are excellent early season bass lures. We
recommend sizes 1/0 to 8 for use on largemouths, though smaller
ones will also take fish. Use a leader at least 7 1/2 feet long,
tapered to about 4 pounds at the tippet, and concentrate your
efforts on fishing water from 1 to 5 feet deep.
Remember, bass are in the shallows feeding on small minnows
which are there eating zooplankton and insects associated with
vegetation growing in the warming water. If you can locate a shallow,
weedy spot adjacent to a deep water dropoff, so much the better - the
bass will use the deep water travel lanes to move from one shallow
spot to another.
Early season fly fishing requires accurate casting and deliberate,
slow retrieves. Casts should be made from deeper water to shallow
for several reasons. For instance, it allows the angler to fish the
deep-water side of cover which is more likely to attract fish during
certain parts of the year. It puts him in a position to guide a hooked fish
away from the weeds, branches and other obstructions. It also allows
the fisherman to cast accurately to fish-holding shallow water spots
that are difficult to see or recognize from the bank.
Heavy cover, like submergent and emergent weedbeds, weedy or
brushy shorelines, and even logs, stumps and downed branches
always attract early season bass. Sometimes fishermen accurately
locate spots bass are using but fail to find fish because they don't
work the area thoroughly. The best method is to start shallow -
sometimes early season largemouths will venture into water less
than a foot deep - and work slowly and methodically away from
shore, covering every foot of potentially productive water along
Continued next time!