How To Catch The Biggest Bass of Your Life Part 1: Lure Tips and Considerations
(In this series of articles we will focus on catching giant bass. It requires changing your gear and lures as well as your attitude. Fishing where the big ones live, at times when they’re feeding also are important factors. Part 1 focuses on lures, line and technique.)
Want to land a double-digit bass? You can fish the same way you’ve always fished and you might luck into one, but if your quest is to catch the biggest bass in the lake, you’ll need to change your tactics.
Southern California anglers employ giant swimbaits and big jigs to catch goliath bass. Even though on average there are more bass over 10 pounds in warm climates with long growing seasons like that in Southern California and Texas, Arkansas resident Mitch Looper says that these SoCal techniques and lure types work anywhere big bass lurk. In most places there are just fewer big bass to catch, making the devil in the details a very important fellow.
By his own admission, Looper is fishing for the biggest fish in the lake. With many double-digit bass to his credit, including one weighing 14.8 pounds (14.12 when he first caught it!), and many years of experience focusing on giant bass, Looper has it down to a science. To make it more impressive, these fish were all caught from smaller “city” lakes, public waters many of us pass as we’re headed to larger water.
Let’s start with lures. Upsizing is a necessity, which will eliminate many (but not all) smaller bass from striking. This usually means you’ll make a lot of casts before you hook up with a giant.
Looper prefers a 5-inch YUM Money Minnow or a Booyah A-Jig with a Money Craw trailer. He’ll change jig weights if conditions require but normally sticks with a 3/8-ounce jig. He likes the Money Craw trailer because of the tremendous water displacement from the violently thrashing claws. He also likes the special packaging that keeps them consistent -- each one works the same.
“You don’t have any with a pincer laid over to the side or folded over,” he said. “I like the Ozark Craw or Nest Robber A-Jig and a 2.75-inch Ozark Craw trailer.”
If the fish are shallow Looper uses the Money Minnow on the weighted Money Minnow Hook, but if they’re deeper and there’s not too much snaggy cover, he throws it on a swimbait-style jighead.
“Even though you’re fishing it on a jighead,” Looper says, “when you feel that bump you don’t set the hook. Keep reeling until the rod loads up like you were using it weedless. You’ll miss a lot of fish if you jerk the moment you feel the fish hit.”
He shared an important tip concerning the A-Jig. Because they come in a small plastic bag that keeps the skirt pulled in tight to the jig, he sets any jig he plans on using in the sun for a couple days to let the skirt spread out and regain its flare. He may trim the skirt length a little if he feels like the fish are short-striking, but normally that’s the only modification he makes.
Slow is the key word on retrieves. One detail Looper says keeps many people from catching really big bass is rod position.
“The only time your rod should be pointed up above the 1 o’clock position is when you’re pulling the jig over a limb or rock,” Looper said. “A lot of people miss big fish because they’re not ready – they’ve got the rod tip high and have to reel down to the fish before setting the hook.”
Really big bass can take the jig or lure so lightly that many anglers don’t feel the fish until it’s too late. This makes every rod movement important.
“Keep the rod between 3 o’clock and 2 o’clock,” Looper said. “That way you’re ready. Weigh the jig or lure before you move it. ‘Weighing the jig’ simply means tightening up the slack and checking for the weight of a fish before each pump or movement. Whether you’re fishing a jig or YUM Dinger or whatever type of bottom bouncing bait, you always want to feel that jig, and if it feels heavy, hold it, and if you feel that pulsing sensation you know it’s a fish. Reel until the rod starts loading up, jerk, then keep on reeling as fast as you can until you’re tight with the fish.”
Double-digit bass often head immediately to deep water when hooked, which explains Looper’s advice on continuing to reel as fast as you can. We’ve all hit a fish that did this, and we didn’t know how big it really was until it passed under the boat on its way into our nightmares.
“A 10-pounder is twice as fast as a 5-pounder,” he said. “You’ll rarely find just one really big bass alone unless it’s spawning. They travel in what some people call ‘wolf packs,’ and those big ones may be just trying to get away from the others so it can finish eating what it caught without being harassed. Whatever the reason, reel like mad throughout the hook-setting process and until the fish stops heading toward deeper water and the real fight begins.”
The examples of lures Looper suggests, Money Minnows, jigs, Dingers and occasionally spinnerbaits, all have one thing in common. They are all single-hook lures. He says he’s caught a lot of big bass on multi-treble-hook lures like the Fat Free Shad DB7, but he feels that anglers have a better shot of landing that fish if it’s on a big, strong single hook.
Lastly, line size is a real deal-breaker with Looper. He suggests using no less than 25-pound line. His preference is 25-pound Excalibur for all around strength and durability.
“This heavy line is so important because when you set the hook on a big bass and it goes to shaking that head and thrashing around, he’s fraying that line,” Looper said. “You may not be fishing around any cover that requires that heavy line, but every time he shakes his head you’re losing a pound or two of line strength. Hold up a 10-pound-plus fish for pictures and look at your hand afterward. Those teeth are pretty abrasive.”