Knowing how to fish all of the varying techniques used to catch bass is one thing. Understanding when to use these different methods is another. If you want to know when and where a given tactic is going to be successful, you have to get out there and try it. In other words, nothing can replace getting out on the lake.
I remember coming to Florida from Wisconsin many years ago. I had a friend who got me started in bass fishing shortly after I came here. You could tell that I knew absolutely nothing about bass fishing in Florida, nor did I have any clue as to the size of the bass that these waters held. But here I am many years later, and I can tell you one thing: There are not many places that I can’t figure out how to catch bass.
It’s not because I’m so amazing. It’s because I have spent a ton of time on the water, and I’ve learned when and what to throw. In those years, there’s been a lot of failure and frustration — let me tell you, they are great teachers.
Every bass angler has a favorite technique. It’s fun to go out and fish the way you like. However, that does not always lend itself to catching a lot of bass. If you want to be really good, be more versatile. You need to match up a technique to what the weather conditions, water and cover dictate.
My favorite bait to throw these days is the Gambler Big EZ swimbait in Forty-Niner (gold) or any of the black-and-blue combinations they have. These have proven to be very effective baits for me, and because of that I sometimes fail to realize when I need to switch it up.
So lately I have been on a crankbait spree. I purposely go out and look in deeper water for cover or structure that I can fish these baits over. I’m forcing myself to use this bait in all types of situations. Sometimes it works well; other times, it doesn’t work at all. As you start to put those patterns together of what works and what doesn’t in a particular situation, you’re building your ability to recognize when to use certain tactics.
Any bass angler can fish a Texas rigged worm, and many of them do so religiously. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I believe that bass get accustomed to seeing certain things, and it can make them leery about striking a bait. If they’re bedding, it doesn’t matter — but when you get to the post-spawn and beyond, I believe it’s a factor that needs to be overcome. What better way than trying something a little different? It might end up working better than the standard approach.
There are few lakes in Florida that offer deep water. But just because the water is shallow doesn’t mean you can’t throw fast-moving diving baits. Take care you don’t buy crankbaits that dive to 20 feet and you can try these faster-moving baits on your favorite lake.
If you want to be a better fishermen, get out more and work with techniques that you’re less comfortable with. Spending time on the water trying these methods might make you a better bass fisherman that you can ever thought you could be. At the very least, you’ll be more well-rounded.
I love fishing new lakes. I get that opportunity in a tournament in a matter of a couple of weeks. I have never been to Orange Lake but I am looking forward to it. It’s a clear body of water on the St. John’s River. I’m told it has the ability to produce large numbers of bass as well as quality bass. For me, this will be a new challenge.
I’m going to follow the plan that I have just laid out. I want to get familiar with the water, so I’ll be spending three days covering vast amounts of water with baits I’m not completely comfortable with. These baits will allow me to work fast and cover water, looking for any signs of life.
At the same time, my eyes will be glued to my depthfinder paying close attention not just to depth and bottom density but also any cover I can locate. If the water is moving in the river, I will be looking there as well for any areas that may provide the bass a place to set up and feed.
So I have my work cut out for me. Three days is not nearly enough time to learn everything about Orange Lake — but I know by the time I’m done, I’ll know a lot more about it than when I started.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.