Used to fish in New England with a wild and wooly sort who first
got introduced to us as "Massachusetts Mike." He was a
great surf fisherman. He caught the tar out of the giant cows
that were abundant back then, and he rubbed elbows at the top of
the surfcasting pyramid. But he was a tough, vain and arrogant
rogue. This really wasn't his fault as it seems that most top
rungs on the surfcasting ladder are blessed with such
personalities. Nevertheless, Mike deserved a special title fit
only to himself, and we soon changed his name to "Masshole
Mike." It stuck like a sharp hook in the eye and that's how
he was forever after known on every beach and rock in the striper
kingdom. As you would probably expect of Masshole, he relished
his new name, and if he ever reads this, there is no doubt he
will surely convince himself and others that this article is
proclaiming his prowess in the surf for all the Internet to know.
Unfortunately for him, Masshole Mike is not what this article is
all about, but it is about a closely related topic - bass
holes. Are you interested? Please read on.
How does one identify a bass hole?
You don't. Typically someone has to tell you about their bass
hole when they lay dying and they are convinced they will never
fish again. It is often best to speed up this process by
poisoning the old bass hole or backing up over him with your
truck when he is preoccupied with wrggling out of his waders. By
the way, make sure you have a tape recorder handy for any last
minute revelations at that moment.
How big is the typical bass hole?
The term, "bass hole", is used to define a specific,
usually FIXED spot, often of hard composition - like rock beds,
docks, bridge stanchion, shoals, mussel beds - but also other
rather PERMANENT spots such as weed beds. A most important part
of the definition includes that a bass hole will PERSIST from
season to season with only subtle changes to it.
Now, the bass hole itself is not often, for example, an entire
dock, but maybe only one hole where you can cast uptide and let
your jig drift down and swing up off bottom as it goes under the
dock. In this example, let's assume that there is a channel or
ridge that comes down the shoreline parallel to the beach, and a
school of bass will always pass through the area using the deep
end of the slope like Indians on a trail moving single file
through the woods. The bass hole is where you can intercept their
passage where the trail goes under the dock. Their will be a
constant stream of bass moving along the trail when they are
actively using it.
Another type of bass hole is bigger, like on rugged bottom
where a weed and mussel bank forms for whatever reason where
there is often a slope going from deep to shallow water. Also a
rock bed in such a sloping area, or even just one or two big
rocks positioned just right! In these bass holes, there are all
the living conditions that satisfy a striper's needs, including
food, shelter, etc. As wandering or migrating striper schools use
scouts to locate these bass holes, they will move into them and
set up feeding stations during the tidal periods when they
instinctively can get the bait disadvantaged and driven down into
the school by wind, tide, the bait's blind compulsion to migrate
on that tide, or other bass or predators uptide that are causing
the bait to flee down into their feeding stations at the bass
hole. The scouts will continue to draw the school up to feed at
this bass hole until the bait has left the area of the bass
hole...for various reasons...including that the bass may have
decimated it all. Then this wandering or migratory school will
move off the bass hole to seek more productive bass holes that
haven't been chewed down lately (they don't call 'em cows for
Now, the best part of bass holes is that "resident"
bass always occupy them too. Why? Because there is everything a
bass needs in a bass hole. It's like a 711 store that's always
open. If the bass hole has enough food for 100 or 10 resident
bass, then there's 100 or 10 residents in there all the time, 24
hours a day. If it can only support 3 bass, that's the amount of
residents that will always live there.
Ready for a math puzzle? If a bass hole can only routinely
hold 10 fish, and 8 are already residing there and 5 new fish try
to take up residence...that means 3 fish have to voluntarily
leave or involuntarily be forced out of the bass hole by the ones
most determined to stay. Big ones will look to confront any and
all others, small ones will try to remain hidden deep in the bass
hole where they can't be found by the others. Eventually, 3 fish
will have to depart the bass hole as there is not enough
sustenance in it for all of them.
However, resident fish are not "all there" for
whatever reason. They may be sick, tagged, a little smelly or
squirrelly in their pea brains, so their school has made them
outcasts, and they live like homeless (a striper's home is it's
school) on the bass hole. Therefore, you can tell when a ravenous
school has moved on because you will start plucking out ony
residents again. Some residents will have noticable problems,
sometimes they may smell foul, or their bodies are cheesy, or
tail rot, or one-eyed, or tagged, whatever deformities, etc. Many
residents will look perfectly fine to our eye, but their school
found something about them to be a risk to the school's
well-being and therefore an untolerable individual fish to be
forced out of the school.
Sometimes during heavy migratory periods, waves of fresh-run
schools will set up in the bass hole night after night for long
durations of a few days to a few weeks. Again, you know when you
are between schools or sadly, when an entire WAVE of a migration
has finished passing you by, because the residents will once
again reclaim the bass hole...could be new, not right fish
staying behind because they can't keep up with their at the
moment... could be the same not right fish as before the
fresh-runs passed through who are now coming out of hiding.
Either way, the return of these residents, often referred to as
"handicaps" is a sad sign indeed during migratory
seasons. Oh, other big waves may come through soon, but you just
waved "Ta Ta, see you next year!" to the departing
hordes! The handicaps are like the guys who clean up after the
end of the parade.
How do you approach a bass hole?
You absolutely must make sure that you buy the bass hole a big
breakfast every time you come off the beach with him.
Do you toss your lure right in the middle or do you
skim the edges of the bass hole?
I find that it is usually best to hit him in the middle on the
back of the head with a 2 ounce bucktail that you are casting. I
wouldn't recommend to just skim the edge, you probably will not
get sufficient results out of the bass hole that way! Remember,
the bass hole must be convinced that he'll never cast again
before he'll pass along his spots to you! Have the tape recorder
handy in case he does regain consciousness for a few minutes. He
will probably be incoherent or babbling a lot, and you just kind
of have to go with the flow as they say.
Does a bass hole ever shut up (or stop holding bass)
or is it an endless source of bass that one keeps to oneself if
one finds a good size bass hole?
Well, I have never known a good-sized bass hole not to be
hungry at breakfast time. All kidding aside though, as far as an
endless source of bass, that can be a good way to look at a bass
hole. There will ALWAYS be fish that want to get into your bass
hole, and you should keep your bass hole to yourself and practice
safe sex. If you pluck out 5 residents tonight, you can come back
tomorrow and find that they have been replaced by 5 new ones.
Are bass holes different in the surf, jetty, inlet or
Yes and no. The only difference is in their permanence - or
more accurately their persistence over time. Of course, jetties,
rocks, bivalve beds, weed beds and other natural or man-made
structures have the tenacity to persist as bass holes over time,
but we start to lose the meaning of the term when we include
ever-changing sand beaches that may have great spots on them such
as a bowl formed behind a shallow bar on a sandy beach...nice
place for a bass to habitually visit on the tops of the tides,
but they would not want to live there in there at low tide. Also,
this bowl may get flattened out by a good storm, only to take
some weeks to reshape itself back into into a productive
fish-holding bowl. So yes, this is a good and constantly
productive bowl, but it is not a bass hole as we have defined it
above; not a 711 store that never closes, and not having the
capacity to accommodate resident denizens 24 hours a day. Of
course, this bowl is definitely a good spot, but it does not
qualify by meeting all of the requirements to be defined as a
classic "bass hole".
How come some bass holes only seem to produce on one
tide (or part thereof) but not the other?
Flood or ebb? Let's get into a discussion of incoming versus
outgoing water. Migratory movements, non-migratory feeding treks,
or frequent instinctive nomadic wanderings of schools are often
accomplished via a "rachet" effect using the tide.
Think of how you change a tire...rachet up one notch, then
hold...rachet up another notch, then hold. Bass frequently rachet
up wherever they are going on one tide, not heavily feeding
during that, then hold for the other tide in as comfortable a
holding place as they can locate...your basshole...hopefully, but
not always, finding an available food supply big enough for the
entire school to gorge themselves. If so, they will settle in and
gorge themselves for that particular tide or portion thereof.
For example, a classic pattern for non-migratory schools
around inlet jetties is to use an incoming tide during the
mid-afternoon to sweep the bass far up into the back bay, where
they will scout for bait as they sweep into the back, often
looking for big pelagics such as herring, bunkers and such. They
will start driving this bait to concentrate it into denser
schools as the outgoing starts around dinner time, and then push
them towards the jetty on the outgoing, pinning them against the
sides of the jetty by sundown or shortly thereafter and take
feeding stations in the rip out front. If there are big pelagics
to be pushed down, then this pattern will be productive for 2-3
days twice a month when the tide cycles around to a mid-afternoon
Well, that's all for now...my phone's ringing and I betcha
it's some bass hole who wants me to take him to my bass hole. Fat
chance. He'll have to kill me first.