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Learn the Three B's of Bassing
Every Cast is a Lesson

By Russ Bassdozer

I hope you are a "Trekkie" because I'd like to give you a "Vulcan mind meld" on a heap of stuff this week. Important fundamentals. Sort of like climbing inside my cranium and seeing the gears turn. Don't mind the cobwebs! Please enjoy.

In school, there's a golden rule and a core curriculum to learn the rudiments - reading, writing and arithmetic. We all know these basic subjects as the "three R's" (even though there's actually only one R, a W and an A)!

As students of bass fishing, each day we spend on the water is also a day in the classroom. Every cast is a lesson, and as we know, there are many, many lessons in fishing. Even in a lifetime of fishing trips we cannot master them all.

One of the most basic fishing accomplishments is to learn the "Three B's" - the bait, the bottom and the bass. That's what I'd like to talk about in this week's Inside Line in terms of presentation skills. You see, every single cast you make is a lesson in the Three B's. On each cast, you either pass the test by catching a fish, or fail it by going hitless.

Now, it is no disgrace to go hitless on a cast. In baseball, the best ballplayers swing and strike out from time to time. No one gets a hit every time, but keep in mind, the potential is ALWAYS there for every bat swing or cast to be a hit, and practice, practice, practice is required to increase your "hit ratio" in baseball or in bass casting!


Imagine you take a tackle box full of lures to fish in murky water on a dark night. As you try each bait in your box one-by-one, you can't see the lure, and it does no good to try to watch the line or the rod tip. In fact, the only thing you've got is "feel" of the lure. In a certain sense, you are fishing like a blind man by Braille. As you resolve yourself to fishing by feel, you'll soon notice that each lure model and weight has a distinct "feel" (its own signature let's say) that is different from the feel of all the other lures as you reel them back in the darkness. You need to feel that special pull when it is working right - and feel when it is working wrong. This feel is what I'm talking about as our first B - "the bait". This feel is the resistance each bait makes against the water when you are working it correctly so that the bait is properly attracting fish. The throb of a spinnerbait or wobbling of a long-billed crankbait is obvious. Less obvious but just as essential to know is the different feel when a 1/4-oz Texas-rigged craw is working properly - and how that feel should differ from a 3/8 oz. Texas craw. You need to learn this difference in feel. You need to feel how the same 4" Senko works different on a 1/4 oz. jig or 1/4 oz. Mojo rig or 1/4 oz. Texas rig. It's all in the feel. This feel is modified by the rod, reel and line you use, the line drag against the length of line under water, wind drag against length of line above water, and any current.

Now, go out on a crystal clear body of water under bright sunny skies. Cast every lure in your tackle box again. Now, you may be able to see the lure, watch the line and rod tip intently, but the signature feel of each bait is still the same whether clear or murky water, day or night. This is the first of the three B lessons we are studying today - the feel of the bait when it is working properly to attract bass.


Bass are basically bottom bandits. Eighty percent or more of all the bass I have ever caught have been on the bottom. The other twenty percent have been in mid-water or near the surface, understanding wherever there is cover they'll get all into it whether the cover is rising off bottom, in mid-water or emerging near the surface.

Just like each type of bait has its signature feel, each type of bottom also has a telltale feel you need to learn - bushes, stumps, boulders, sand, mud, gravel, ledges, drop-offs, different weed types, slopes, etc. You've got to know what each section of bottom feels like, how to keep your bait on or close to bottom, and how the bottom feel differs from the other two B's - the bait and the bass.

There are three major mistakes to avoid when learning this second B lesson:

1) Not getting on or close to the bottom to begin with on the initial part of the cast, which requires you to strip slack line off so the bait falls at approximately the same rate as you hand-feed slack line off the spool until the bait comes to rest on the bottom. At that point, the line goes slack, and you can catch an awful lot of fish like that just letting the bait sit quietly where it has fallen.

2) If no takers, begin a retrieve on and/or close to the bottom. The second mistake to avoid here is to keep tabs of what kind of bottom "feel" you are getting when you catch bass. In general, open bottom is a low percentage of hits whereas when you feel irregular stuff on the bottom, prepare to stop the retrieve, shake the bait, bounce it off a few things down there - and get hit! Now, it's important to know if you are getting hit just as you come into stuff, smack in the middle of the stuff, or as you are coming out of the stuff, plus what is the stuff? Is it wood, weeds, rock rubble, brushpiles, etc? You need to know all this, so you can pinpoint a pattern to repeat on your subsequent casts.

3) The third common mistake is not continuing to freespool and feed line as required to keep occasional contact with the bottom during the duration of the retrieve. As you either drift, troll, drag or retrieve your bait, you'll be going over gullies, cracks, drop-offs, up and over big rocks, domes or ledges on the bottom. When that happens, if you do not freespool line, your bait will be up in the stratosphere like the Goodyear blimp flying far over the heads of the bass down on the bottom below. As you go over a crack, gully or other bottom depression (which is what the bass lay in), or fall off the side of a ledge or rock, you must be instantly prepared to drop the bait down however far on a slack line to where the fish are in the gullies, cracks, or on the drop off the top of a rock. When the line bellies slack again, it usually means there's a fish on you or you've re-touched bottom in the crack, gully or rock edge which is just where you want it! Hits come on the fall as the bait settles down, or as it lies there.

Bottom line, if your bait is not on or close to the bottom, you are not effectively fishing for eighty percent of the bass you'll encounter in your lifetime.


Well, this third B could have been called "The Bite" but that is not exactly right. Many times you never feel the bite. What you feel instead is "The Bass" after it bites when it is holding onto the end of your line, just sitting there, moving away, or whatever. So much has been written about "bite detection" but it's often "bass detection" in actuality.

With soft baits such as those made by Gary Yamamoto, once you realize a bass is holding it, the bass is usually not going to let go of the bait (unless you pull it away). So, it is not 100% necessary that you feel the classic "bite" but you do need to detect the bass holding onto the bait - and you need to learn the feel of the bass holding on as being different from the feel of the bait and the feel of the bottom.

You also need to determine when the bait is inside the mouth of the bass. When you swing and miss on the hookset, it is usually because you pulled the bait away from the bass too soon before the bait was fully inside its mouth. So, it is not a situation with soft baits where you need to set the hook as soon as possible. With soft plastics, the skill is to determine how long you have to WAIT until the bass has the bait sufficiently in its mouth before you set the hook. The last thing most bass want to do is let go of their prize. Don't pull it away from them too soon! In these days of catch and release, there's a desire not to hook bass too deeply either. I will routinely ratchet down one size if I am hooking them too deeply, or ratchet up one size if I am missing a few on the hookset.


Every cast you make, you should concentrate on the Three B's. They're a part of what's called "presentation", and the Three B's often matter more than what lure or color you use.

Well, that's it on the "Vulcan mind meld" for today!

I hope this transfusion of information has been helpful.

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