Big Bass? Big Baits!
Whenever I am not guiding or tournament fishing, I trully enjoy
spending time fishing strictly for big fish. Over the years I
have always been the type who would rather catch just one big
fish in a fourteen hour day as opposed to twenty small fish in an
hour. In my case, looking for big bass is more of a "hunting
trip" rather than a day of fishing and I have learned to
treat big bass as completely different critters that their
younger and smaller relatives.
by North Alabama Guide Troy Jens
To me, a "big bass" starts at
around seven pounds. Consistent catches of bass over
seven pounds requires major changes in fishing locations, tactics
and no less important, mental preparation. The hardest part of
the whole process may be "psyching" yourself into the
fact that during your fishing time for big fish you are going to
get fewer bites and you are going to have to be much more
focused. Also, you must mentally assure yourself that the
reward will be worth all the effort in the end!
I like big baits for big bass.
There is no question in my mind that as a bass grows so does its
appetite. I have boated four pound bass with the tails of
baitfish over eight inches long hanging out of their mouths and
they still had the tenacity to strike the big baits that I so
often throw. I love to tell the story about how when I was a
younster, my brother, my cousin and I would fish for bass with
live frogs on spinning rods. We used frogs so big that we could
not cast them with the rod. We had to lay the rods down, flip the
bail and throw the frogs by hand! We caught some BIG bass on
those live frogs but we also caught a large number of two pound
fish that we figured had to defy the laws of physics by somehow
getting those huge frogs into their mouths. So, I have learned
that just because I choose big baits it does not mean that I will
not catch some smaller fish as well!
Large topwater baits are my favorite
fishing methods to use for a BIG bite. Big Spooks and buzzbaits
are my favorite choices. The bigger the bait the better. In fact,
I am having to make my own versions of these baits because there
aren't any as big as I like them on the market! I like a buzzbait
blade so big that you could get a ticket for using it in a
"NO WAKE" zone. The interesting part is that I like
using these big topwater baits during hot, humid and sunny days
between the hours of 8am to 2pm. I like summer days with
temperatures in the upper 90s+, little or no wind, a lot of
humidity and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
My favorite key areas under these
conditions are shallow grass cover or steep, undercut banks with
overhanging shade trees. A very slow presentation is crucial. I
like the buzzbait blades to turn as slow as possible and, my
fishing partners can usually eat a can of Vienna sausages before
I get a big Spook back to the boat! Slow presentations with big
popping type baits along grass lines or on grass mats have also
produced well for me. One thing I have recognized is that many
big fish are less pressured in shallow areas during the mid-day
hours and do not see many topwater baits. Most people put
topwater baits away after the sun comes up.
Muskie-sized crankbaits. My first
experience with how bass bang big crankbaits happend about 15
years ago. I had read an article about muskie fishing and how
they were the "fish of ten thousand casts". Accepting
the challange I went and purchased a muskie rod and some seven
inch long muskie crankbaits. I made my first trip to what was
considered at the time to be one of the top muskie lakes in the
Upper Midwest region of the country. I hadn't made ten casts with
my huge, new crankbait when I got an "arm jarring"
strike. I could not believe it! My first muskie? Nope, a two
pound bass! I was surprised but even more so as the day went on.
I caught a number of bass including one that weighed in at seven
and three quarter pounds! It took me several trips and at least
ten thousand casts to catch my first muskie! However, I now use
some of those big baits for bass fishing on a regular basis. I
like the Bagleys 6" Bang-O-B. I find them to be great bass
baits especially in the fall. My favorite presentation with big
crankbaits is a slow, steady cadence along steep grass lines,
deeper grass flats or on steep ledges. I have also caught big
bass on these big crankbaits at night. For night bass fishing
with big crankbaits I like the hours between 11:00pm and 2:00am.
I like to fish lighted docks, open water grass flats and steep
rip-rap during the night time hours.
The jig 'n pig (or jig 'n chunk
as I call it) has been a standard bait for big bass among many
anglers including myself. Since moving back to the South, I have
found it to be very effective pitched short into thick grass.
While I use a "big" chunk I usually try to stick with a
3/8oz jig and allow it to fall slowly between clumps of thick
grass. I feel it is important for the bait to fall vertically
through the grass and I do not leave it on the bottom for long. I
let the bait hit the bottom, shake it a couple of times and pick
it up for another pitch.
For faster fishing in the grass,
I prefer at least a ten and a half inch worm Texas rigged with no
less than a 1/2oz bullet weight and a 5/0 hook. It falls fast and
many times the fast fall triggers a reaction strike with big
bass. It has become important for me to recognize that the number
of seconds the bait is left on the bottom when pitching big worms
in the grass is less important than the number of
"drops" I make with the bait. The amount of time a bait
pitched into thick grass should be left on the bottom will really
depend on how active the fish seem to be. If I feel the bass are
inactive I will usually "toss" the jig or worm a little
farther from the boat instead of "pitch" it close - and
I'll work it on the bottom for a longer period of time. Even in
lakes that have no grass, I have been able to find big bass
willing to hit jigs or big worms during daytime hours in shallow
water. When there is no grass present in a lake that I am fishing
I work hard at targeting large, shallow cover such as docks,
stumps or standing timber.
Full moon periods. Another
important factor I have noticed over the years is the timing
involved in getting more consistant big bass bites. I am
personally not much of a follower of moon phase activity but I do
like the full moon period best when specifically targeting bigger
bass. I firmly believe that some bass spawn throughout much of
the year and a lot of it goes on during the full moon periods.
Although many people now know about the fall spawn when the water
temperatures drop back to springtime readings, I have also
observed large bass on beds during summer months. I've seen this
to be especially true where grass cover keeps the summer water
temperatures down. Even if there are no big bass spawning in an
area during a full moon period then there will be other types of
fish such as bream or shad that will be spawning. Big bass seem
to have an interest in this activity and may tend to be more
active. Active big bass love a big meal and large baits closely
resemble what they are looking for. This may also account for the
reason I have personally caught more big fish during full moon
Experience never ends. While I
have a lot to learn on the water, the "big bait"
methods above have accounted for some great pictures and fond
memories of big bass I've caught during my lifetime. Every chance
I get, I go specifically after the BIG bite. For me it requires a
total effort in being precise and being patient. Perhaps the
biggest thrill in using big baits is the pure anticipation of
each strike. Every cast does not turn out to be a big fish but
you will always think it should be!
Troy Jens is a full time professional
fishing guide as well as an accomplished tournament angler.
Troy's beeen fishing since his Dad first took him at three years
old. Sharing the knowledge he's learned since then remains his
one true passion. He most recently appeared in Bassmaster
Magazine in the July/August 1999 issue and January 2000
issue. On the web, Troy is a regular contributor at the Bass Fishing Home Page.
With over 10 years of guiding experience on many
various waters, Troy is versitle and committed. Troy spends
over 250 days a year on the water and specializes in tournament
tactics, big fish, and grass pattern techniques. He guides
on a variety of lakes in North Alabama and spends most of his
time on Guntersville, Wheeler, and Neely Henry. Troy is
experienced in guiding beginners through full time pros and works
hard to help others improve their fishing skills. He
continues to share fishing knowledge through guiding, published
articles and published fishing reports.
Give Troy a call: 256-534-4359
Visit Troy on the web at http://www.anglingalabama.com
Email Troy at BamaBass@aol.com