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Big Bass? Big Baits!
by North Alabama Guide Troy Jens

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.

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 periods.

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!

Author Information.

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
Email Troy at

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