There is no bad season for bass fishing. We listed our top bass fishing tips, whether you are looking for stripers, white bass, largemouth, or smallmouth. Because in our book, the action can be great on any lake and on any given day.
Different tactics and techniques can outperform others, but this article on how to catch bass will give a good starting point for those looking to capitalize on their fishing time regardless of the season.
Fall is a great time for bass. As the fish are getting ready for a long, cold winter, they “put on the feed bag”, as they say. Bass don’t like to expend a lot of energy once the water gets really cold, so they gorge heavily during this time.
Fall Bass Fishing Tips:
Largemouth are fattening up for winter, too, in the fall. Slower lures, and lures with flash tend to work best in the fall. Again, as the water gets colder, the largemouth will be less apt to chase a lure very far. Do keep in mind, though, that largemouth that are following shad will still chase a lure that looks like a sick or dying baitfish before the water gets too cold. Swimbaits and jerkbaits can work well during this time. Frogs are also another good choice in areas where you would normally fish with frogs during the summer.
Smallies caught at this time of year are often called “footballs” because of their shape while stocking up food for the winter. Crayfish imitations are great baits to use this time of year. Also jerkbaits and other shad imitations can bring good results at the right times. Top water lures can bring some great action when Smallies are feeding. They will tend to stay on the deep sides of points, rather than those closer to shallow water. Keep in mind, though, that as the water gets cooler, the fish are less apt to move to strike a lure. Presentation is key, and remember to slow down as it gets colder.
Surf fishing for Stripers on the East Coast can be an angler’s dream. As the winds whip and the weather conditions deteriorate, that’s when the stripers start to run south down the coast. Pencil poppers are a great choice at this time when the fish are looking for bait busting the surface. Alternatively, a bucktail jig with the occasional pork rind trailer can be great for the times when the stripers are holding deep.
In the fall, “follow the birds” is great advice. Gulls are great indicators of where the pods of bait fish are. Find the bait fish, and you will find the white bass. Fall fishing doesn’t really have it’s own pattern as much as it is a continuation of the summer pattern, and most baits used in summer work well in fall. This is especially true in early fall.
One of the best parts about white bass fishing in the fall is that they are not used to being targeted like they are, say, during the spring run. This can make them easier targets. In early fall, the bait fish will start moving shallow, near banks where there is more oxygen. As the water temperature cools, they will tend to move back deeper, bringing the white bass with them.
No matter the species, all bass will look to fatten up before winter, and early fall is a great time to target them.
While some of the country is covered in ice and snow for the duration of the long winter months, in the southern regions, there is still some great fishing to be had. Some fish will move deeper, to where the water has not cooled down as much, and often slower presentations are better.
Winter Bass Fishing Tips:
Slow-rolled spinnerbaits can do well in the winter. They mimic a fairly easy meal when bumped across the bottom slowly. They can also bring about reaction strikes. Fish high percentage areas, and spinnerbaits will bring you success, even in the coldest months.
If things are slow and bites are few and far between, try upsizing your offering. Many anglers find good success with larger baits in the wintertime, and they believe this is because a larger meal is more apt to spur a lethargic largemouth into action than a smaller meal.
Current breaks area great target area for winter Smallies. While it’s not true that Smallies don’t feed in the winter, it is true that they feed less often and prefer to expend even less energy getting their food than they do at other times of the year. Use slower lures and watch your line. Wintertime bites are often very soft.
In the winter months, Stripers often move deeper, where the water is warmer. Heavy swim jigs and big swim baits are prefect for fishing in these depths. They can entice bass to strike as they sit lurking, waiting for an easy meal.
Live bait always works well for wintertime Stripers, too. Anchovies and other live bait will produce results when even the best artificials fail.
Fishing deep can be key for wintering White Bass. 22-40 feet is not too deep to fish for them during this time of year. Keep your bait on the bottom and work it slowly off the edges of long points. There is usually no discernible bite, but rather the lure will just feel heavy. That’s when it’s time to set the hook.
If you need a reference on some of these fish talk might want to consult a fishing glossary.
Spring means spawning time for bass. While the general rule of thumb dictates that certain water temperatures are best for certain species of bass to spawn, keep in mind that different areas of the same lake may be at different water temperatures at different times.
Spring Bass Fishing Tips:
Spinnerbaits are a good choice this time of year, as are crankbaits. Look toward the shallows for the “cruisers” who are up looking for a place to make a bed. Also use these moving baits in the staging areas or deeper water near spawning flats.
Some anglers often miss the spawning beds that are hidden in the weed beds. Largemouth will spawn from 2 – 8 feet of water, and small openings in weed beds provide perfect protection for them. Use a soft plastic worm or craw imitation and drop it into openings in the weeds. Watch your fishing line, as the bass will often attempt to simply pick up the “intruder” and move it out of the nest.
Cruising largemouth looking for places to make beds will often fall prey to crankbaits at this time of year, too. Crankbaits also allow you to cover a great deal of water. When cranking, you are more apt to get your lure in front of a hungry Largemouth looking to fatten up before the spawn. Crankbaits are a good post-spawn choice as well, as they will often illicit a reaction bite from even non-aggressive fish.
Look for light spots in shallower water with dark centers. These are Smallmouth beds. Throw a soft plastic or jig out past the bed and slowly drag it into the bed. Stop the lure in the bed and watch for the fish to pick it up. Tubes, worms, and jigs can work well at this time of year.
Jerkbaits work well in clear water at this time of year. Concentrate on the staging areas – the deeper water near spawning flats. Vary your cadence and pay attention to what the fish want. They will be looking for an easy meal to fatten up on before they spawn.
Stripers start to spawn when the water temp reaches 60. They will spawn in water temps from 61 – 69 degrees in places where there is moderate to swift current.
As with other bass species, Stripers will want to fatten up before the spawn. Follow the schools of shad and you will find your quarry (no fish finder needed, ahem). Jigging silver spoons is a good technique for spring Stripers and, as with other fish, any bait that closely imitates a dying or injured bait fish will give the allure of an easy meal.
White Bass head up creeks and rivers to spawn. They can be found in high densities far upstream, so target these areas for them around spawning time in moving water. The perfect spawning water temperature for White Bass is 54 – 68 degrees. Try areas that hold fish normally such as points and bridges for some great spring action.
When the water heats up in the summer, bass look for cooler places to hide. They are cold-blooded animals, so they will look for areas with the water temperatures they prefer. This can mean different things to different species, and even on different bodies of water.
Personally, I prefer kayak fishing during the summer. It limits the gear you can bring onto the boat (just make sure you have versatile rod-and-reel combo), but nothing beats the tranquility and quiet of angling from a ‘yak.
Summer Bass Fishing Tips:
Summer is a great time for “slop” fishing. Some people love it and some hate it, but fishing a hollow-bodied frog in lily pads and tules can bring some awesome summertime action. Work the frog across the pads and stop it within the holes in the pads. Twitch it a time or two and wait. A slow cadence is sometimes key. Once the fish strikes, resist the urge to set the hook immediately. This is the mistake that many anglers make. Wait to feel the weight of the fish, and then rear back and set the hook. Use a high-speed reel to help you get the fish out of heavy cover.
Even in the heat of summer, largemouth can be found shallow. They do look for shade and cover, though, so fishing soft plastics around wood and docks is a great way to lure them out of their hideouts. Jigs and Texas-rigged crayfish imitations, as well as worms, are great choices this time of year. Fish each piece of cover completely. There will often be more than one fish on any given dock or laydown.
Early in the morning, look for rocky points and use a top water lure such as a Zara Spook. Use twitches of the rod tip to make the lure “walk the dog”, or move from side to side. Experiment with different cadences to see what the fish want. Again, to practice any fishing rod would do, don’t overspend when you are just learning.
Smallies like to go deep, where the water is cooler, in the summertime. Look for deep rock humps using your electronics. They will often hold Smallies when the water warms. A drop shot is a great tool for summer Smallies. It is a finesse technique that will often get finicky or highly-pressured fish to bite. Small finesse worms or shad imitations are great drop shot choices.
Wind-blown points, especially rocky points, are great places to find Smallies as the wind blows in the plankton on which the bait fish feed. These places are also often home to an abundance of crayfish. Hungry Smallies will often not be too far away, and lures such as twin tail grubs and soft plastic flukes can entice strikes, especially at feeding times.
Follow flocks of birds and you will find the stripers. The birds are keyed in on pods of shad or bait fish. And where there are bait fish, there are sure to be stripers, too, looking for an easy meal.
Big topwater baits are perfect for summer Stripers. Big topwaters can call bass up from fairly deep water, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a shallow-water only technique. It’s important to use a bait that closely mimics the available forage, and a topwater does a great job of imitation a dying shad. Swimbaits are great for reaction strikes in all depths of water where stripers are found. They are also a great search bait.
Swimbaits are a great choice for Stripers in all depths of water. They imitate shad, which is the primary forage for most Striped Bass. Work them in such a way as to mimic a sick or dying shad. Stripers can’t resist an easy meal.
In summer, White Bass come out of the rivers and tributaries and hit the main parts of the lake. They are migratory, and patterning them in the summer, some say, can be easier than during their spring migration. Watch for pods of bait fish and pay close attention to the birds, which are easier to see. The birds eat at the same restaurants the White Bass do, the Chez Shad is very popular with both, and following the birds will help you find the White Bass.
Learning New Techniques
Catch ’em & grill ’em!
For bass anglers, there is really no “bad” season for bass fishing. They have somewhat predictable patterns based on weather, water temperatures, and available structure and cover. Learning the habits of these finned creatures can definitely help beginners and pro anglers catch more fish.
Paying attention to everything around you is key to having a good day on the water, no matter the time of year or the species. These fishing tips for bass is just the beginning, as time and experience in this sport will only make you better. Every day on the water is a learning experience, with the fish being the teachers and the angler, the student. So before you rush out to get the best bass lures or bait, work on your skills a bit.
Regardless of the above bass fishing techniques… a little bit of luck never hurt anyone, either. 🙂
Lastly, if you want a thorough instructional video on banking, this is it: