How to catch bass

As fall approaches, many novice anglers tend to think that bass fishing season is coming to a close, but that could not be further from the truth. It’s general knowledge that bass get less aggressive in colder water temperatures, but when cooling down from the extreme heat of summer, conditions actually become more favorable for bass.

Depending where you’re fishing, water temperatures can reach as high as eighty and even ninety degrees during the summer. These extreme water temperatures cause bass to get sluggish, and bury themselves in thick vegetation or find cooler temperatures in deeper water. But as the fall air slowly cools the waters, bass get more comfortable and less lethargic.

The cooling water not only brings the bass out of hiding, but it also signals them that winter is coming. This means it’s time to start bulking up for the cold winter months. Which is great news for bass fishermen.

If you’ve always been one to store your rods away after the summer then you’ve been missing out. Between the favorable water temperatures and fishing pressure on most waters being on the decline, this is a great time of year to catch a huge bass.

Here’s a cool fall fishing video that was recently posted of how to work a punch jig in thick vegetation. When the water cools this time of year, the vegetation is starts to die off but there’s usually still plenty of it to create a nice hang out for a bass. This matted vegetation can be a great area to get a giant bass in the fall.

1. Jigs

Bass Jigs

There is no overall better performing lure for fall bass fishing than a jig, like an Original BiCO Jig. Listen to any professional bass fisherman talk about fall fishing and they will always mention a jig. A lot has to do with how much control you have color patterns, between the head, skirt and trailer, you have the ability to zero-in on the exact color-combinations you want to present.

Color selection is especially crucial in the fall, when bass are feeding aggressively for hibernation season, dialed into a pattern of targeting the color of a particular baitfish. So you should really be trying to match the natural prey that bass are feeding on in a particular body of water.

The other advantage to fishing jigs in the fall is you have the ability to slow them down. Towards the end of fall brings cooler water temperatures, making bass more sluggish and less aggressive.

2. Buzzbaits

Buzzbaits

Buzzbaits have a strong reputation for being a springtime bait, and this is because spring is a time when bass are feeding heavily and the water temps are favorable for fast-moving topwater baits. Well, fall brings with it very similar conditions, especially in early fall.

Fall bass are feeding on shad and other baitfish, which is what a buzzbait represents. The sputtering and splashing is designed to send off signals of a small, distressed fish swimming erratically up on the surface.

Similarly, the fall is a time when bass tend to be in and around weeded areas, places where a buzzbait excels. Bass use the weeds as cover to ambush baitfish as they pass by. Running a buzzbait like a Strike King Buzz through grass and along weedlines is a great tactic for luring bass out to explode on the surface.

3. Swimbaits

Swimbaits

If you’re not looking for numbers and it’s big bass you want, then swimbaits are what you should be throwing. At a time of year when bass are gorging on other fish, a swimbait is an excellent choice for anglers pursuing the bass of a lifetime.

As the swimbait craze continues, with it comes new designs of extraordinarily detailed, large profile baits. Whether bass are feeding on bluegill or rainbow trout, with the wide selection out there today, you can almost identically match the species you’re looking to mimic.

Waking a big swimbait like a Spro Rat on a rippled surface, or slow-rolling a soft paddle tail swimbait like a Savage Gear 3D Real Trout are both effective methods for getting a big one to bite in the fall. Most of these big baits are slow-moving and not only represent an easy meal, but a filling one too.

The high water temperatures that summer bring— especially August— actually cause bass to become sluggish and less aggressive. They will head for the depths in search of the comfort of cooler water temperatures. It’s when fall moves in that bass start to venture back to the shallows with a renewed desire to feed.

Fall Bass Fishing

Fall Bass LuresAlthough spring is a much more complex season for bass fishing, it’s actually not all that different from fall in terms of water temperature becoming more favorable. More specifically, it’s similar to when bass move up to shallow water from the depths in search of food.

The only difference is in spring the shallows are warming up and in the fall the they are cooling down, but those temperatures both moving towards more comfortable water is what makes them comparable.

Bass behavior is highly affected by water temperature, they are typically most active in 60 to 75 degree water. In temperatures colder or warmer than that range, bass begin to get more lethargic. Naturally, a lethargic bass is more difficult to catch than an active one, making this temperature range a highly sought after window for bass anglers.

As these more comfortable water temps move in, and with bass sensing that winter is fast approaching, they go into what is known as “the fall feed”. This is a time when bass tend to gorge themselves in preparation for winter. When winter sets in, bass become so lethargic that they barely need to eat at all. In fact, since their bodies burn such little energy these cold conditions they can survive on a single bait fish for an entire month.

Fall Tactics

Big Fall BassBass in general are on a feeding frenzy during the fall, but what makes this season so great for bass fishing is this when the really big bass begin feeding aggressively. An aged bass knows the changes in the seasons well and knows the conditions that lie ahead.

As a result, they know how to prepare. Luckily for bass fishermen, there is no better preparation for bass heading into winter than getting as fat as they can before the water freezes over.

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There are certain techniques for fall bass fishing that when implemented correctly can get big bites right into November. It’s all about the right lures, the right colors, and the right action. Here are few fall fishing tactics that are highly effective this time of year.

Fall Jigging

The great thing about jigs is they are effective year round, but they are especially well known for the best fall bass lure. This is mainly because of how much control you have over their presentation, in terms of color patterns, style of retrieval, and rate of retrieval. This versatility allows you to effectively fish a jig from early fall, right up to Winter just by making adjustments to your presentation.

Swimming a jig in early fall is a great method for getting the active bass that this time of year brings to bite. This is best done by rigging a swim jig with a smaller paddle tail swimbait trailer. Running a swim jig through grass and light vegetation is deadly in early fall.

As waters get colder, bass tend to slow down, so you need to slow down your presentation as well. This is when working a jig slowly on the bottom becomes an effective tactic. Hopping a jig up and down on the bottom portrays an easy meal for slow moving bass.

Burning Fall Buzzbaits

Some professional bass anglers will argue that the post-spawn phase of spring is the best time of year for buzzbaits, and the other half will tell you the fall. No matter what, both times of year bring the similar conditions and buzzbaits are at their peak when fall sets in.

The best part of a buzzbait is how much water you can cover fishing them. You can blast multiple casts at a target and be on to the next one in the same time that you would cast a jig or soft plastic once. This makes the buzzbait a great way to start a fall fishing outing, and quickly determine if that’s the approach bass are looking for.

Burning these baits across the top, in and around weed cover is going to be the high percentage points for a strike. A lot of times the water’s surface is going to tell you whether or not a buzzbait is going to be successful. You should be looking for a slight ripple on the water, and/or baitfish popping on the surface. Shad and other baitfish are the primary prey for bass in the fall, so ripping a buzzbait through areas where they are is ideal.

Slow Rolling Swimbaits

This a fall fishing tactic that leverages the tendency of bass to feed heavily on other fish. It is especially designed to target big bass. This technique can be used with surface swimbaits that wake on the surface or sinking/diving swimbaits that get down deep.

In early fall, when water temps are still up, both style swimbaits can be equally effective. If there is a slight ripple on the surface with some decent cloud cover, you should lean more towards the surface presentation. If the water is rougher than a ripple and/or the sun is shining bright, go with the sinking/diving models.

When the temps get really low in the late fall, your best bet is working a sinking soft plastic paddle tail swimbait very slow on the bottom. You should only be reeling fast enough to give the tail some action, that’s it. When the water is cold, this is an ideal and easy to catch meal for a lethargic bass.

Jerkbaits: Reaction Strikes

As Winter starts to turn the corner, and water temperatures are getting down into the 40’s, a jerkbait is one of the few lures that will get a bass to bite. It’s at this point in the season that bass are so inactive that they no longer need to replenish burned energy and are barely feeding. It’s the jerkbait’s ability to get a reaction strike that gives the a bass angler hope in these cold water conditions.

Jerkbaits have always had strong reputation for being cold water baits, making them very effective in early spring, late fall, and even into winter. This goes for both hard and soft jerkbaits. Whichever you use, the idea is to jerk the bait sparingly, letting it stand still for short periods of time. Those still periods should be relative to the water temp; the colder the water, the longer you should make the bait sit still. Finding the ideal action should be done through trial and error.

In extremely cold water conditions, only soft swimbaits should be used. Unweighted, they have a natural slow sink rate that is appealing to bass in these temps. Once they sink to the bottom, they look like a dead or dying minnow laying waiting to get eaten.

What is a White Sea Bass?

Common Name White Seabass, Seabass, weakfish, white weakfish, corvina, corvinata
Scientific Name (Genus and Species) Atractoscion nobilis
Family Sciaenidae
Identifying Characteristics A large fish with a metallic blue to coppery top coat with dark specks. The belly is silver and there is a black blotch on the inner base of the pectoral.

Juveniles have three to six dark bars on their upper back and yellow fins.

Locations for How to Catch Located from Alaska to the tip of Baja

Kelp forests

Rocky structures and bottoms

Algal bottoms

Surf zone

Depth Range 1-125 meters.
What Do They Eat? Fish

Squid

Crayfish

Size Length: 166 centimeters

Weight: 38 kilograms

Catch Limits Between March 15 and June 15, the White Sea Bass limit is one per day (per person)*. Between June 16 and March 14, the White Sea Bass limit is three per day (per person). *The reason the limit is one between 3/15 and 6/15 is because this is when the White Sea Bass are spawning.

According to Fish and Wildlife (for 2018): “Recreational white seabass takes, per California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

(a) Minimum size: Twenty-eight inches total length or twenty and one-half inches alternate length.

(b) Season: Open all year.

(c) Limit: Three, except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Pt. Conception between March 15 and June 15.”

Largest Recorded Over 5 feet and 93.1 pounds.
Endangered? Was near extinct due to overfishing but due to a reduction in net fishing has been making a comeback. Currently listed as Least Concerned, but are still way below historical levels.
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How to Catch a White Sea Bass Using a Pole

The Ideal White Sea Bass Setup

A 25 and 30 pound rig: Shimano Terez TZS72H Spinning Rodwith an Avet MXJ reel.

The Terez is rated for 50-100lb braid (equivalent to 25-50 mono). You should have the Avet spooled with 65lb braid, then tie on whatever leader you’d like…usually a 30lb mono. This setup will be your workhorse setup.

Use dropper loops with a 4oz sinker and a J-hook. You can also use a 0.5oz lead head on some squid or whatever set up you prefer.

It’ll work great to pull in white sea bass of all sizes…even the big ones!

A good days catch down in Mexico. Source: WikiCommons

5 Tips for Catching White Sea Bass

  1. White sea bass like fresh dead or freshly killed baits. They are lazy eaters and are used to picking up the scraps in the squid grounds.
  2. Grab a live bait and throw it on the deck of the boat to stun it then hook it up.
  3. Fish towards the bottom or let your bait sink slowly to catch the bigger ones.
  4. You don’t need to be an expert angler to catch these fish. Many times the beginners snag the big ones on rental equipment.
  5. Be cognizant that the fish like 65-degree water or below. If you’re out in warm water, you’ll most likely be fishing for another species.

How to Clean and Cook White Sea Bass

Step by Step Instructions

Start by cutting behind the pectoral fin. They have large scales which you’ll need to work through until you feel the skeleton.

Come down the back of the fish. you should feel your knife riding along the backbone. Use the fin on top as a guideline.

Cut straight across the tail.

Cut around the belly and not too deep that you’ll puncture the gut. Follow the center line all the way back towards the tail.

Work deeper into the fish to remove all the flesh from the bones.

Remove the fillet from the fish.

Flip the fish over and do the other side.

You should have two massive fillets now.

Cut down the center until your through the meat but not through the skin. Slide the knife along the skin to remove the skin from the fillet chunks.

Cut out the bones from the fillets.

Shave off the blood meat if you want although it’s not as pungent as a tuna or other fish.

Put them in a container or plastic bag and store it.

Bonus: Remove the stones from the head if you want a keepsake from your white sea bass. They are located right by the brain. It could take a bit of work, but you’ll have a keepsake forever.

Best White Sea Bass Recipe

Ingredients

  1. 1lb white sea bass
  2. 3 garlic cloves
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1.5 tbsp Italian dressing
  5. 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  6. pinch of salt
  7. 2 lemon wedges
  8. 1/3 cup white wine vinegar or white wine

Cooking Steps

Preheat the oven to 450F

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a brush or your hand to coat the white sea bass on all sides.

Pour the white wine vinegar or white wine over the fish.

Place the fish in a deep pan for 15 minutes uncovered. After 15 minutes pull the fish out and drizzle the Italian dressing over the top. Throw it back in the oven for 5 minutes or until perfectly flaky.

Pull the fish out of the oven and put it on a serving plate.

Squeeze the lemon over the fish and pair it with a nice side salad.

Now that’s good eats!

White Seabass Fishing Tips

  • The white sea bass is a lazy eater, so if you’re using a rod and reel, test out killing the bait before dropping it in the water.
  • If you’re spearfishing, it’s critical that you hunt silently. Any noise or bubbles can spook the fish.
  • Remember that if you pull up a good size fish, it might still be under the legal limit. White sea bass should be taken when they are large.
  • Make sure you are careful not to pull out the spear from the fish after it’s been shot. Pull gently on your floatline or reel and steer them into the kelp.
  • White seabass like cooler water so make sure you check the reports before going out if that’s the fish you are after for the day.

Distribution

 Bass Distribution

Worldwide distribution of the European bass.

Bass are found throughout European waters. They are found around Skagerrak and throughout the North Sea, although they are not very common in the Baltic Sea. Their range extends along the Atlantic coastline of France, Spain and Portugal and along parts of the north coast of Africa. They are also present throughout the whole of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Despite the questions over the long-term stability of bass numbers this species appears to be extending their range northwards with bass now being caught with some regularity in areas such as the Yorkshire and North East coasts where they were previously fairly rare.

Commercial Value and Declining Bass Numbers

Bass are in high demand from commercial fisheries and command a high price in restaurants and fishmongers. They are generally caught by trawlers and gill nets. Like many fish species nowadays, bass numbers have been reduced by commercial pressure and there is concern that both the total numbers and average size of bass are rapidly reducing in UK and European waters. In 2013 the UK media reported that bass numbers were at their lowest in twenty years, and that the breeding stock of bass had reduced by almost a third since 2009. A number of measure have been put forward to try and restore bass stocks. These have included banning French pair trawlers from targeting bass just as they are gathering to breed in the English Channel, and in an unprecedented move limiting anglers to a bag limit of three bass per day and the minimum landing size of bass was increased from 36cm to 42cm. However, by 2015 it was clear that the measures were ineffective and bass numbers were still declining.

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Bass: Recreational Angler Limits from 2016

Immature bass

Bass below the minimum size limit of 42cm must be returned.

In response the European Union brought in measures which restricted anglers to fishing for bass on a catch and release basis only for the first six months of 2016, and allowing anglers to retain one bass per day for the second half of the year. There were also limits placed on commercial fishing, although the gill net fishery had its bass quota increased, much to the anger of recreational anglers. The future of bass in Europe’s waters in one of the most important issues in sea fishing at the moment, with ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) – a powerful organisation which advises the EU on quotas and conservation issues – recommending a total ban on all forms of bass fishing (recreational and commercial) in 2017. In the end this did not happen and instead anglers had the same restrictions placed on them in 2017 (catch and release only for the first half of the year and one bass per angler per day for the rest of the year.) The vast majority of commercial fishing vessels are banned from specifically targeting bass in 2017, although they are able to retain generous levels of bass bycatch. In late 2017 it was announced that anglers would only be able to fish for bass on a catch-and-release basis for the entirety of 2018. This was later amended to allow anglers to retain one bass (over 42cm) per angler per day from 1st October to the 31st December 2018.

Related article: Europe’s Bass – A Species on the Edge of Collapse?

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) still classes bass as a species of Least Concern on a global basis, although they note that it has a decreasing number of mature individuals and a decreasing population trend overall. They already class bass as Near Threatened in the Mediterranean region, and it is likley that bass will be reclassified into a new category in the near future if stocks continue to reduce.

Techniques and Methods to Catch Bass

Dusk and dawn are key feeding times for the bigger bass, and they will often search for food around a specific area, usually just behind the breaking waves on big sandy beaches, but plenty of rock marks and estuaries will also hold bass. Many anglers see bass as a predator which hunts down smaller fish. While this is true, all bass – even the very largest – are also scavengers which will constantly search around for food which may be present on or around the seabed. This means that bass can be caught with both lures and bait, although it is worth noting that the largest bass approaching record sizes which anglers catch are almost always caught on bait rather than lures. Smaller school bass are common around harbours and estuaries. As they are less fussy and more common than larger bass they generally make up the majority of catches. Many anglers take a subtle approach when fishing for bass, using specialist bass rods which allow the initially shy bites of bass to be felt while also having the power to cast into the surf. These rods are also lighter than a standard beach caster allowing them to be held comfortably for long periods of time.

Dusk bass fishing

Dawn and dusk can be the best times to target bass.

Bass are renowned as powerful fighting fish and battling one on a properly balanced bass rod can provide great sport. Be careful when unhooking a bass as the spiky first dorsal fin and sharp gill covers are capable of piercing or cutting skin.

Bait Fishing for Bass: Larger bass are thought to be relatively fussy about the baits they take (certainly when compared to voracious feeders such as cod) and will reject unnatural baits. Cocktail baits are therefore generally avoided and something natural looking such as a head-hooked ragworm, a sandeel or a full peeler crab are the most popular baits. Full squid or cuttlefish are underrated baits for bass, as is a large mackerel fillet. Whichever bait is chosen long, flowing snoods should be used as they allow the bait to move in the tidal flow in a natural way. Due to their cautious nature anglers fishing for bass also steer clear of hi-visibility line, using clear mainlines and leaders and clear mono or fluorocarbon hook snoods. Live baiting with sandeels, pouting or other small fish is another technique that can get results – especially in places such as piers where these baits can be easily lowered down into the water.

Lure Fishing for Bass: Lure fishing for bass is also very popular and a whole type of fishing has emerged with lures, plugs and spinners specifically designed to catch bass. This type of fishing is carried out around the UK but is especially common around the southern coasts of England and Ireland and parts of the Welsh coast and Scotland where bass are more numerous. Lure fishing for bass is usually done from rock marks that give access to deep water where bass are likely to be hunting and feeding, although piers, steep beaches, estuaries and harbours can all produce this species to lures – like most aspects of fishing local knowledge is key.

Bass Caught on a Spinner

A bass caught on a spinner.

Many anglers use plugs for bass. These are hard lures, generally made out of plastic, and can be floating or diving in design. Read more about plug fishing for bass by clicking here. Some plugs designed for bass fishing can be extremely expensive, costing upwards of £25 each! However, other plugs are much more modestly priced and many anglers have success lure fishing for bass using relatively cheap spinners which are designed for mackerel or very inexpensive jelly eels and worms. Lure fishing for bass is an active method of fishing with few aspects of sea fishing around the UK more exciting than seeing a bass launch itself at a plug being drawn across the surface of the water.

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