Ron Hustvedt with a dandy largemouth bass
Anglers tend to go through a natural progression—first they are satisfied to just catch fish; second, they are satisfied if the number of fish they catch is high; and third, they are satisfied if the fish they catch are big.
Ron Hustvedt with a dandy largemouth bass
That seems to be how it goes for most anglers, though not all. The trouble with this progression is often in making the step from being happy with numbers to desiring bigger fish. For a whole variety of reasons, it seems that a significant number of lakes around the state have a similar size structure when it comes to bass.
Green Lake near Spicer is a great example of this phenomenon. There are a ton of smallmouth bass in the lake, the bulk of which are three-pounders. For proof of this look no further than the standings from a recent bass tournament. Take the average weight and divide by the number of fish and the figure is right around three pounds.
Perhaps Green Lake is a bad example because not many lakes are known for having such an impressive average. On most lakes with healthy largemouth populations, the average tends to be in the one to two pound range. These bass are always willing to bite and are fun to catch, but spend a day catching nothing but one to two pounders and many anglers begin wondering if they can do better.
This is the point where regular anglers and tournament anglers have in common. While catching fish is the name of the game, there’s that desire for larger fish.
For tournament anglers, finding those larger fish is the difference between taking home a payout or going home with nothing but good stories. For average anglers it’s the difference between a good day on the water and a day you remember forever.
The challenge for both the regular and tournament angler is pinpointing locations and presentations for those larger bass roaming the lake. It is a pursuit that sometimes pays off, literally and figuratively, and sometimes doesn’t.
John House with a meaty Mississippi River smallmouth
An angler has to stay incredibly open-minded and you can always follow seasonal patterns where the fish should be but at any given time you need to be able to switch it up and use something a bit different to catch that fish that’s a little more difficult to catch.
It’s the old versatility game but it is much easier to talk about it than to apply it and be successful. There are days when being versatile and open-minded works and there are days when it won’t—both for the fish and the angler. The key here is to realize that fact and not let it frustrate you.
Leaving the comfort zone
For a lot of bass anglers, a favorite method is pitching a jig tipped with plastic. The jig remains the most versatile of lures because it works shallow and deep, along the rocks, under docks and in the weeds. There will be days, however, when you won’t get a single bite on it.
Most anglers have their chosen methods of fishing and those lures they are confident in using. There comes a time, however, when one must leave their comfort zone either to get on bigger fish or to figure out why there isn’t a bite.
There comes a point where you say, this is my bread and butter and what I’m comfortable doing, but it’s not working and I need to switch. When is it the best time to switch? When you are not satisfied with the results.
Though not preferred, most anglers are more versatile then they imagine and have the ability to switch gears for larger fish. Those who don’t have this will achieve it with more time spent on the water.
A lot of bass anglers throw plastics in the spring, jigs in the summer and spinnerbaits in the fall. That right there is three different techniques making you a versatile angler—as long as you keep those applications in your back pocket you can pull them out at anytime.
Tom Braaten with a six-pound largemouth bass from a lake known for "producing lots of small bass"
Bass all over the place
This is the time of the year when bass can be found almost everywhere on the lake or in the river. They are up on the inside weedlines, in the sloppiest weedbeds, along the weed edges and on the deep breaklines.
If you want to catch fish all day, the shallow locations are generally better because you are target fishing. Anglers who want to catch some fish with size, however, should go to the deeper water where bass tend to school up.
You won’t catch fish consistently all day but you have the opportunity to catch a bunch of fish in a short time and if you find the right spot you could catch 15 to 20 of them and they could be all different sizes or a bunch of four-pounders.
The thing to remember is that versatility is the key to success and to not get frustrated if the fish don’t cooperate. That’s just the nature of fishing.
The author with a "rockin' big bass" as his two-year old likes to call it (legitimately caught by said two year old)