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In Pursuit of Bass

Pennsylvania’s bass season is about to get into full swing; from April 8 to June 9, it is catch and immediate release only, but after that, you can keep four per day.

I personally don’t keep any bass, but I sure do like catching them on lakes, ponds, and in rivers, and streams. Pennsylvania has three different bass — the smallmouth, the largemouth, and the spotted bass — however, the spotted bass is pretty rare in most of our state.

Largemouths mostly inhabit lakes and ponds, and smallmouths are found mostly in rivers and streams.

Smallmouths do show up in some of our lakes, and I have even taken an occasional largemouth in the river.

A lot of the same fishing techniques and lures can be used to take both species, but if I plan to go after largemouths, I’m heading to a lake somewhere, and June is a good month.

The good thing about going after largemouths in June is the water temperatures are decent, and the bass have moved out of the deeper water to complete their spawning in shallower water. That means bass are active and can often be found in a variety of spots on the lake, including shallow weeded areas, drop-offs, the edges of deep weed growth, and structures at various locations.

How I fish for largemouths at this time often depends on the time of day I’m fishing. If I’m fishing in the earlier morning hours, I’ll probably concentrate my efforts on lily pads and weedy shallow bays, and a favorite lure presentation is a top water lure.

There’s no shortage of topwater lures, and a soft-bodied plastic frog imitation is hard to beat. The hooks lie up tight to the soft body, and thus, it is pretty much snag-resistant. No doubt bass are used to nailing frogs in this environment since that is the frog’s home base. I use a baitcasting outfit for this presentation since it handles heavier line easier, and in this weedy stuff, I want the strength and backbone to haul a bass out.

Believe it or not, there are a few of us out there who also use a fly rod to take bass, and a stout nine-foot fly rod with a popper or frog imitation can also be very effective in taking bass in the lily pads and weedy flats. There are a bunch of other surface lures that one should have on hand as well. Fore and aft prop baits can be very effective, especially in a bit deeper water. You should also have stick baits and crawlers like jitterbugs and chuggers.

If I’m in a search mood for bass, I will often go to a spinnerbait, usually one with a Colorado blade, because it creates more vibration on the retrieve and hopefully attracts more strikes. I like the spinnerbait in both fairly shallow water out to mid-depths of ten or so feet. If I’m fishing it deeper, I’ll count it down for a bit and then start my retrieve; I often use a stop-and-go retrieve to make it look more like a wounded or injured bait.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite methods for taking largemouths is with soft plastics like Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, and a wacky rig. While these rigs can be fished in shallow water, they are especially productive in some of the deeper areas — water in the five or six-foot range and deeper.

I rig my Carolina and Texas rigs on baitcasting gear, providing more power for harder hook setting, but when it comes to the wacky rig, I go to a fairly heavy open-faced spinning outfit loaded with 20-pound test braided line with about seven feet of 6-10-pound fluorocarbon at the business end. The braided line casts further, easier; it has greater strength for its diameter, and the sensitivity is far greater. I think this last factor is a major one since when fishing these soft plastic presentations. I rely almost entirely on feel, and the tap of a strike is telegraphed much better with the braided line.

There are certainly a lot of other presentations that will take largemouths, but this will be a good start to a day of pursuing largemouths.