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So you think you want to get into Bass Fishing, but you don't know where to start? Feeling Overwhelmed by all of the lures, techniques and equipment? Whether you're in your teens or have teens, it can be overwhelming and seemingly too expensive. The good news is, that there are many that have come before you that have learned some of the pitfalls and lessons that can be helpful to a beginner. From hooks to boats and motors, there is a lot to think about, but as a beginner, you should slow down and consider some basics. Here, we will give you suggestions to consider as you get into the exciting sport of bass fishing.
Equipment - Start Simple
You can't catch fish without equipment... so that is where we will start. Some of you may already have some equipment. Instead of skipping ahead, read through and think about these suggestions and recommendations considering what you already own. Instead of diving into the technical details of equipment here, the suggestions will be high level - appropriate for a beginner. As detailed content is available, it will be linked from here.
As a beginner, I would suggest two rods. You will be limited in techniques and skill in the beginning, so there is no need for buying 5 - 6 rods. Generally, there are two types of rods to consider - Fiberglass and Graphite. As a beginner, I would suggest you go with fiberglass or a fiberglass / graphite hybrid for two reasons.
1 - They are much tougher than graphite if you are rough on them.
2 - They are usually cheaper, so if you do break them or decide that bass fishing is not for you... you're not out a lot of money.
I have had Ugly Stick rods since I started, and they are still in perfect shape today. They are the same rods that my sons are currently learning on. For the purpose of learning, I would suggest you get 1 spinning rod and 1 bait casting rod. Those are both available here:
A 6'6" medium heavy rod is a good general-purpose rod for many different techniques. If you had one rod, to be as versatile as possible, this is it. I suggest getting a spinning rod as well as a bait casting rod, especially if you have not gotten used to using a bait caster. You will find that this takes some time, and you may way to have a spinning setup as well so that you can continue to fish while you are learning to use a bait caster.
When considering reels, the selection is vast. With reels, you get what you pay for, but you can also spend a lot. However, for the beginner this is not necessary. When you are first starting out, a good quality 6 to 1 ratio reel will suffice. A 6:1 ratio means that for every turn of the handle, the spindle rotates 6 times. 6:1 is a moderate speed retrieve reel, being neither too slow nor too fast. As you gain skill, you will find that there are times where a faster or slower reel is necessary, but for just starting out, 6:1 is perfect. For the price and the quality, I recommend the following reels:
Are there better reels? Absolutely, but you will pay for it. These reels are in the $70 range, but you can spend hundreds. For a beginner, the quality and price of these reels are perfect.
Techniques and Lures
There are thousands of lures combinations and techniques that can easily overwhelm and confuse a new angler. Lure type, color, weight, size… How to match it with your rod and reel… the combinations are endless. When you walk into a tackle shop you can get lost as a new angler. Listening to older, more wise anglers as I was learning – I was told of a statistic. Maybe it’s real or maybe it’s made up, but it sounds accurate and makes a point. 80% to 90% of all lures purchased never catch a fish, mostly because they never see the water. As a beginner, it would be easy to walk into a tackle shop and drop last week’s paycheck, just on tackle… but we can prevent that. For learning, there are two things I would like the beginner to focus on. The trusty old Carolina Rig and the Shaky Head Rig. I would ignore everything else, until you’re comfortable fishing these two rigs and catching fish.
Shaky Head Fishing
Lakes or Ponds
Now that you have some equipment, lures and are familiar with the techniques, you just need a place to fish. If you’re still reading, chances are you already know of a lake or a pond that you are going to be fishing. If you have access to a pond that you know has bass in it, this is a perfect place to learn. The body of water is usually small enough that the fish are more concentrated and, usually, it has less fishing pressure. I am not going to get into all of the details around what fish are doing at what time of the year here, but in a pond – you can usually fish deep or shallow from the bank, so work your lure in both areas until you start getting bit. Focus on stumps, blow downs (trees in the water) or areas of water depth change that you can see.
However, most of us will be fishing in a lake or a river. This presents more of a challenge because of the size and depth of these bodies of water. Fishing from the bank, you are limited in the same way you are with a pond. I would find a creek arm or pocket and fish there, regardless of if you’re on the bank or in a boat. Instead of thinking about a lake in its totality, think about a creek or part of a creek and focus on that area, fishing shallow to deep until you locate fish. Use the techniques that you have learned to fish this area thoroughly. Once you have caught multiple fish or found that there are no bites – then move on to other similar areas nearby.
There is much more to detail on locating fish in a body of water at certain times of the. year. Check back here for links to more instruction on that topic.
When To Upgrade
Once you have gotten comfortable casting and catching on your current rigs and techniques, it is time to start upgrading and expanding your techniques. There are many considerations to make when it comes to what’s next. You can choose to learn other techniques on your current equipment, you can upgrade your equipment, or you can do both.
If you choose to learn a new technique, I would look at two simple techniques that are easy to learn and effective. Any type of top water fishing would be a great addition to your technique repertoire as well as using a lipless crankbait. These two techniques will allow you to now catch fish that aren’t relating to the bottom. My go to top water bait is a Luckycraft Gunfish. Once you learn how to walk this bait with your bait caster, it is an excellent choice at targeting actively feeding fish. My favorite lipless crankbait is a ½ ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad in Sexy Shad color. This is a great bait to throw when there are active fish.
If you choose equipment upgrade, I would consider moving to a graphite rod, with the same reels. Graphite is more sensitive and will allow you to feel more fish or structure than you can with fiberglass. By now, you can start to recognize what is a fish versus a rock or stump and switching to a graphite rod will help you feel even more. I personally like the Abu Garcia Veritas for the price and quality for an angler who is emerging from the beginning stages of learning.
Now I Want a Bass Boat...
You’ve caught the bug... you’re thinking about a bass boat. While there is a lot to consider when looking at a bass boat, there are a few key points to consider.
Are you going to fish casually or occasionally? If so, you might want to consider a smaller motor with a smaller boat. Not only will this be much cheaper, there is just no reason to have a large boat with enough storage for a serious tournament angler with a 250 hp engine to get you there. If you can afford it, that’s fine – but it’s a bit of overkill for the casual angler. I would look for a new or used 17-18-foot boat with about 150-200 hp. With any boat purchase, ensure that it is checked out by a professional boat mechanic before purchase.
If you want to do more than casual, weekend fishing – check out these considerations.
Clubs and Tournaments
Finally, one of the best ways for a new angler to learn once they are beyond the beginner stage is to join a local bass club or fish smaller tournaments. Local clubs are the best option for anglers who are eager to learn. As you are looking for clubs, make sure the club you are looking to join has members willing to teach you. The club I am a member of has teaching and learning as one of its stated goals. You will find that there are some clubs that are more about the money... while there is nothing wrong with those clubs, it may be a little harder to learn, so avoid these at first.
Tournaments are also a great way to learn. Other than club tournaments, anglers of any age can join larger tournament circuits for a fee. Major League Fishing's Bass Fishing League (BFL) has one of the most popular amateur tournament leagues around. In the BFL, you can fish locally as a boater or non-boater. You can choose to fish one tournament, or multiple tournaments. See their website for more details. If you are a member of B.A.S.S or Major League Fishing, you can also sign up to be a tournament marshal, where you ride along with a professional angler and report results and pictures back to tournament officials. This is an excellent, no-pressure way to learn directly from the best.
For further reading and education, Kevin Van Dam has published a great book. I consider it a must own.
There is a lot to consider when starting out bass fishing, but with some guidance and resources like Bass Intelligence, you can be catching more, bigger bass in no time.