Local Sports

Fishing for trophy bass

Fishing for the elusive giant Florida largemouth bass is an occasional quest for many bass anglers and ‘the mission’ and single reason for going bass fishing for a select number of bass anglers. After all, tricking the largest bass in the lake to take a bait with a line and hook attached to it is not easy to achieve, or everyone would be doing it.

Trophy bass anglers start-out their lofty endeavor by selecting baits based on what they have either heard or read, or perhaps witnessed firsthand from fellow anglers in their bass fishing community.

They might know of a certain bass angler who uses a seven-inch black and blue laminate senko-type plastic worm, and catches bass over 10 pounds regularly on all types of lakes in central Florida.

So, they buy that bait type and fish it in all the usual places they have always fished, areas that always yield small to medium sized bass in large numbers with a few in the eight-pound range on occasion.

Most of the time in many angler’s cases, they find ‘one retrieval strategy’ that worked well on most days, so this is the retrieve method used. The problem arises however that they don’t catch huge trophy bass, but instead catch the same size bass they always caught on their old baits. The conclusion they reached, “This bait is no better than my favorite go-to bait, it’s a myth and was a waste of money.”

What this type of angler has failed to take into account, is that the largest bass in the lake has memory of the lake’s food-chain and understands how those baitfish act when approached. The state-record bass doesn’t make many mistakes if any at all when it comes to feeding on forage. In fact, it has down patently, exactly what creatures act like when it swims into the feeding grounds for the first feeding of the day.

It is this information —the feeding domain characteristics of the 22-pound bass—that ‘must’ be understood and duplicated perfectly by the angler and his bait, before a feeding strike or territorial strike will result.

‘Hunger and curiosity’ are the two biological drivers that large bass are motivated by. The angler must be able to harmonize with both to participate within the forage of the giant bass.

To appeal or harmonize with hunger, the angler must choose a bait that ‘matches the hatch’ as the saying goes. Large bass prefer easy-to-eat creatures over challenging-to-eat members of the food-chain. A bluegill has to be eaten head first or the bass could die with a dorsal fin caught in its throat, impeding swallowing the potential meal and all future meals. A shiner, shad, or needlefish can be eaten from head or tail and travel with larger schools of their species. These species are the more desirable members of the food-chain and thus are selected more often.

To appeal or harmonize with ‘curiosity’ the angler must choose a bait that acts exactly like an easy-to-eat bait species. Then perfect the bait presentation that replicates exactly the bait fish’s evasive action, used when it doesn’t want to be eaten. Can you picture what this action looks like? If you’re thinking of a ‘set pattern of natural movement’ you’re way off. If you’re thinking erratic, unpredictable, unnatural movements, you’re half way to success.

When the ‘Hawg of a lifetime” senses your seven-inch senko worm, it is used to the potential meal sensing her presence too. And if your worm doesn’t change swimming action to an ‘evade and escape’ movement; one that is random, chaotic and unpredictable, the smartest bass in the lake will know something is, in fact, abnormal and unnatural and will not operate within the state of hunger or curiosity but instead become cautious.

However if the angler retrieves the bait in such a manner as to cause the appearance of a bait fish hiding and swimming scared from point of cover to point of cover, both ‘curiosity and hunger triggers’ automatically kick-in naturally. The bass moves into position for a strike under such familiar instances.

So in the case of fishing with such a huge worm, as this angler uses, a steady retrieve might get the trophy bass’s attention briefly, but only long enough to compare ‘natural baitfish reaction’ with what it remembers as the ‘norm’, during its successful feedings.

Take for instance your casted worm splashed into the water within the vegetative cover, and as it fell to the bottom the big girl turns to take a look. If she sees the worm immediately swims fast to the first piece of vegetation and rests at the plant’s base, she moves closer and slower for a possible strike. And if at this time the angler advances the bait with quick single random jerks of the rod tip followed by a pause every time the bait comes in contact with vegetation bases, she will execute an attack strategy sensing all things are normal..

The more the bait moves in a non-discriminate, random movement designed to hide from sight, the greater the percentages are that she will make a mistake; having the biological triggers of curiosity and hunger blurring her evaluation process.

Her hearing picked up the baits entrance into the water. Her eyes noted the first movement to safety and subsequent movements to safety from a scared bait fish that, knows a giant bass is there watching. At this time she smells the bait’s scent caused by the movement and moves-in for the kill. As a last resort, the bait fish moves straight up to escape the sucking action and them moves straight down attempting to hide again.

Florida’s 22-pound trophy bass spends a lot of time on the short daily migration route between the deepest water area and the closest bait-inhabited shoreline vegetation. Artificial bait must therefore act unnaturally (state of being hunted) in order to force a mistake within the record-sized bass’s senses, creating an urgency to attack intruders and satisfy hunger, which is the normal state in the ‘fish-eat-fish’ world.

Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist in Central Florida. The full article can be accessed at BassFishingForecast.com and FloridaBassFishingForecast.com. Main website: HighlandsBassAngler.com Phone: (863) 381-8474. Email: davidpdouglass@hotmail.com.