Learning how to catch big bass takes dedication, extensive trial and error, and lots of time on the water. You have to earn every pound of that lunker you’re after. That said, there are several basic tenets of trophy bass fishing that you can implement now to begin your journey to bigger bass.
1. Decide That You Will Only Catch Big Bass
Fishing is a mental sport. While weather conditions and gear selections are important, it’s often your mindset that dictates your success on the water. This is especially true when you’re after trophy bass. You have to decide that you will catch big bass, and only big bass.
In any given lake, there are far fewer large bass than there are small or medium-sized bass. Catching a 12-pound fish becomes a game of numbers and the odds are stacked against you. So, before you go after trophy-sized bass, you have to accept the fact that you won’t catch as many fish. In fact, it’s possible that you’ll get flat-out skunked.
Big bass are solitary creatures; they don’t hang out in schools like smaller fish do. So, if you find yourself in an area that’s producing lot’s of small fish, pull anchor and go somewhere else. It can be tough to pry yourself away from a spot with lots of action, but it’s something you must do if you want to catch the biggest fish in the lake.
2. Locate a Bass Trail
Big bass are generally pretty lazy. In their younger years, they may have traveled greater distances to feed, but once they get old and heavy, they find a nice piece of real estate with plenty of food and call it home. That’s not to say they don’t move around at all; large bass typically have a small home range in which they move throughout the day.
A bass’s home range is generally marked by a series of structures that forms a sort of trail or corridor — a bass trail. Bass trails can be made up of submerged logs, downed trees, thick grass beds, dense weeds, and docks, among other things. Large bass move from place to place along their trail throughout the day, but won’t stray far into other territories.
Once you find a good bass trail, mark it in your GPS or fishfinder and return to it frequently at different times of the day. Take notes of when and where you get strikes and catch fish. Then, you can start patterning the fish and pretty soon you’ll know where, when, and how to catch big bass consistently.
3. Fish Parallel to Structure
One of the best ways to fish a bass trail and other areas with structure is to work your lure parallel along the structure line. Fishing parallel keeps your lure in the strike zone for longer, increasing your chances of getting the lure in front of a bass’s face.
When fishing parallel, position your boat so that you’re far enough away from a likely bass-holding spot, but close enough to make accurate casts. Once you’re in position, work your lure close to the line of structure. Pitch and flip jigs, work spinnerbaits and crankbaits, or swim topwaters past every fishy-looking spot.
4. Throw Bigger Lures
Big fish eat big meals. This goes along with the sentiment that big bass are lazy. They don’t feed all day long like smaller bass do. Instead, they go for meals that yield the biggest return on their energy expended. So, if you want to start catching bigger bass, you better stock up on bigger lures.
Big lures not only entice the appetite of large bass, they also keep smaller fish off your hook. If you try a bunch of different spots and are still only catching small fish, try switching to a bigger lure to weed through the school to get to the bigger fish.
Big spinnerbaits with long trailers, jumbo-sized plastic worms, and giant swimbaits that imitate the local baitfish can all do the trick.
Fish large lures much slower than you would small lures. Sometimes all you need is a nice slow, steady retrieve. Other times, you may want to try incorporating pauses and twitches to help your lure imitate an injured baitfish.
5. Fish Where Others Don’t, Won’t, or Can’t
Big bass are big for a reason. They’ve managed to successfully escape the hooks and coolers of many anglers throughout their lives.
When hunting for trophy bass, seek out the thickest, nastiest cover you can find — places most anglers would consider unfishable. Get creative and take some risks. You might lose a few lures, but the opportunity to catch double-digit bass will be worth it.
If you find a promising looking weedline, chances are the biggest bass won’t be on the edge where you might find smaller fish. Instead, they’ll be back in the thickest part of the weed bed. Try to pitch and flip heavy weedless jigs as far back into the weeds as you can. Be sure to use heavy enough line as you’ll face a serious game of tug-of-war to get a big bass out of the weeds.
If you find a cove full of downed trees, try to fish as far back into the tangle as you can. This style of fishing requires finessed casting and precise lure placement. Probe all the likely spots and hang on because the biggest bass of your life could strike at any moment.
While trophy-sized bass are elusive and hard to catch, just about every lake with a population of largemouth bass will hold some real lunkers. If you’re willing to put in a sincere effort and spend lots of time on the water, you’ll learn how to catch big bass like the pros. Go stock up your tackle box with some big juicy lures, get ready to pass on smaller fish, and be prepared to explore and fish the areas other anglers shy away from.