The season is upon us to start looking for bass in the shallows, especially in clear water impoundments. It’s easy to waste many hours trying to entice a bass to eat a bait. By understanding a few characteristics of bedding bass, you can make better decisions on which ones to spend time on—and help make your fishing trip more enjoyable.
As with all techniques in fishing, it’s important to have the right equipment. There are two things I would never go sight fishing without: sunglasses and Power-Poles. A good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must. I use Smith Action Optics, and their techlite polarized glasses are also photo-chromatic so it minimizes the need for several pairs of glasses for different lighting conditions.
While sight fishing can be done from the bank, if you are fishing from a boat, Power-Poles are critical. If you don’t have Power-Poles, a good anchor can work, but look into adding Power-Poles when and if you can.
A quick side note: bedding fish are in the process of reproducing, and while I am not a fisheries biologist, catching fish in that stage can be detrimental to a fishery. With that said, bed fishing can be a great time, and an especially good time to take a kid or new angler fishing. By releasing the fish immediately after catching it, in the same location, you can minimize the impact on spawn.
It is very important to be as sneaky as possible. When possible, wear clothes that blend in with the surroundings and stay as far from the bedding areas as possible. No matter what you do, a fish will usually see you before you see it. This is the first sign of how catchable a fish is. Most fish can be classified in three categories immediately.
The first category is easy to figure out. I call it “locked on:” a bass that doesn’t move from its bed when it sees you or your bait is locked on. These fish are the easiest to catch, and if it’s the size you are looking for, it’s worth the time to fish for it.
The second and third categories start the same, but end differently. They both start by a targeted fish leaving the bed. You can begin to decipher the catch-ability of a fish by seeing how fast it moves from the bed. Fish moving faster from the bed are less catchable than those that slowly wander off.
Next, focus on how far it moves from the bed. Does that fish moves completely out of sight, or does it just move to slightly deeper water where it can keep an eye on the bed? In the latter case, you might be able to entice the fish back to the bed quickly by throwing a bait onto its bed. I call fish like this “skittish” and they are catchable, for the most part. For the right fish, I will spend time working on fish like this.
For fish that move completely out of sight, it might be necessary to continue down the bank and return a little later in the day. Since you already know where that fish is, you can mark the spot and return in a more “stealthy” mode. If that fish once again leaves the bed, then it might not be worth fishing for. If it’s an absolute giant or a tournament game-changer, I might return a few times during the day. Otherwise, I won’t waste much time angling for a fish in this stage. I call these fish “not ready.”
By determining whether a fish is locked on, skittish, or not ready, you can better utilize your time on the water. Remember to use your favorite Z-Man Fishing soft plastic bait when bed fishing. Because elaZtech plastic will stay rigged and last longer, you know your bait will be rigged and ready when that fish is ready to eat.
Image courtesy Luke Clausen