Before I even get started, if you’re reading this and find bed fishing for bass to be negative in any way possible by all means stop reading. My personal take on this format of fishing is actually better compared to that of hunting but with an even better take as I practice catch and release 100% of the time. With that said, I find bed fishing extremely intense, nerve racking and just a plain old good time. If you question my sportsman ethics than you clearly have no idea who and what I’m all about. I respect everyone’s views, you don’t need to respect mine.
On to the basics.
First and foremost, there is one common thing that a sight fisherman needs, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. This should be common sense but when your trying to see the bass that you intend to catch, being able to see into the water without glare is highly beneficial. If you haven’t been to the eye doctor in a while be sure you do, prescription sunglasses or contacts will obviously aid your sight. Also a large brimmed hat as well as a hood can also assist in blocking out additional light.
When sight fishing, it’s equally important that you can see the fish and at the same time you don’t want the fish to see you. Keep in mind what your wearing, a red shirt isn’t the best idea. I like to wear colors that match the sky such as certain shades of blue or white and if there is a lot of cover around you than you may want to consider camouflage. I meant it when I said it, it’s more like hunting than fishing.
When it comes to equipment you want to factor which species of bass your going after, whether it be largemouth or smallmouth. In my experience I consider smallmouth bass much easier to catch off a bed and therefor I don’t change up my presentation all that much. I usually just use a spinning rod with 8 lb. fluorocarbon and whatever plastic bait seem to be best. When it comes to smallies you can simply chalk it up to their overall attitude, they don’t care if your right there, they’ll bite it damn it, it’s just that simple. I’ve caught them before and placed them back on the bed just to make another cast with the same lure and catch them again. They got a bad attitude and frankly belong in a loony bin, that’s why I love ’em so much.
Mainly I want to focus on tips to catching largemouth as I consider them much harder to catch while spawning. As a general rule, big mouths are much more finicky and more aware of their surroundings.
Equipment is a very big key in bed fishing. I’ve found a three step process of baits key to triggering a bite. It’s a process, sometimes the first bait will do the trick and other times the third and final bait will do the trick.
My first bait choice is a white 1/2 oz. jig. I like the 1/2 oz. jig because it’s heavier, gets on the bed quick and is easier to bring to life without pulling it off the bed. Really any jig will do but there is a couple modifications that I feel makes the jig more efficient. First I cut the skirt way down, above the bend of the hook. Largemouth aren’t hungry this time of year but they are very territorial. Most of the time they’ll nip at the bait and spit it off the bed, so I try not to leave them nothing to nip at without getting hook. The other thing I do is cut off the weedguard completely, again I don’t want anything to come between me and the fish. I use white so I can see it, not for the fish. Again they’re very territorial, more often than not they don’t care what the bait looks like, they want it gone and there’s only one way to get rid of something, their mouth, if bass had hands we’d never catch them off beds, pure and simple. I also don’t use a trailer, again it’s not necessary, always try to avoid the short strike.
If the area you are fishing is real snag filled than instead of the jig I’d go with a texas rigged plastic such as a weightless senko or a weighted tube or Beaver.
Lastly, I always have a dropshot close by with light line and a very dear to my heart certain plastic. If I wasn’t sponsored by this company I’d honestly never open my mouth about these plastics, they are simply the best. I’ve used them before when they were prototypes on smallmouth and ran out within in hour. At Diamond Valley Lake in California earlier in the month, they outproduced every other plastic I had including California’s precious Roboworm (Mourning Dawn). The bait I reluctantly speak of is the Biovex Kolt Fish Tail, a bait that comes to life in the water and quivers like no other bait I’ve ever seen. Also it floats, this is very key when bed fishing with a dropshot rig because I want that bait to sit right in front of the bass’s face. Additionally the bait has numerous tiny holes going through it that aids in its buoyancy, I find a better trait in that these tiny holes produce small bubbles exactly like a live baitfish would.
On the terminal side of things I go with a heavier weight similar to the same reasons of the jig. I want the bait to get down as quick as possible and when I impart action I want the weight to be an anchor and keep the rig on the bed. The hook is very important and I go with the best out there, a Trokar Dropshot Hook. There isn’t a sharper hook on the market and when I finally get that bass to bite, I want a hook that will bite back. Lastly I use fluorocarbon line mainly 8 lb. test.
One note on line selection that I feel is very important. Usually I try to use the heaviest line I can get away with almost all my regular fishing, the exception being when sight fishing. I know a lot of anglers would argue this point but while sight fishing I want to use the lightest line I can get away with, key words being “that I can get away with”. The reason for this is lighter line will let your bait be more realistic and give it more of a natural action. When the key is soliciting a bite by annoying the bass I find this tip to be very crucial. Fluorocarbon always gets the nod here as well, when sight fishing you need to be always thinking stealth. Invisible is as stealthy as it gets so I’m always going to make sure the bass can’t see my line.
Now that we’re rigged for battle, it’s time to catch some fish. This is by far the most addicting way to catch them for several reasons. This is the best time of year to catch a true trophy, the females are the largest and they’re extra plump now. You can see the fish and have to initiate a strike without spooking her, way easier said than done. When I come across a fish on the bed the first thing I do is move on and make a mental note of where the bass is. Some people will mark the bed with a long stick or a weight/fishing line/bobber combo. This simply aids them in making accurate casts. I haven’t used this but I can see how it could be beneficial. Basically once I spot a bass on her bed I’ll simply trolling motor away and develop a game plan. Remember if you come across one on a bed there’s a good chance the bass already saw you too. So calming the situation is key plus it gives you time as well. I’ll position my boat so that my shadow doesn’t cast over the bed, that would not be a good idea so sun in the face or better yet from the side would be best. I get myself to where I can barely see the bed and use the the fishes lateral line as a visual aid. It’s like one of those 3D pictures, you stare long enough and you’ll see nothing but the hidden image.
Once I feel like I’m in perfect position, I’d ideally drop my Power Poles. Unfortunately, at this time I don’t have this anchor system on my boat but it is a must come this Fall when I’m rigging up my new boat. There are so many advantages to having Power Poles and this is surely one of them.
I’ll start with the jig and make a long pitch past the bed. It’s important to not cast it directly onto the bed as you’ll almost always spook the fish, so instead cast beyond and swim it onto the bed. Now is a crucial time as you can see the mood of the bass. If the bass swims quickly off the bed and doesn’t come back relatively quickly, you may be screwed and need to come back. If the bass spooks off the bed it’s very important that you leave the jig on the bed until she comes back. You may not see the bass anymore but I guarantee she is watching the bed and the fact that there is something foreign in her space will most likely draw her back.
Now that you have a bass on the bed and your jig is also on the bed it’s up to you to use your annoying traits and produce a bite. I start by lightly quivering the jig ever so seductively, meanwhile constantly watching the bass and paying close attention to how it reacts. With some luck on your side the bass will start showing signs of being highly annoyed of your jigs presence. An annoyed bass will nose down on your bait, start fanning it’s fins trying desperately to intimidate your bait into leaving. Remember they’re not hungry therefor they’re not going to eat it, to get your bait in their mouth you need to make the bass feel like the only way this thing gets out of their area is by moving it and lucky for us they need to use their mouths to do just that.
If I haven’t been bit yet, I’ll start getting real erratic with the jig by making quick violent hops with the bait. If the bass turns broadside, I’ll whack her on the belly with the bait, trust me it works, you’ll get a similar reaction as you would if you hit on some UFC fighters girlfriend and then put your finger in his face after he confronts you. Through all this remember, if the white disappears, SET THE HOOK! The bass will simply crush the bait and spit it off the bed, so cat like reflexes are a must!
If all this isn’t initiating a bite or you keep missing on the hook set go to your dropshot and nine out of ten times they grab it instantly. By doing this your creating a reaction bite, the bass was getting conditioned to your jig and all of a sudden another fish jumped on it’s bed, game over.
I hope this gives a few readers a better understanding of bed fishing, it wasn’t that long ago that I thought this style of fishing was by far my worst, but little did I know I’m pretty darn good at it, it just takes patience and practice. Please remember to be responsible during this time of year, the bass are reproducing and it’s important to practice catch and release. There’s no denying that bed fishing has a few negatives that come along with it but honestly I’d much rather catch a fish from it’s bed before it’s even laid eggs than to catch a male while he’s protecting his fry and people do that all the time and not even realize they’re doing it.
No matter what, please practice catch and release, it’s for the livelihood of our sport and if everyone keeps the fishes well being in mind than there’s no reason we can’t all enjoy hunting our favorite quarry.