By Jeff Rowland
Throughout the years, I’ve been astonished more than once at the size of a meal that a bass will attempt to take.
The first time, I was bass fishing an abandoned clear water rock quarry. There were no boats allowed in this pristine and secluded body of water and it had to be fished from the shore. This place had a reputation for producing nice, largemouths and was always a fun and special place to fish. Using an eight-inch, purple Mann’s Jelly Worm, rigged Texas-style, I was pitching into a fallen tree, when I hooked up with a nice little bass in the two-pound range. My cast had gone over a fallen log, so to get the fish in I had to hoist it over the obstacle to prevent a snag or line break. Just as the fish cleared the log, another largemouth came over that log and attacked my catch. This fish was probably pushing seven or eight pounds; it had my catch sideways in its mouth and was trying hard to turn it to swallow it down. I popped the bail open to see what would happen next and after several seconds of being jaw-clamped the smaller bass worked its way out of the bigger fish’s mouth and the predator swam away. I couldn’t believe that the larger bass would even attempt to quench its hunger with a fish about a quarter of its size. I weigh in at about a buck seventy and if you compared this event with proportions of a human level, it would be like me eating 42 pounds of food at one sitting.
The second time I witnessed this phenomenon, I was wade fishing a river for smallmouths. One of my co-workers, who wasn’t a seasoned angler, had heard me talk about the river smallies and wanted to see what it was all about. We had been there for about a half hour when he caught his first-ever bronze back. The fish was around four pounds; after he landed it and started to remove the hook, he asked me a curious question, “Why does a smallmouth have a forked tongue?” I replied that they don’t have forked tongues to which he replied, “Well, this one does.” I waded over to look and what I saw was not a forked tongue, but the tail of a shad protruding out of the fish’s stomach. My next move was a mistake because I'm a firm believer in doing my best to preserve the mortality of caught fish to ensure a healthy release. What I was about to do could easily jeopardize the fish’s recovery, but my curiosity was high and I had to see just how big this shad was. I grabbed my needle-nose and pulled the shad out from the smallie’s stomach. It was easily over a foot long and was at least a fourth of the fish’s weight. The thought of that fish having a full stomach and still going after more food astonished me and had me creating theories in my mind about this kind of behavior.
Both instances were a few weeks post spawn and both species were female…there must be time frames when post spawn females go through gorging periods to recover. I don’t know if that theory is true, but as the years passed, I began to apply my theory during post spawn times and began to throw bigger lures. Changing to bigger lures has turned some pretty nice fish for me through the years and having these lures in your arsenal of tackle is not a bad idea.
There are a number of different lures an angler can try if they choose to go down the “big” path.
Working at Bass Pro Shop, I have seen this lure become very popular and it seems every season we are stretching space to add more swim baits. There are many options in this category from soft plastic to seasoned, hard baits. These days, size is up to you. There are many very large swim baits in today’s market and don’t forget to check out the Muskie aisle. Many bass anglers are using big Muskie swim baits with success.
Worms and lizards
These lures in the 10 to 12 inch range are proven oldies, can be used in many different depths, and are very versatile. They can be dropped weightless into cover or drug on the bottom with a worm weight. They can be rigged Carolina-style and fished liked a swim bait or with a slow steady retrieve.
Bass Jigs & (the old thirty-nine twelve)
I don’t have any data to back this, but I believe this lure has probably produced more big bass than any other big lure. I like using jigs in the ½ oz. to ¾ oz. range and I like to put on the biggest honkin’ trailer I can find. Like the worm rig, you can get crazy versatile with this lure. It can be swam with a drop pause method, pitched into brush, fished on the bottom or just a slow, steady retrieve with an occasional pause. My most productive way is to count down as soon as the lure splashes and work different depths with a steady retrieve, then pause and use a method I call “3912.” During the pause, I give the rod three quick pulls with my rod tip moving from 9 to 12 o’clock. After the third pull, I let the lure drop for about a half second then repeat the method. Most strikes occur on the drop. If you’ve ever watched a crawfish retreat in fear it has a very similar appearance to how this lure appears using the old 3912 method.
Big Top Waters
These lures are my absolute favorite to throw. In my youth, I learned about catching largemouths fishing farm ponds from the shore and it didn’t take long to figure out that big bass love to use the shoreline to trap their prey. I started throwing top waters about two feet away from the bank with a parallel cast. This method not only proved to be productive, but a whole lot of fun, too. Of course, top waters can be used many other ways, but don’t be afraid of trying this “close to the shore” method. Casting towards stickups is also productive. Once again, there are many large top waters to try; my favorites are the Zara Spook, XPS Pro Buzz, and the Bass Pro Lazer Eye Buzz Master.
All of these lures can be productive and if you don’t already have them as part of your inventory you may be missing out on something… BIG!
Bass Pro Shops Altoona Receiving Manager Jeff Rowland is an avid fisherman, outdoor writer, and former fishing guide. He is the author of Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler and his expertise has been featured in magazines such as Iowa Game and Fish, Outdoor Life, and Field and Stream.