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Outdoors with Mike Roux

Catching The Midwest's Biggest Bass

Published on Thursday, June 22, 2017

My cast was not as accurate as I might have hoped, but at least it hit the water. Several of my casts went a little long on that particular windy, August day. A low pressure cell was bearing down on me from the northwest, making fishing good and casting a real pain. I would very much have liked to fish topwater. That would have been consistent for the summer bass pattern, but that day’s conditions made topwater fruitless. I surveyed what I had to work with and decided on an Excalibur crankbait.

In retrospect, fishing a crankbait was a good idea, because I found I was able to stay with feeding, pre-storm bass. With my Excalibur, I was able to fish right along the top of the aquatic weeds. After a few hours and several keeper-size bass, I moved a little deeper to the weedbed edge. This break-off point was easy to see on my electronic graph.

As I fished the crankbait faster to run it deeper, I varied the speed of my retrieve almost constantly. I wound fast then stopped, jerked the bait a time or two, then retrieved again. This erratic action triggered the strike I had been waiting for all day. It was just at dusk that she hit me. My bait had been inhaled by what tuned out to be a 7 lb. 9 oz. largemouth bass. "Bucketmouth" or "Hawg" or "Monster" or whatever nickname you like to use, they all described her. She was fine.

 


Using the tips below, I’ve had great success in finding and catching huge bass in the heart of America. (Photo by Zeke Cernia.)

When the topic of catching really big bass comes up, Florida and other deep-south states invariably dominate the conversation. California has monster largemouth as well. But the Midwest is often overlooked when it comes to world-class bass. The next time you plan a trip and are looking to raise your bass bar, do not forget to consider spots like Table Rock Lake, Bullshoals and Truman Lake.

In the Midwest, finding and catching big bass on a regular basis has very little to do with luck. If it did, then I would be considered very lucky. Instead, it is a matter of knowing your quarry, and adjusting your methods to meet the existing conditions. The bass are there every day. They are already home. They have not migrated south to the Gulf. Your job is to find them and figure out what they want to eat.

While I am offten asked how I manage to catch so many big bass, the question I am asked most often is, "What's your best tip for us amateurs?" Below is a list of tips that I think will help you catch bigger bass in America’s heartland, and catch them more often. I hope some or all of these tips make you more successful.

 

  1. Refer to local maps often. I cannot think of a more important way to find bass in a large body of water than with a map. Knowing where channels are, identifying drop-offs or flats and locating eddies are how you find fish. Maps of most large impoundments are usually available locally. If not, try the Department of Natural Resources.
     
  2. Do not overlook small waters. Big bass don’t always live in big water. Farm ponds and small impoundments, like city reservoirs can hold some real trophies. You must be able to modify your approach when on smaller waters. You must become more patient and slow-down. The bass will be concentrated around any available cover or structure, so saturate fish-holding areas.
     
  3. Know how to use a wide variety of lures. You must become proficient with many different lure types to consistently take large fish in the Midwest. Weather conditions, water temperatures and pressure can all effect bass performance. Knowing how to adjust your fishing methods to meet current conditions can only help. Also, be aware of lure size depending on time of year and conditions.
     
  4. Use lighter, longer rods. Until a few years ago, I did not really realize how important using the right rod was. Having rods designed to detect even the slightest bump can not only pay off in feeling strikes, but also help in identifying submerged cover. Traditionally, we thought we needed stiff rods for big bass. Not true! Big fish can be easily handled on the new, lightweight graphite rods. Longer rods also give you greater distance when casting fish-finding, water-covering lures.
     
  5. Big jigs and heavy line. When big bass feed on crawfish, they like big meals. That is the reason I prefer large jigs with big pork trailers. I usually use a heavy line when jig fishing. The big pork and heavy line slows the presentation of the jig, making it more realistic. The heavy line also helps with hook sets when I am vertically jigging.
     
  6. Find the depth where the fish are holding. There are many reasons that bass suspend at a given depth. Regardless of those reasons, we must attempt to find them. Being proficient with different types of lures will help you out here. The very best single bait for finding the fish-holding depth is the spinnerbait. This lure can be buzzed on the surface, slow-rolled at any depth or bounce off the bottom, like a jig.
     
  7. Casting accuracy. I usually can get big bass to strike when my bait is falling. Worms, grubs, jigs or even spinnerbaits are more attractive as they descend. Placing your bait in exactly the right spot for a perfect descent can be crucial. I mentioned previously about using long rods for distance. Please keep in mind that the increased in distance will cost you in accuracy. Your control of a shorter rod improves your accuracy, but in-turn decreases your distance.
     
  8. Cover more water to locate fish. I very seldom catch big bass on the same lure I use to find the bass. Finding bass is more like hunting than fishing. Use baits that cover a lot of water when locating bass. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and buzz-baits can be cast far for long retrieves. Once bass are located, switch to finesse lures like soft plastic or jigs to zero-in on lunker bass.
     
  9. Match color of lure to natural food. Try to determine what natural food the bass are feeding on and match your lure color to that food source. If bass are feeding on crawfish, use a brown or green jig or plastic craw. If shad are on their menu, then a chrome crankbait or a white spinnerbait will do nicely. The main thing is, be willing to try different colors to find their preference that day.
     
  10. Bass live in cover, fish it. Any kind of structure can hold bass. Weeds, timber, brush, bluffs, stumps and boulders will all be called home by big bass. Not only does structure shade the bass from the sun, but it gives them excellent ambush points from which they attack their prey. Stay with structure and fish it hard. A good brushpile can hold several "hawgs".
     
  11. Learn seasonal patterns. If you caught bass last year doing a certain thing at a certain place, chances are you can repeat that process this year. Bass are creatures of habit. They have definite patterns that are seasonally related. Learning these seasonal habits will make finding and catching big bass much easier. Geographic location plays a large role in seasonal patterns. January bass in Missouri do not react like January bass in Florida, so be careful about the data you put into use.
     
  12. Use electronics to find structure. We have already established how important structure can be, but how do we find that cover. Everyone will be fishing visible structure. The key is to use modern electronics to find submerged structure that not everyone can see.
     
  13. Do not ignore heavy pressure areas. Many anglers avoid areas that get lots of pressure. Just because a point or cove has been recently or heavily fished, do not think it is fished out. Most of the time these areas are not fished effectively. When you find a spot you like, stick with it regardless of what other anglers are doing. Saturate the area and slow your program down. Fish these spots deliberately. You will probably pick-up big bass that the "quicker" fishermen did not wait on.

To find and catch bigger bass, you can combine several of these tips. Use your electronics to locate submerged structure, use several different types of lures to find the right depth and color, cast accurately with the right rod, and when you catch bass, mark the location on your map. What could be easier? Good luck lunker huntin'.

 

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