October 2007

Big Worms For Big Bass

By Margie Anderson

We've all heard it — sometimes as a joke — the old saying, "Big bait, big fish."  But, is it true? 

For starters, a really large lure is more easily seen by a fish.  Common sense will let you figure that one out. 

But, just because a fish can see a lure doesn't mean he is going to bite it.  In fact, a big lure can be more obviously fake looking, and anything that is totally unnatural looking will turn off most educated fish. 

The key to catching really big fish on a consistent basis seems to be targeting less-pressured (and therefore less-educated) fish and offering them a lure that looks and acts real.
A quick-moving hard bait can trigger a bite in an aggressive fish.  He doesn't have time to really examine it closely, so he may bite it out of reflex. 

Now You Have A Choice To Make

But, if conditions call for a more subtle approach, you are almost forced to switch to a soft plastic lure unless you want to use live bait.  Now you have a choice to make. 

You can stick to small plastics and fish points and channels and probably catch pretty good numbers of fish, provided you go slowly enough and get the lure right where the fish are.  You may have to cover some water, too, and move on after catching one or two fish per area.

Then there are those guys who always seem to come to weigh-in with a livewell full of huge bass that they swear all came from the same spot.  How do they do it? 

One way is with huge worms and lizards on submerged islands and reefs.  By huge, I mean 10-, 12-, and even 14-inch plastic worms and lizards. These lures are intimidating even to a fisherman, but they catch bass.

The first step to finding big fish that haven't been hammered to death by everyone on the lake is to get out your colored pens and your contour map of the lake and start marking.  Lake Pleasant, in particular, changes radically over the year. 

With a 100-foot annual drop, the shore line moves around so much that sometimes you can't figure out where you were last week.

Maps Are Your Friends

Good, waterproof contour maps of all the lakes are available at Wide World of Maps and at most of the tackle shops around the state, and these are what you want to use.  Navionics has dynamite maps that you can upload to your compatible on-board GPS. 

They also have a DVD that you can load into your computer at home.  Search for great spots, then transfer the info to your GPS or paper map.

On a paper map, get some permanent markers with sharp points, and start marking the contour lines at intervals, using different colors for different depths.  My map of Pleasant has the 20-, 40-, 60-, and 80-foot depths marked. 

The only problem with this system is that you have to do a little arithmetic when you go out.  Say the lake is at 1,640.  That is about 60 feet down from full pool, so the color that is at 60 is the shoreline. 

If the fish are 30 feet deep, you just look for the 80- and 100-foot marks, and in between them is 30 feet deep at the current level.

Sound confusing?  Well, Jim at Fisherman's Choice says that some anglers use a whole set of maps.  They'll make just two sets of marks on the map — one at the current level, say 1,640 again just for convenience — and then one more 30 feet deeper than that. 

This makes any submerged islands and reefs stand out like a sore thumb, since there are only two colors on the map.  This sounds like a good plan, and I think I may have to go out and buy about five or six maps of Pleasant and do it that way.

Finding those submerged islands and humps can be difficult.  One day John and I spent over an hour locating a hump by sighting between hills then driving back and forth watching the depthfinder. A GPS unit is invaluable here. Once you do locate a killer spot, you can program it in, and next time you can find it instantly.

‘Where The Buoys Are’

You will also need marker buoys.  Some people hate marker buoys because they think everyone is watching them and will steal "their" spot. This is ridiculous. 

If you're out there fishing for more than a few minutes, anyone who sees you will know you are fishing, anyway.  Marker buoys reduce the time you waste trying to stay on your hump.  Toss one out on the high point, then go all around and over the area, watching your depthfinder to get the lay of the land.

Often, the best islands and reefs have a sharp drop on at least one side. Even if fish don't show on the depthfinder, thoroughly fish an area like this before giving up on it. 

When you are fishing these submerged islands and humps, timing seems to be the key.  You may pull up and fish for half an hour without getting a bite, but if you come back later, you may load the boat.

It will help if you find and mark several good areas so you can make a "milk run" when you are fishing them.  Marking the maps and finding all these places is time-consuming and quite a lot of work, but it can be worth it. 

The beauty of fishing structure that is way off shore is that most anglers stay right up along the bank, so the fish out in the middle don't get a 10th of the pressure that the bank fish do.  Also, once you've gotten on your spot and started fishing, most anglers will stay away until you leave, so you have the place all to yourself. 

After all, it's one thing to pull up to the same stretch of shoreline as another angler, but it is an entirely different thing to drive up on someone who is out in the middle of nowhere fishing around a marker buoy.

 Most of the time you will want to fish all around the buoy, too.  The fish may be using the steep side one time, a small dip next, etc.  Every time you pull up on your hump, you want to check it out all over, looking for fish on the depthfinder and fishing it thoroughly.
Big Bass On Big Bait

When you fish big plastics, use the smallest sinker you can get away with.  The weight of the lure itself will get it down there pretty quickly anyway. 

The lures are so big they still cast easily, and the smaller sinker moves smoothly and doesn't get hung up as often. Use a long rod and braid or fluorocarbon.
These lines give you a better feel and easier hooksets in deep water.  If you opt for fluorocarbon, check your knot often.  They tend to break.  With braid, the knots tend to slip.

The key to catching big bass on these huge plastics is to go slowly.  Try to stay in the same spot, moving your worm only to pull it over an obstacle, or to set the hook. You can feel the lure climbing up over rocks and stuff, and since you are not really moving the boat, the worm will just fall back down when it gets over the top.

  One of the nice things about this kind of fishing is that when a fish takes the lure, there is almost never any doubt about it.  If you miss a few fish, wait a few seconds before setting the hook the next time. 

Patience Is A Virtue

Sometimes you need to give the fish time to eat the lure. If the fishing is slow, it may be hard to figure out whether you need to wait or set instantly, since you don't get a whole lot of chances to experiment.

The size of the lures doesn't have to scare you off, either.  Even if you are fishing a 12- or 14-inch lizard, you will still catch your share of smaller fish. 

It's amazing, but sometimes a bass will try to eat something bigger than itself.  So if you are in a tournament, you can use those monster lures in the hope of catching a lunker and still be fairly sure of getting a decent limit, provided you are on a good spot and have the patience to fish slowly enough and wait for the bite to turn on.

This is not a thing that impatient fishermen do well because you really do need to fish that worm dead slow.  Most of the time the bites come right after the lure bumps into something, or when it is just sitting still. 

Berkley makes big 10-inch Power Worms, Mann's makes 10-inch Jelly Worms, and many other lure manufacturers make big plastics.  Check your local tackle shop, and don’t be afraid to try really big bulky plastics.  The 10-inch ones are on the small side, actually.
In California, they doodle huge plastic worms on tiny weights with the boat anchored.  "Big bait, big fish" can be true if you take the time to learn where and how to fish them.