By Mike Frisch
Here in the land of 10,000 lakes, the walleye is considered king. The walleye is, in fact, the state fish and preferred table fare. However, at the risk of offending the state’s diehard walleye anglers, my opinion is that for catching sheer numbers of fish and the fight they provide, the largemouth bass is hard to beat!
A couple of dozen fish a day is common when bass fishing Minnesota lakes, even during summer’s heat. Plus, it’s hard to beat the fight and struggle a hooked largie provides. Does a bass taste as good as a walleye? Most would say no. But, if anglers just want to feel something pull back, and feel it often, giving largemouth bass a try is advisable! Here is a simple way to do just that.
Early season bass fishing is usually a shallow water affair. During May and early June, any shallow cover like reeds, fallen trees, or docks and boat lifts is a probable spot to locate bass. A simple way to target fish in the shallows is with a “do nothing” soft stick bait fished weight less.
Soft stick baits look like the common ballpoint pen and don’t provide much action when rigged weightless. What I like to do is hook them “wacky” style, inserting an oversized Kahle-style hook into the bait’s middle. When rigged this way, the bait has a tantalizing fall with each end providing just enough wobble to attract any bass lurking nearby to come over, inspect, and often eat the bait!
This is simple fishing where I cast the bait to shallow cover and slowly let it fall while watching for bites. Depending on water clarity, sometimes I see the bass approach and bite, other times I simply see the line start to move off. Patience to let the bait sink and sit is key, as bass will often come and take the bait, even once it’s reached the bottom.
This is a simple technique, requiring simple gear. A 6- to 6 1/2-foot long medium power, fast action spinning rod and reel spooled with braided line works great as this combination allows anglers to make long, yet accurate casts to shallow cover and provides the power to hook and land hard-fighting fish.
The new Cabela’s Fish Eagle rods are very affordable and come in the perfect lengths and actions and are sensitive, yet strong. Pairing these rods with Tournament ZX reels allows for long casts and smooth retrieves, and the reels have durable drags for battling hard-fighting bass.
Spooling with braided line like P-Line’s new hi-vis XTCB-8 braid completes the rod/reel/line set-up. This line is Teflon coated so it casts lures long distances and the hi-vis color allows me to easily monitor my line for bites. The no-stretch characteristic of the braided line makes for solid long-distance hook sets as well. In clear water, I tie a few feet of low visibility fluorocarbon line in between the braid and the bait to prevent fish from seeing the line.
The final component to this simple system is the bait itself. I prefer a soft plastic stickbait as it has the perfect combination of scent, flavor, and subtle falling action to tempt and trigger bass to bite. This bait in a white shad color pattern is my go-to bait in the shallows as the fish like it, and the white color allows me to better see the bait and the exciting bite of a shallow largemouth!
If seeing and feeling more bites this fishing season is your goal, consider giving shallow water largemouth bass a try. The tips outlined here can, in fact, probably help you have some exciting times on the water this coming fishing season!
As always, good luck on the water, and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure.
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” stuff.
photo 1 – A “do nothing” stick bait is a deadly shallow water largemouth bass bait.
photo 2 – If your fishing goals for 2017 are consistent with catching more fish, consider giving largemouth bass a try!