Part of bass fishing’s deep, lifelong appeal stems from the broad variability of the species and the countless ways to tackle the decision of which tackle to use. One gear company has made that voyage of discovery a monthly treat.
Lakes and ponds can be managed for bass, but water of virtually any size in the South, any body of water that remains wet all year round, will have some bass in it. While it’s not likely a monster will be found in a random backwater, it’s certainly not impossible. Moreover, Northeast Mississippi is rich in access to well-managed public water bass fishing, lakes managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks that are dream destinations for bass anglers nationwide. This depth and breadth of possibility, along with year round appeal, are a big part of what make bass fishing an engaging delight. New anglers can get started with almost anything at all and should catch some fish. Expanded knowledge leads directly to improved rewards over time, and a hundred lifetimes wouldn’t be long enough to learn it all.
Tapping into this fount of knowledge, Mystery Tackle Box has made home-delivered surprises a strong business model, one avid bass anglers will enjoy.
As the name suggests, subscribers receive a curated box of gear each month, never the same thing twice. Each selection is chosen to correlate with the time of year. Along with an assortment of hard baits, soft plastic baits and related hooks and weights, each box’s loot comes with illustrated instructions for use, detailed information on which spots in an average body of water, along with temperatures, times of day and methods of retrieve, would be best for trying out the new gear. These curated boxes arrive monthly by mail and are happy surprises for their subscribers every time. Check them out online at mysterytacklebox.com.
Everyone learning to fish would rather begin by heading to the lake and catching a few, but the most solid lessons are taught with a good grounding of fish biology in mind.
Understanding which lures catch fish when and where depends entirely on the why, which begins with the fish’s instincts and the meeting of its basic needs.
Bass need food and shelter, and they spend all their nights and days procuring the two. From their earliest days, bass are both predators and prey. They eat smaller fish and try not to be eaten by larger fish. Both of these quests take place around cover, natural and manmade objects in their environment that present opportunities to find smaller fish hiding and to hide from larger fish themselves. Cover includes tree stumps, brush, floating and anchored docks, fallen trees and literally anything else with nooks, crannies, crevasses and places to hide and find things hidden.
A bass’s eyes are especially sensitive to light. That’s why, especially in clearer water, they feed primarily early and late in the day and overnight. In shallower bodies of water, anything that offers protection from the sun, such as a manmade dock, will be a haven for bass.
In deeper water and larger lakes, where a bass’s diet consists primarily of shad, structure becomes an important element of the game. Structure is any change or irregularity in the lake floor. Points and ledges that may, in themselves, offer nowhere in particular to hide, nonetheless play an important role in filling a bass’s diet because the movement of shad around the lake is affected by them. Bass hold just off a ledge and face into the current to clean up shad that may be stunned or scattered when moving water brings them by.
With these basic requirements in mind, the array of available lures begins to make sense. There are hundreds of thousands of lure variations, but these fall generally into just a few different general styles. Lures need to address the depth at which the bass are feeding, what they’re feeding on and the overall activity level of both the bass and their prey.
Early in the morning and late in the afternoon during the warm months bass will feed close to the surface, and fishing topwater lures one of the most appealing techniques to be found. In waters where schools of shad thrive, a shallow-running, shad-imitating lure is always a go-to technique.
In the spring, when bass have come shallow to spawn, jigs imitating small grubs can be finessed into these spots to catch fish. As summer approaches and the bass head back to the depths, deep-diving crankbaits that can get down to their level are the ticket.
When bass are finicky and hesitant to bite, a plastic worm slowly presented can be just the thing, no matter what the depth.
Crank and spin
Two of the best lures for locating fish quickly are crankbaits and spinnerbaits, both of which specialize in fishing the middle depths. The first gets its action from the shape of the lure, the second from the spinning of its blades, and either can be fished at a variety of depths depending on the speed of retrieve. Either can be worked in a variety of cover and conditions and, while not producing the visual drama of their topwater cousins, a strike on either of these is pretty unmistakable.
Together, these elements form a firm foundation for any tackle box, and a good grounding for a lifetime’s enjoyment of the outdoors.