You can lead fishermen to big-bass water, but you can’t make them think. Everyone wants the tip, the tactic, the inside deal to angling success but it isn’t that easy. Big bass or otherwise, your success hinges on acquiring, and understanding, a compendium of knowledge. Whether these are tidbits or “big picture” strategies, they’re all pieces of a much larger and more intricate puzzle.
We’ve been giving you the overview because without it, the details don’t mean squat. But we can also understand your impatience. The following is simply one brick in the foundation of your personal big-bass zone. One brick.
Over the years, big-bass fishermen have been referred to as “hunters”. The clear inference is that to find trophy fish, an angler needs to acquire the mindset of a big-game hunter. No argument there. However, the problem is this analogy emerges precisely at that moment when the angler locates a big fish. At this juncture, thinking like a hunter is all wrong. You now must think like the hunted.
You have to make this transition to consistently raise your game. The object is to make a bass think it’s accomplishing its goals. This applies to all bass fishing disciplines; not just swimbaits. So, if you don’t begin to think like the hunted, you’re going to make some serious mistakes.
A critical error is to not recognize the value of fishing uphill. The habit of most anglers is to do the opposite; fish downhill by casting toward shore and bringing the lure away from the bank. If you view it from the hunter/hunted perspective, it may also be one of the biggest reasons why more fishermen don’t connect with bigger bass.
Now, for those of you who insist you’ve heard this before, the first part of the explanation is admittedly a refresher course in smart fishing. An uphill approach brings the lure toward more contact points, not the least of which is the bottom contour itself. Moreover, the lure is heading in a direction (toward shore) that only reinforces your little deception (i.e. the “hunted” is moving in a direction that limits its avenues of escape and the “hunter” knows it).
In addition to creating more opportunities, an uphill presentation produces more dependable responses from big bass. This “funnel attack” narrows the places where a fish will likely strike and the angles it will strike from. The strike zone is being moved to a place where the advantage shifts in favor of the fisherman. Think of it as getting a bass to move down an ever-narrowing funnel of your own creation.
Restricting the angle of attack is crucial for a higher hookup percentage. Think about it: Swimbaits pack a lot of plastic and even with the best main and stinger hook arrangements, bass can strike these lures in any number of ways without touching metal. The problem with many downhill presentations is that the lure is being moved away from all but one contact point - your boat. Since bigger bass will often track or stalk lures, this is why so many strikes happen near the boat.
While the downhill approach will produce a lot of follows and a fair number of strikes, it does nothing to enhance high-percentage hookups. These heart-stopping, last second lunges can also be demoralizing. Plus, it creates a situation that even the so-called “swimbait experts” don’t understand. By casting to shore and generating a “follow,” you’re moving the strike zone and pulling a fish away from its ambush or feeding zone.
How long will it take for that fish to reposition itself? This is why repeated casts with big baits are often unproductive. It’s not simply that bass have seen a lure too many times and decided not to strike. It’s because they weren’t in position to see it - or strike it - after that first cast.
The other thing about an uphill presentation is the ability to “daisy chain” bass as your lure moves from one contact point to the next. In other words, you’re funneling multiple fish on the same cast and often from different parts of the water column.
Daisy chaining also occurs in downhill presentations where the effects can be easily evaluated; not often the case with uphill retrieves. In fact, downhill retrieves are perhaps best used when pre-fishing for tournaments or simply prospecting an area early in the day. Why? Because an angler positioned offshore has the advantage of sonar to verify bass responses.
Whenever possible, a swimbait retrieve should be brought through the cone angle of the sonar transducer. This final check at the end of every presentation can show unseen bass responding to the lure from different angles or depths. Visual contact of followers is great, but it’s not the only source of information.
Once you’ve daisy chained bass with a downhill approach, then evaluated the area with eyes and sonar, an uphill presentation can now be made with deadly confidence.
Take care and Keep it in the BBZ.
Bill Siemantel’s Accomplishments: 2009 National Fresh Water Hall of Fame Inductee, co-author BIG BASS ZONE (BBZ- the book), Bassmaster Tournament Winner, lure designer and inventor, fishing educator and trophy hunter. Bill Siemantel is sponsored by Basscat Boats, Motorguide, Spro/Gamakatsu, Lamiglas Rods, Maxima, Shimano Reels, Roboworm, Team Davies Drop Shot, Team Liftoff, Pro’s Soft Bait Glue, Peregrine 250, WileyX Eyewear, wired2fish.com, theBBZ.com.