No big-bass system – no new program for consistently catching big fish – can rest itself on false assumptions. Therefore, we continue our effort to convince readers they need to rethink their entire approach to catching big fish. Here are some common beliefs in the current fishing pantheon, followed by our opinions of them.
Belief 1: Big lures catch big fish.
True. But they also catch smaller fish. While the double-anchoring, spot-oriented big-bass anglers of the past encouraged the myth, trophy hunting doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Just as small bass will attack a large jerkbait or topwater, 2 1/2- to 4-pound bass will readily strike large swimbaits, wood baits and giant tubes. Obviously, larger baits will deter some of the low-end strikes, but not the quality hits.
In some ways, this statement about big lures implies that large baits limit your ability to catch limits. There is also a subtle suggestion that you can only expect a very small number of strikes. Put these assumptions together and the old line about "big lures catch big fish" could be interpreted as a warning to those who want action.
In all honesty, there is a point that must be reached in your fishing career before any real progress can be made as a big-bass angler. Quite simply, you must get tired of catching dinks. You have to be at a place in your development where just getting bit doesn't save the day. You have to realize that just as many fishless days can be spent pursuing small bass as can be exhausted chasing the heavyweights. The difference, of course, comes in the final payoff.
Belief 2: Big baits demand clear water.
False. The same anglers who will gladly use a 3/4-ounce jig in dirty water will insist that a 6- or 8-inch swimbait requires clear water to be effective. If you were to believe this argument, a bass can find a relatively compact jig clicking and clacking along the bottom but is incapable of locating an undulating hunk of plastic that can weigh nearly a pound.
Somehow, it would seem, the water displacement and sonic qualities of a swimbait are invisible to this alpha predator. How is it then that bass track down a shad, crawfish or bluegill?
Bass are aware of everything in their environment and big bass intensely so. To think otherwise is to cheapen the whole concept. Big bass survive extraordinarily well in their world because they are masters of it. The whole clear-water fantasy developed for no other reason than clear western lakes are the places where swimbaits gained early recognition. Then, as with most misunderstood techniques, fishermen found reasons why these lures wouldn't, couldn't or shouldn't work in their home waters.
There are, however, certain advantages to clear water. The most important of these is the ability of big baits to draw bass to the lure. A big lure in clear water is the ultimate search bait. With the power to whet the curiosity of big bass, swimbaits and giant tubes expose an angler's quarry even if they don't fall for the deception. The clearer the water, the better a fisherman can see. It doesn't require an involved theorem to calculate the statistical advantage of knowing where a bass is located, where they came from, where they call home. In terms of strategy, the value is obvious. When it comes to confidence, it's invaluable.
Belief 3: Get a limit, then go for a kicker fish.
False doesn't begin to tell the story. Here, the basic assumptions are:
- Limit water is easier to find than big-fish water.
- Big fish, not limits, are a gamble.
- The search for kicker bass is a hunt for solitary fish.
If this oft-repeated tactic really worked as advertised – if fishermen could get a limit easier and then cull up with bigger fish, if you could actually follow this progression – why not catch the big ones first? Why fool yourself with this get-a-limit rigmarole? Why not go to your best, big-fish water first and make a concerted effort when you're fresh and at your best?
Does it make any less sense to do it this way? Is it any less farfetched to think that if you started looking big and found them you may not have to drop back into a limit mentality? Is the prospect of catching a limit of big fish that unreasonable?
Perhaps the hardest thing to swallow is that we've believed these post-tournament stories for so many years. Granted, coming up with a kicker after scratching out a limit does happen, it's just that the failures far outnumber the successes. The problem is when it does work, it does so with a splash and receives an unwarranted amount of attention. Moreover, no one has been able to explain – in detail – how to do it consistently. The explanations always seem to involve a vague reference to changing or upgrading the size of the lure. If that was the key, why not start off with the larger offering to begin with?
Belief 4: Fishing big baits for big fish is a low-percentage option.
True, as long as one remains ignorant of the mindset and techniques required to fish big baits effectively. How productive would any lure be if you didn't understand the subtleties of how, when, where and why to fish them?
Clearly, the "low percentage" tag stems from the relative size of big-bass populations in comparison to the entire population. No argument there. However, what's wrong with this thinking is that very few bass anglers recognize the problem. As a group, bass fishermen have been trudging through the standard rut of technique and thought so long, they can't see any other options.
Isn't the answer really rather simple? With big baits and big-bass techniques, you're not fishing for all of those fish, but you are targeting 100% of the big ones. Couched in those terms, the odds of catching better quality fish suddenly don't seem so bad - though it is imperative to understand that these lures and techniques all have their place and time. The trick, of course, is devoting enough time and effort into making a swimbait as comfortable in your hand and as confident in your mind as a spinnerbait.