The COVID-19 pandemic created some unique times for many of us. As the United States locked down many businesses, boat ramps, and even beaches, outdoorsmen everywhere had to find a way to enjoy their favorite hobbies. Thankfully, freshwater fishing is something that will always be available. All you need to fish is a canal or a pond and all of your favorite fishing tackle.
Nowadays, most neighborhoods have ponds stocked with largemouth bass, catfish, bream, and other common freshwater species. In some places you might even find things like tilapia or snakeheads lingering around. Each species has a so-called preference for bait and/or bait presentation. We’ll talk about a couple of basic methods to target bass specifically to help ensure you can get a bend in the rod on your next fishing voyage.
Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll need to have a pretty basic fishing rod, reel, and line. Most available combos will suffice. You would just need a light or medium-action rod and reel. For your basic freshwater fishing needs, a Shakespeare reel on an Ugly Stik rod will do the job. Since this is freshwater, you don’t have to worry as much about outfitting with a high-end sealed reel to protect from salt. Typically a 7-foot rod will do the job.
You’ll also want some decent fishing line. Braided line is becoming increasingly popular because of the increased durability at a smaller diameter. This means it is stronger and easier to cast. It is more prone to tangles. If you decide to choose braided line, PowerPro is a reputable brand that is available nearly everywhere. You won’t need anything more than 8-12lb test for bass. Going overboard with fishing line strength can make the catching experience less exciting.
Largemouth Bass Fishing
In nearly every residential pond or canal you will be able to find some largemouth bass. Sometimes these waters only carry small fish, but you could get lucky and catch a five-pound monster, so it’s always worth a shot. Fishing for bass is fairly simple. There are two basic methods you can try to hook a largemouth bass.
The first method is an old-school tactic that still seems to produce. This method is simply using a worm under a bobber. If you have a local Wal-Mart nearby, you can find everything you need there. If available, we do prefer a local tackle shop to Wal-Mart since they can typically help you find what you need and tell you about local places you can catch fish.
You need few extras to get started fishing with a worm under a bobber. You will want some fluorocarbon leader, semi-circle hooks, split-shots, and a bobber of choice. To start, a fluorocarbon leader is used because it is less visible underwater than braided line. Though sometimes pricey, it will make a difference in the number of fish you catch. Daiwa makes one of the most cost-effective fluorocarbon leaders.
Your leader should be attached to the primary line. You can do this by connecting the primary line and leader to opposite ends of a swivel or by tying the two lines together. The more desirable method would be to connect the two lines with something like a double-uni knot. Remember, the reason we use fluorocarbon in the first place is to minimize visibility. Using a double-uni knot takes away a noticeable piece of hardware from the equation.
Hooks should be simple, right? When you walk into a tackle shop, you’ll see an overwhelming number of hook sizes and styles. When using a live worm for bait, I like to use a semi-circle or off-set hook. Gamakatsu Offset Octopus Circle hooks, size one, are usually a good bet here. If you can’t find these, I would try to choose a basic semi-circle hook from Mustad or another common brand.
When picking your bobber(s), you don’t need to overthink this. Keep it simple and remember that you will most likely be fishing near weeds, lily-pads, and hanging tree branches. This means it might be best to stick to something small and inexpensive. People lose bobbers all the time. The split-shots are very small open-ended weights. Once you figure out your leader length, you’ll put the split-shot on the line about midway down and crimp it to make it secure.
How do you know how long to make a leader? This is usually based on water depth. Most canals and residential ponds are only a few feet deep, so an 18-inch leader might be enough. The deeper the water, the longer the leader. Once you attach your leader and hook, you’ll want to add the split-shot. The bobber should be placed near the top of the leader.
The final step to outfitting your rod is to add the worm. Most tackle shops, and Wal-Mart, will have earthworms or bloodworms in small containers. You will want to hook the worm so that it is firmly on the hook but can also move (or wiggle) naturally. Once your worm is on, simply cast your bait to your desired location and wait for it to go down to start reeling in. Usually getting close to a drain or lily pads will produce bites.
Sometimes you don’t feel like going to the tackle shop to get another package of fresh worms. If you live very close to fishing waters, you might just want to walk over and throw out a line to see if anything bites that day. If that’s the case, artificial worms can still produce high-quality bass.
You can use nearly the same outfit as you would for live worms. The primary differences are that you don’t need a bobber or split-shot and that you will need a different style of hook. A worm hook is designed to hold an artificial worm so that it will be secure but also provides plenty of action to attract fish. There are weighted worm hooks if you are in waters with fast currents or if it’s just deep.
It’s always a good idea to stock up on a few different sizes and colors of artificial worms. By my experience, darker colors produce the most bites. I have had great success with “junebug” and “watermelon” colors so far. Some avid fishermen will swear by black worms. In theory, we want to keep colors as close to actual worm colors as possible. Size matters mostly depending on the size of fish available. A tiny bass most likely won’t be able to swallow a 6-inch worm, although it can happen. A big bass might not waste its’ time on a short worm. That’s where fishing starts to get tricky.
Try using a variety of presentations while you retrieve your worm. I alternate between a slow retrieve, a slow twitch, and a faster retrieve to see if one is more productive than the other. Once you start getting bites, you know what the fish want. In winter, fish tend to be less aggressive, so they attack a slow-moving worm. Trying different approaches helps figure out what the fish want day-by-day. Tight lines!