Here are the keys!

Bill Dance: B.A.S.S. Member since 1968

I have always said there are seven keys to catching largemouth. Well ... OK, there are eight. I gotta have a key to my Chevy pickup to get there. We all have to apply rule No. 1, and that is you gotta go!

And I have always done that ... from shoe-sole melting days to getting the ice out of my rod guides, I go fishing. And, at this stage of the game, I really don't expect to change — and my wife will certainly agree!

But back to the seven keys to catching largemouth. They are: approach, depth, presentation, experiment, concentration, learning and confidence.

Approach is noteworthy in that if a bass knows you — a predator — are there, you are fighting a losing battle. This is especially critical in shallow water. You have got to get in casting range before a bass knows you are there.

Depth is one of the most important questions you ask locals when fishing a lake: "At what depth are you catching fish?" Better electronics have made this easier to find out on your own, but I think knowing the depth is more important than knowing a specific bait they may be favoring. You have to fish at or near the level bass are holding to catch them. It is even more critical on days that they are reluctant to bite.

Presentation is key, because establishing a rhythm with your lure (via retrieve) is what causes bass to strike. Once you find a presentation that works, stick with it until you feel it's no longer working.

Experiment? Yes, all anglers ought to wear lab coats. Well, OK, you really don't have to take it that far, but if you are not experimenting my guess is you go many times and do not catch a fish. Never be afraid to test the waters if something is not working. And, heck, I learn a lot about bass fishing simply by experimenting.

You've got to have concentration to be consistently successful. Oh, you don't have to blow a brain fuse, but you do need to be thinking and be aware of your surroundings, above and below the surface. Some tell-tale sign can often turn a bad day on the water into one of the best. On every trip there are signs out there that can help you piece together a pattern. All you have to do is concentrate and think about it. Don't let anyone tell you fishing is not a thinking game. If they do, they go fishing to sit in the boat, not necessarily to catch bass.

I don't know how an angler that experiements or concentrates, as aforementioned, cannot learn something with each trip. The more you learn, the better bass fisherman you will become. That's easy to understand.

Confidence — as I have always said — is the most important lure in your tacklebox. You gotta believe! Of course, confidence is also closely linked to my rule No. 1; as I mentioned at the beginning, you gotta go to catch fish. You have to make the extra effort to get there. Fish are not swimming through the living room (well, unless you watch Bill Dance Outdoors). But, really, a dose of confidence is a long cast toward fishing success. "Believing you can do it" really does make good things happen.

Of course, all these keys are simple in concept. But ponder and put 'em together, and I promise it will all come together better than a spit-cinched Palomar.

Until next time, catch one for me!

For more words of wit and wisdom from one of our sport's greatest legends, check out www.billdanceoutdoors.com.

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