I am a big fan of bass fishing. I have learned so much by watching The Bassmasters shows and reading Bassmaster.com. With time I also became a fan of the sport. My wife says football fans have nothing on me, and she has a hard time understanding why I watch online weigh-ins late at night (there's a 6-7 hour difference between the U.S. and Croatia). She also shakes her head in disbelief when she discovers I made a 400 kilometer (about 250 miles) round trip to catch one or two small green fish.
It is my passion for bass fishing that drives me. Though in Croatia there are not many lakes that hold a good population of bass (mostly just ponds), there are no bass boats (on most lakes, boats are not allowed) and bass are sparse and heavily pressured, I still have a passion for bass fishing that burns with the same intensity as any of you reading this. I love bass fishing for its diversity and challenge. It's constantly changing, yet you can fish your own style. You can also specifically target big fish.
By writing this piece I want to give something back to Bassmaster.com for all the content over the years. I think B.A.S.S. can also take pride in having such a loyal follower like myself on the opposite side of world. It is all because of great coverage and content.
As a fishing journalist, I have gotten a lot of ideas and techniques from Bassmaster.com and incorporated them into my bank fishing. I also wrote several articles in magazines all over Europe about the Elite Series and have covered the Bassmaster Classic for the past three years.
Now, I'd like to tell you about bass fishing in Croatia.
Bass came to Croatia in the 1950s and '60s from Hungary (we share a border). Hungary is Europe's greatest fish farming country, so it's no wonder they wanted to farm bass as well. Some of the fish stocking was intentional by the fishing community, but a fair amount was also through the natural migration of fish and through private intervention.
There were two Croatian regions with a fair bass population in the early 1990s. Anglers may have encountered bass here and there in other regions, but they didn't know what the fish were or how to catch them.
Bass as a species took the spotlight with a big article on weightless stickbait fishing by Saša Puškadija in the early '90s. It took off from there. More and more people got involved in the sport because some of the lakes had great populations of bass that were now catchable using weightless Slug-Gos.
Tournament fishing also thrived, culminating with the creation of the Croatian Bass Fishing League in 2009.
The Bass Scene
For starters, you should know that Croatia has around four million people, and there is probably more bass fishing water in the United States than there is land mass in Croatia. There are around 30,000 registered anglers out of which not more than 150 or so practice catch and release for bass. Out of those, few (if any) fish exclusively for bass year-round.
Though some of the anglers here are really into bass, realistically there are not enough good bass fisheries to keep the passion fueled. It is not easy to experiment with new techniques or lures when you only get two or three bites a day. Still, anglers spend a great deal of money and time to get the best gear and knowledge of bass fishing, and that is something I respect very much.
In Croatia, the bass is a non-native species and there are many misconceptions about its influence in our waters — mostly about bass overpowering domestic northern pike and zander (a perch-like fish). Because of its non-domestic status, it is not simple to legally stock bass, so bass enthusiasts stock it undercover, in buckets from one lake to another.
Bass are available in a lot of lakes in Croatia, but mostly in small numbers. There is a recognized population in approximately a dozen lakes, out of which two or three present an angler with the chance to catch several good fish in a day.
Fishing pressure on small lakes can make for tough bass fishing. Most of our fishing clubs don't recognize the potential of bass as a species, so we don't have a closed spawning season or laws protecting spawning bass.
Another big problem is a strong carp fishing lobby in most fishing clubs that will encourage the introduction of grass carp to keep waters void of vegetation. The lack of cover combined with fishing pressure and people eating bass results in a poor bass population, but things are on the move, and several fishing clubs support catch and release for bass in their waters. We're optimistic that better days are ahead.
In Croatia, we measure our bass in centimeters rather than inches or by weight. 25-35 cm (10-14 inches) is average, 40-plus cm (16-plus inches) is a good one, and 50-plus cm (20-plus inches) is a toad! One and 2-pounders are quite common with 4- to 6-pound bass being really big ones.
Because of the tough fishing conditions here in Croatia, it is no wonder most people are finesse anglers. Not so long ago it was the general opinion that bass could only be caught sight fishing with a weightless plastic worm. Some of the lures we use are extremely small, and I know of many big fish that were caught on 2- and 3-inch soft plastic stickbaits.
Many anglers have perfected fishing a 4-inch Yamamoto Senko or creature-style bait on spinning gear, using a light to medium action rod, and 10-pound-test braid with a fluorocarbon leader. We do most of our fishing with spinning gear.
Weightless soft plastics are used for every presentation imaginable. Wacky and Texas rigging are getting more popular, too. Beside weightless worms, topwater lures are popular, and some bass are caught using twitch baits, crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
Croatian bass anglers are keeping their eyes on cutting edge trends from Japan and the U.S. You'll find some really expensive lures in the boxes of our best and most serious bass fishermen.
Other countries from the region like Slovenia, Serbia and Hungary have a very similar bass fishing scene, so social networking and bonding between bass fanatics is strong. With the expansion of internet coverage, bass fishing is growing all around the world, including Croatia.
Thank you B.A.S.S. for feeding our passion!