Rule 1: Find the bass

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James Overstreet

It’s a common scenario: Someone comes back to the dock with a certain lure tied on in a certain color and tells everyone how many big bass he caught. Right then, usually within 5 minutes, some of the anglers who didn’t catch many run to the local tackle shop to buy a handful of the same lures.

The idea is, “That’s what they’re biting.” Only the best of them would bother to ask, “Where did you catch them and how deep were they?”  

The whole situation would be laughable, if it weren’t so sad. I’ve fished a day or two during my lifetime. I can tell you that it’s rare — like never — that bass are keyed on a specific bait in a specific color.

What was almost certainly happening in our example was that the fish were in a specific location and they were biting a lure that was a specific size, running at a specific depth and at a specific speed. Our angler put the factors together that really matter. He followed Rule 1: Find the bass.

You see, at least 75 percent of catching bass is about fishing in the right spot. All the high-dollar tackle in the world won’t help you if the fish aren’t there. That’s why most of us who fish professionally spend our practice time locating the bass. We know about, and follow, Rule 1.

I fished an event in another circuit once when this rule was illustrated to the max. I killed the bass on the first day by throwing a chartreuse and black crankbait into a mess of cypress trees. The next day another angler caught just as many from that same clump of trees using a dark colored tube. And, I’ll be darned if Aaron Martens didn’t catch a mess from that very same spot on a drop shot the day after that.

The conditions didn’t change much at all. It wasn’t that the bite changed. It was that the bass were in those trees and they were feeding. It was location, location, location.

Here’s the deal: If you want to be successful, get real good at finding them. Use your knowledge of the lake or river, your electronics and anything else that helps you. Once you find them figure out the details. Are they suspended? Are they on the bottom? Are they breaking the surface?

At that point you can make an intelligent decision as to what bait to throw. Never forget, however, that they’ll bite a bunch of different lures if you’re in the right spot.

In my case I use all Strike King products. I know they’ll bite something that I have in my boat because there’s nothing out there that’s any better than what I have. At the same time, though, I’ll not tell you that they won’t bite another manufacturer’s offerings. They will. The thing is, though, they won’t bite anything if they aren’t there. Find them first. Everything else is secondary.

Don’t overcomplicate things. Bass fishing isn’t brain surgery.