Bass fishing fallacies

Recently, while visiting with an old tackle-collecting buddy, we got to talking about the various fallacies we’ve heard on bass fishing over the years. Skewed logic that has led many hardcore anglers down the wrong path.

Some seemed so believable that we all bought in … only to learn later that there was no validity to the claims.

With that in mind, here are a few of the more absurd I feel are worth repeating.

The 10-second rule

Long before I began competing in tournaments, there was a widely accepted “rule” among anglers as to how to set the hook on a bass when worm fishing. It was called the “10-Second Rule,” and nearly every angler you talked to subscribed to the concept … me included.

I think it was Homer Circle, the legendary outdoor writer, who proclaimed it as the only way to ensure a high hooking percentage. The theory was that once you feel a bite you should wait 10 seconds for the fish to fully secure the worm in its mouth, then set the hook as hard as you can. If you did that, you were “doing it right,” and you were in step with bass fishing’s elite.

But I recall a lot of gut-hooked fish using this method, and I knew there had to be something wrong in the approach. 

Laughing about it with my collector friend, he reminded me of the old three-tap adage: “The first tap is the fish biting your worm. The second is him spitting it out. And the third is me tapping you on the shoulder, telling you what a fool you are.”

No matter what anyone tells you, if you feel a bite on the end of your line, don’t hesitate to set the hook. Fish don’t have hands, so when you feel a tap, there’s a pretty good chance the lure is in his mouth. Enough said.

When wolves howl

Another shared misconception — even today — is that bass spawn only on a full moon. That’s simply not true. They can spawn through any phase of the moon, and in other seasons besides spring.

Although I concede that a full moon in spring is a great time to look for bedding bass, experience has shown that a new moon can have equal impact on the spawning cycle. So instead of focusing so much on moon phase, consider water temperature, photoperiod and water level and clarity. These are likely to have much more of an impact than the moon. 

Run away from the light

Something I hear all too often is that bass only respond to topwaters when light levels are low — like at dawn, dusk or during dark, overcast conditions. This, too, is untrue. 

Some of my best topwater days have been under bright, bluebird skies … and season wasn’t always a factor either.

I guess the belief stems from the notion that bright skies hurt a bass’ eyes. While it’s true that bass have no eyelids or irises to control the amount of light entering their eyes, keep in mind they are “sunfish.” And sunfish, according to biologists, are not adversely affected by direct sunlight. They may look for shade to find cooler water during hot weather, and shade or cover will help any ambush feeder, but the light isn’t bothering them.

Still not sold? Consider schooling bass or bass cruising the shallows during the spawn. They’re not hiding from the light. They’re going through their normal routines, oblivious to the amount of sunshine they’re subjected to.

If you’re still doubtful, I suggest you try a topwater on your next fishing trip — perhaps a popper, walking bait or hollow-body frog. Whatever you choose, make it a lure you have some confidence in, then throw it close to any object a bass might use to conceal itself — like lily pads, cypress knees, standing reeds or dock pilings. And be sure to give it a fair shot. The results might surprise you.

Keep up with Bernie Schultz through Facebook and his website.