New Year's means resolutions, and no resolutions are quite as important as fishing resolutions. Sure, you can vow to lose weight, get to work earlier and spend more "quality" time with the wife, but the truth is those kind of resolutions rarely make it to the end of the month.
We're going to help you keep the resolutions that really matter, and we're kicking it off with one that every bass angler worth his salt-impregnated worms can get excited about: catching the biggest bass of his life.
Here are 10 tips guaranteed to put you on the right track to the largest lunker you've ever landed.
1. Zero in
Just how big is the bass you're targeting? What's "big" in one part of the world isn't so big elsewhere. A 7-pounder in Connecticut is quite a fish, but it won't raise eyebrows in Florida. Get an idea of what you're looking for, and then follow tip No. 2.
2. Location, location, location
If you're going to have any chance at all of catching the biggest bass of your life, you must be fishing where they live. To find such waters, check with local fisheries biologists, websites, area publications, tackle stores and other outlets for fishing information. Keep records of where big bass are actually coming from, and fish there.
3. Avoid the crowds
Once you're on the right water, focus your efforts on the places that other anglers overlook. That may mean fishing a seemingly impenetrable jungle that others avoid, or it could mean riding a little further than others are willing to go. Put yourself in an area where bass can live unmolested by lots of fishing pressure and grow to reach maximum size.
4. Fish during peak periods
Most truly big bass are caught in the prespawn and spawn periods. That's when the lunkers are shallow — where most fishermen fish. The bigger the bass, the earlier it's likely to spawn. In summer, fish deep or at night. Very few of the truly biggest bass are taken in the second half of the year.
5. Use good equipment and use it properly
Trophy time is no time to cut corners. A big bass is going to test you and your gear. Make sure it's up to the task. You may love that little light-action spinning outfit, but is it the right one to do battle with Moby Dick?
6. Use big bass baits
The old adage about big baits catching big bass has more than a little truth to it. Lunkers didn't get large by eating 2-inch minnows, just as Aunt Marge didn't get big by eating baby carrots. If you want to catch a fat man, put a hook in an extra large pizza, not in a salad.
7. Be quiet
You might think of the biggest bass in the pond as being bold and fearless, but the truth is likely far different. That fish probably got big by being very wary of everything around her ... and by eating at nearly every opportunity. Don't do anything to reveal your presence.
8. Set the hook ... hard!
A big bass has a big mouth with lots of heavy bone and cartilage. Even the sharpest hook has a tough job of penetrating that sort of barrier. Do your best with a sledgehammer hook set and a very quick trigger.
9. Use a net ... a really big net!
The great outdoor writer Robert Ruark once wrote a book titled Use Enough Gun. There are several corollaries in fishing — rod, reel, line, lure — but since we've already covered those, let's talk nets. Unless your friends are making fun of the enormous net you carry, it's not big enough. Give yourself some margin for error when you've got that giant near the boat.
10. Spend lots of time on the water
There's really no substitute for this one. The guys who catch the most big bass are doing lots of things right, but two of them are absolutely critical — they're fishing the right water, and they're on it all the time. The more you fish, the greater your chances of landing the big one.
Originally published January 2011.