Put Bass Fishing on your To-do List for 2017

Here in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the walleye is considered king. The walleye is, in fact, the state fish and is the preferred table fare. However, at the risk of offending Minnesota’s diehard walleye anglers, my opinion is that for catching sheer numbers of great-fighting fish, largemouth bass are hard to beat.

A couple dozen caught each day is common when bass fishing many Minnesota lakes, even during the summer heat. Plus, it’s hard to beat the fight and struggle a hooked largie provides. But does a bass taste as good as a walleye? Most say no. But if anglers just want to feel something pull back, and often, giving largemouths a try is certainly advisable.

Early-season bass is usually a shallow-water affair. During May and into early June any shallow cover like reeds, fallen trees, docks and boatlifts is a probable spot to locate them. A simple way to target these in the shallows is with a “do-nothing” soft stickbait fished “weightless.”

Soft stickbaits look like the common ballpoint pen, and don’t provide much action when rigged weightless. What I like to do is hook them “wacky-style,” inserting an oversized Kahle-style hook into the bait’s midsection. When rigged this way, the bait has a tantalizing fall with each end providing just enough wobble to attract bass lurking nearby to come over, inspect it and eat.

This is simple fishing—I cast the bait to shallow cover and slowly let it fall while watching for bites. Depending on water clarity, sometimes I see the bass approach and bite, while other times I see the line start to move off. You need patience to let the bait sink and sit. This is key, as bass will often come and take the bait, even once it’s reached the bottom.

This basic technique requires simple gear: a 6- to 6 1/2-foot-long medium-power, fast-action spinning rod and reel spooled with braided line. This combo works great, allowing anglers to make long, yet accurate casts to shallow cover while providing the power necessary to hook and land the harder-fighting fish. Cabela’s new Fish Eagle rods come in ideal lengths and the actions are sensitive, yet strong. Pairing these rods with Tournament ZX reels allows for longer casts and smoother retrieves, while the reels have durable drags for battling bass. Spooling with braided line like P-Line’s new XTCB-8 Braid Hi Vis Yellow completes the setup. The no-stretch quality of the braided line makes for solid long-distance hook-sets.

For the bait itself, I prefer an Impulse Dipstick worm because it has the right combination of scent, flavor and subtle falling action to tempt and trigger bass to bite. This bait in the White Shad color pattern is great in the shallows. The white color allows me to see the baits better, and the exciting bite of a shallow largemouth.

If seeing and feeling more bites this season is your goal, consider giving shallow-water largemouths a try. These tips outlined above can help you have success on the water.