Bass Being Measured on the Ground

How To Catch Bass 101: Tips for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass (2021)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.


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Largemouth. Smallmouth. Lunkers. 

If you’re a legit bass fishing freak, those words make your reeling-hand tingle. Or if you’re a novice bass fisherman, maybe they spark visions of landing your first bass.

Either way, don’t deprive yourself. Let your hand get to reeling and turn your daydream a reality.

Don’t miss out!

But first, expand your bass fishing repertoire with these bass fishing tips. Join me on a bass fishing journey and learn how to catch more bass.

Ready for some expert bass fishing tips? Let’s go catch bass…

First things first —

At one point, largemouth were mostly in the eastern states…

Now you can find them in many places such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps across the US. 

Largemouth are part of the black bass family…

Largemouth are part of the black bass family —with smallmouth bass and spotted bass.

Yet they move to the beat of their own drum. 

Identifying Largemouth Bass

So how can you tell if a bass is a largemouth? Well, they aren’t nicknamed bucketmouth for nothing.

Check out this video that shows the key features of the Largemouth Bass

How To Identify The 3 Bass Species

Their upper jaw extends past their eyes.

This allows them to open wider than other species. 

It should be pretty obvious when you land one. Other black bass have a jawline that stops at the eye. 

Early Spring Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

Early spring is a great opportunity for anglers to catch many hungry largemouth.

It’s their pre-spawn period. They’re looking to pack on calories after a long winter.

In early spring they roost by structures in deep coves and depressions.

Use a fish finder to pinpoint these structures.

They slowly start coming closer to the surface as winter fades into spring.

Once the water temperature warms to 60 degrees they move into the shallows to spawn.


Search for largemouth bass beds. They’re a dark orange color. Cast a plastic worm near the nest and see if you can get some action.

Keep Close

Remember, bass protects the bed and strikes out of impulse.

So getting close is key.

To be fair, you never know how active they will be on the bed.

They may bite furiously one day, and ignore your lure the next day. 

But it’s not all about bass fishing in the shallows.

Fishing for bass at mid-range depths during the spawning period works as well.

Big bass females patrol the outskirts as the males prepare the beds.

hey’re looking to find a much-deserved meal.


If you see a lone male bass on the bed, there might be a large female bass somewhere nearby.

Cast out further.

It’s an ideal opportunity to catch big bass.

Summer Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

When the water is warm, largemouths take cover from the hot sunny day.

Cover comes in many forms…

Search for low-hanging trees,wood stumps, logs, rocks, docks, and vegetation or just about every structure that can serve as cover.

That’s their comfort zone.

Good cover makes for good shade, plus it’s a nice feeding area.

Many little fish and insects tend to thrive in those kinds of cover.

Small Fishing Boat on a Lake
Small Fishing Boat on a Lake

Move Around

If you’re not having any luck at cover on those areas, then try bass fishing on deeper waters for better chances.

Largemouth like cover, but also chill in the thermocline

That’s the zone where the warm water meets the cool water.

It’s usually about 10 – 15 feet deep.

Targeting this depth might give you a better chance and roust them into biting.

But what about the time of day?

Hit the water early in the morning or late in the evening.

Anglers have the most luck bass fishing when the summer sun isn’t blazing.

Fall Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

Largemouth love to eat…

So it’s no surprise they follow food like shad and crawfish into shallow creeks in early fall.

They aim to gorge themselves before winter. 

Once the shallows start to become too cold largemouth bass head back to deeper water.

In early fall when the water is still warm, explore the shallows.

During late fall when it gets colder, bass fishing at deeper parts could help.

You can catch bass during fall at medium depths as well.

Largemouth bass tend to roost in the sweet spot where the temperature is perfect.


Break out moving baits like spinnerbait or crankbait. These lures work well in medium depths.

You can find plenty of choice spinnerbait rods in our review to help maximize your fishing game.

Winter Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

This is a tough season for largemouth bass fishing.

Their metabolism slows down and they’re less active. 

They head back into deep, warmer water.

If you’re going to target these fish during cold months, then you’ll want to fish toward the bottom.


If you are to fish bass in the shallows, be certain that you do it in the late afternoon.

If the day is sunny enough to warm the water a bit, they might be there.

But there’s no guarantee. 

Adjust your pace

Remember —fish your lure slower in the winter.

Largemouth bass respond to a lazy presentation this time of year.

Now you have an idea of where to fish seasonal largemouth.

But what’s going to entice them?

Well, your lure of course!

Texas-Rigged Softbaits for the Win

A basic Texas-rig can do wonders.

It hides the tip of your hooks for weedless bass fishing. 

This may seem like one simple technique.

But going weedless with plastic worms, crawfish or lizards helps a ton.

Yellow Softbait Lures
Yellow Softbait Lures

Why use a Texas Rig?

Largemouth bass like to lurk in cover and around many different structures…

Fallen trees, weeds, lily pads, and docks to name a few. Cover is kind of their thing.

When a lure gets close to them, they tend to strike.

This is often an impulse reaction —not due to hunger. 

So getting our lure close to them is crucial. You can do this by casting or flipping.

But one thing is certain —if your lure is covered in moss or weeds they won’t touch it.

And if the lure gets snagged, you’re definitely not landing the fish.

Advantage of using a Texas Rig

A weedless rig lets you cast into every cover and pull every bass out of hiding holes…

Your plastic worms, crawdads or lizards attract less moss and look natural.

Plus, it won’t easily get hung up.

Another advantage of going with a Texas-rig is weight.

With no added weight, it’s ideal bait for bass fishing in the shallows.

Baits like these sink slowly and imitate wounded prey.

Alternatively you can slap a bullethead sinker on baits for longer casts and deepwater action.

This is ideal for cold months

 Here is a short video on how to set up a Texas Rig with a bullethead sinker.

How to Set Up The Texas Rig with Soft Plastic Baits

Fishing bottom with a sinker has another nice upside…

It creates a vibration that attracts largemouth.

Just put a glass bead between the sinker and the hook.

It even makes a clacking sound as you work the lure up and down.

Okay, I’ve given enough praise to my favorite rig.

Let’s move on to one largemouth lure that pro anglers swear by —

Spring and Fall Spinnerbaits for Largemouth

In early spring, these bad boys work like magic.

Run them deep to tempt bucketmouth into biting. 

In late spring, run a spinner in the shallows by their bed.

The vibrations jolt the bass into striking. 

Fall is also a great time to use spinnerbaits to catch trophy bass.

On warm days, run them through the shallows where their food like shad, and crawfish gather.

Big bass sit there ready to pounce.

In early fall when the temperature is still cold, reel them fast at a medium depth.

There are many largemouths looking to get fat and big for the winter.


Largemouth tend to lurk in murky waters. So make sure you pick a skirt color that best matches the water conditions.

Some anglers even trim the skirting to look like a baitfish.

It’s worth a shot, but I think the right color skirting is more important.

Try the Ole Stump Trick

Feeling lucky? Try hitting a stump with your spinnerbait.

It sounds like a crazy bass fishing idea but it works.

It looks like a wounded bug falling off the stump.

Largemouth have an ambush-style feeding tendency and find it hard to resist. 

Use the Weeds as a Weapon 

Cast by the weed-line and run your spinner down the seam.

Cast as close as you can. Anglers say that bumping the weed-line initiates major strikes. 


Make sure to use a slower retrieve when “weed bumping“. This would give the lunkers time to unleash on your lure. 

Make Sure Your Rod Isn’t Too Stiff

When it comes to largemouth bass fishing on spinnerbaits, your rod matters.

Use a medium-fast action rod for the best results. It should also be paired with the right reel, this review can give you an idea on how to create the perfect pair for bass.

If you go with a rod that’s too stiff it throws off the presentation.

Having a natural-looking lure when bass fishing is important.

Largemouth are like us —if they think something is wrong they’re likely not interested.

Well, have you heard enough about bucketmouth bass fishing tips yet? Okay fair enough…

Their mouths are smaller.

Unlike largemouth, their jawline doesn’t extend past their eyes. It stops well short. 

Smallmouth bass also have red-tinted eyes and brown vertical bands across their body.

Largemouth bass have brown eyes and green horizontal bands.


Smallmouth don’t grow as big as bucketmouth. They typically fall in the 2-6 – pound range. Although the world record smallie is nearly 12 pounds.

Found in different places

Smallmouth bass are spread out in various parts of the US…

From the Great Lakes on down to Arkansas, they thrive in clear rocky water.

Smallies also lurk in deeper water. And they’re less obsessed with vegetation and cover. 

Smallmouth bass fanatics target them in different places like streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

They are known to put up a fierce fight —which is why anglers love to catch them.

Caught Smallmouth Bass Held in Hand by a Fisherwoman
Caught Smallmouth Bass Held in Hand by an Angler

Where to look for Smallmouth Bass

But if you want to go fishing for smallies, you need to know where best to find them.

Their location —like largemouth —depends on the time of year.

The smartest way of fishing smallmouth bass is to break them down by season. And that’s precisely what I’m about to do—

Early Spring Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips

Bronzebacks (or brown bass) spawn in late spring, like largemouths. But in early spring (pre-spawn) they are suspended in deep water. 

They linger in 15 – 30 feet of water until the temperature warms to about 60 degrees.

This is known as their “staging“ period —getting ready for spawn. 

How Do You Find Smallmouth During Pre-Spawn?

Simple. You will need to use depth finders or fish finders to help you catch bass during these times.

These tools give you a visual of structures and fish under the boat.

Where Do I Catch Smallmouth During the Spawn? 

When the water temperature is right, they will stay at ledges and drop-offs close to the shallows.

On average, they bed at depths of 5 – 15 feet.

Some anglers say that trophy smallmouth bass bed deeper…

Some anglers say that trophy smallmouth bass bed deeper.

Big smallies prefer a gravel or sandy bottom to nest.

They can also be found around stumps and rock piles. 

Largemouth are easy to spot on the bed. They often nest in a foot of water or less. 

That’s not the case with smallies…

Even when warmer water draws them into the shallows, they tend to bed 5 – 12 feet deep.

Look Carefully

Smallmouth beds are not easy to see —even in clear water.

Use polarized shades to help you see bronzebacks roosting on the bottom.

Another trick is to find a flat or pea gravel bank. Drag a jig across the bottom. It’s not an exact science, but if you run over a bed you’ll know.

Smallmouth bass are pretty aggressive when protecting the nest…

Smallmouth bass are pretty aggressive when protecting the nest. So get ready to rumble. 

If you try this technique, I suggest using a weedless grub.

Smallmouth love them and anglers swear by them.

Of course you can use a fish finder to locate and catch bedding smallmouth —if you want to take the easy path. Whatever floats your boat.

Summer Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips

When the sun beats down all day, the water gets warm.

When it reaches 70 – 80 degrees, smallies go deep into the cool water.

If you’re bass fishing for lake smallmouth in the daytime heat, target depths of 15 – 40 feet.

Once you find the right depth, it’s easier to fish for smallmouth.

Man Fishing in Summer
Man Bass Fishing in Summer

Smallmouth bass like to cluster in schools, suspended near structures.

You’ll know when you find that one sweet spot.

Offshore humps and channel breaks are also smallmouth bass hotspots.

Look for rocky banks with a 45-degree slope. Smallies love to hang out there.


At night, hit the shallows. The water cools after the sun goes down. You might get lucky and catch bass that are feeding on crawfish in the night.

Fall Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips

Let the feeding frenzy begin. This is when many smallies fatten up for the winter.

It’s the best time to catch them.

In early fall try looking for smallmouth bass by flats that have sharp drop-offs and scattered rocks.

Target cabbage weeds in deeper water if you can find it.

Small perch and every other small fish cluster in cabbage —especially around the Great Lakes. Smallmouth suspend in cabbage weeds this time of year.


If it’s late fall, smallmouth bass are likely in deeper water. The colder the water gets, the deeper they go. This is a good season to use sonar to help find them.

Fishing Tips for River Smallmouth & Lake Smallmouth in Fall

Smallmouth bass in rivers behave differently than lake smallmouth bass.

They stay near heavy current in slack water. 

Fall smallies roost in wing dams, islands and sand drops.

A lot of baitfish tend to concentrate in these spots and smallmouth ambush them.

Smallmouth bass in lakes feed at various depths before settling in deep winter holes.

It’s a game of follow the baitfish. They go where the food is. 

Man Fishing in the Winter
Man Bass Fishing in the Winter

Winter Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips

As you know, smallies head down deep in the winter to warmer waters.

They become a lot less active as well.

But you can still land them if you’re smart and persistent.

A good way to catch smallmouth bass in the winter is to use structures to your advantage.

Where to Find Smallmouth Bass During Winter?

Smallies love to lurk around vertical structures in cold water…

Bluff walls, ledges and rubble run-outs to name a few. 

When bass fishing in winter, run your lure deep and taunt them to bite

Remember to fish slowly. Their metabolism is slowed down and it takes them longer to bite.

If you’re hunting a winter lake lunker then find a dam.

The biggest smallmouth bass huddle below dams in late winter, ready to pounce. 

Since you have a good idea of where its best to find smallmouth year-round, it’s time to learn what they bite best…

Jigs Catch Them Year-Round 

I praised weedless lures for largemouth earlier.

But smallmouth bass don’t hang in the weeds as much —so a weedless rig isn’t as important. 

They prefer different spots such as edges, bluffs, rocks and slack water.

So it’s okay to use open hooks. Just make sure they don’t get set too deep as the hook removal can be quite tedious.

No matter the seasons, jigs are great smallmouth lures.

But what makes a jig so great?

It mimics different types of bait food. So it covers much of the menu.

Tried and Tested

In fact, the winner of the 2015 Bassmasters Elite Series Tournament used a hair jig as his secret weapon.

Yep a pro used it, true story.

They’re versatile lures that work at various depths.

They glide through the water, creep the bottom and bust through grass. 

Smallies are unpredictable and go to different places where the food and water temperature takes them.

But if you’ve got a jig, it will work wherever they’re clustered. 


Just make sure to use the right reel for the jig.

For example, if a 1/4 ounce jig is your choice, go with a baitcaster.

If you go lighter with a 3/8 ounce finesse jig, use a spinning reel. 

Pink Jerkbait on a Rocky Surface
Pink Jerkbait on a Rocky Surface

Jerkbaits Work Like a Charm in Clear Water

If the water is murky, don’t use them. Otherwise, game on. 

Jerkbaits work great for early spring (pre-spawn) smallmouths.

Winter is ending and they’re looking for a big meal. 

Use a 4 1/2” to 5 1/2” jerkbaits to entice them. Target them in 15 – 20 feet below. 

They also work well for fall smallmouth bass fishing.

Try to fish them in deeper water with a slow-moving wounded baitfish presentation.

The Right Pace

It’s important to fish jerkbaits slowly when the water is cold.

It gives smallmouth opportunities they need for them to strike. Use a slow presentation and reap the benefits.

Also, try using this one technique called “ripping technique”.

Cast out as far as you can, and rip the jerkbait hard one good time. Let it sit for about 5 seconds and try to do it again.

It works best if your jerkbait has an oversized bill. This mimics a struggling baitfish. 

Rile Them Up with Spinnerbaits

Smallmouth bass are aggressive. Noise agitates them into biting.

Plus, spinners are eye-catching in clear water.

They work best on days when the wind is howling and the water is rippling.

They cut through the chop and demand attention.

Using Spinnerbaits

Run them through rocky shoals and along weed-lines.

Reel them medium to fast. It razzes smallies and gets their attention.

This pace also emits the illusion of an erratic baitfish —wounded and running.

Or, run them deep —steady and slow. This works best in colder water.

Swimbait rods also work great for catching bass learn more about them with this guide.


I recommend a 7-foot medium-heavy rod and a baitcaster reel for spinnerbaits.

This allows you to make long casts. Plus you get plenty of leverage and backbone. 

Try Tubes and Grubs 

These finesse lures are ideal for fishing rocky, sandy lake bottoms.

Smallies mistake them for crayfish and pounce. 

Make sure to rig them with a jig head. This will keep them on the bottom. 

You can also rig baits like these weedless.

You don’t really need to do that. But if you’re casting into cover it helps prevent snags. 

The best ways to retrieve tubes and grubs are bottom hopping, slow-dragging and ripping.

Experiment with all three and see what works. 


The key is to make the lure stay at the bottom of the body of water. That’s where smallies want them best.

Wrapping up

Well alright. That’s my dose of expert smallmouth bass fishing tips for the evening — or morning or night.

Not sure what time it is where you are 😉 

Now you know what sets smallmouth bass and largemouth bass apart.

And where to find them best. And more importantly, how to catch bass.

If you’re gonna catch bass using a flipping rod, I’d highly recommend you check out my Best Flipping Rod Review.

Knowledge is Power

Bass fishing is a lot of science, knowledge and tricks —mixed with savvy and skill.

The more you read, the more you know. 

And the more you know, the better you fish.

Read my Best Frog Tackle Review to know about frog rods and how to use them in bass fishing and use these bass fishing tips to go out and make me proud.

You can share these tips with your buddies as well!

But more importantly —have fun! Enjoy yourself.

Bass fishing is nice. But enjoying the days you spend in nature is what it’s all about.

Okay, well maybe catching fish is what it’s all about.

But one thing is certain.

You can’t catch cod, bass, trout or any other fish looking at a computer screen.

So let’s get to it! And good luck!


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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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