Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Bass, Bass, Bass

What you need to know about the most popular sport fish in Texas.


Many of today’s anglers just want to catch something — anything — and it doesn’t really matter what species. They’re happy with happenstance. But some get their heart set on specific species, and many anglers catch the fever for various species of black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, Guadalupe).

Catching bass is not easy. Largemouth bass hang out around cover and stay in one place seasonally. The angler needs to go get them, which requires finding them, presenting something to make them bite and feeling the bite when it happens.

Smallmouth bass sometimes get caught by anglers pursuing largemouth bass, but they have different habitat requirements, and Guadalupe bass, found in many Central Texas waters (especially rivers and streams), have yet other habitat needs.

To be successful, study the needs and habitats of the fish. Where are they seasonally? How do prey species determine the location of these game fish? What happens to their activity levels when changes occur in water temperature, barometric pressure and wind direction and speed? Can these variables affect feeding and their willingness to chase and strike lures?

Fire them up! 

Although you’d think that fishing slowly and deliberately works best, it’s not always so. Many times, when the fishing is slow, you can cast something that is noisy or has a lot of vibration and trigger the fish to strike. In tournament parlance, you have to “fire them up.”

Under the right circumstances, firing them up can change a dormant school of bass into a mob that strikes on nearly every cast. It can a turn a slow day into a great day.

Keep trying to make them strike by moving locations, changing baits, altering retrieve cadence or fishing different cover types. It’s a lot of work.

New and better!

Rods and reels weigh less than ever and are more sensitive than ever. They’re stronger, too. New rod guide materials reduce friction, resulting in longer and more accurate casting. The gears on reels are stronger and smoother, so you feel the lure and not the gears grinding. Fishing with good equipment is a true pleasure.

Tungsten sinkers (weights) are much more sensitive than lead ones. You feel the bottom contact, so you know if it’s sand, rocks, shell beds from mussels or soft mud. That gives you clues to what habitat the bass prefer. 

Mine’s bigger!

Many of the advances in catching bass have come from tournament anglers. The rest of us can learn from their experiences. Tournament anglers have also led the way into new equipment and bait designs. They are the “field testers” whose livelihood depends on innovation.

Ever since a few guys pooled some money into a pot where winners would reap the rewards, anglers have been competing. Who hasn’t challenged friends for a dollar for first fish or most fish or even biggest fish? Big fish prizes and awards have been a part of our national experience for more than a century. Now prize packages can be worth thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in not only prize money, but also endorsements and sponsorships.

Opportunities for contests or tournaments begin at the youth level (before high school) and continue through the high school, college, semi-pro and full-time professional levels. Tournaments are available for individual or two-person team events. Kayak bass tournaments are huge events. Many of these tournaments lead to national and international championships. In Texas the two-person team tournaments have become very popular, with several competing circuits holding local and statewide events.

It’s right there!

Technological advancements can be overwhelming for some of us, but we have to learn to adapt. New electronics can help us find fish where no one else is looking or spot a solitary large fish, cast to it and catch it.

Texas had a very successful 2021 ShareLunker season. Many of those bass were caught by anglers seeing them on a screen from the newest fish-finding electronics. Early screens were small, but today, they may be up to 24 inches wide. Now anglers can “see” not only below the boat, but off to the side, in front of the boat and 360 degrees around the boat in detail. High-definition contour lines help pinpoint likely fish-holding structures such as dropoffs, humps or ledges.

What’s the newest of the new? Forward-facing transducers mounted on the front of the boat allow anglers spot the fish, cast to it and watch in real time how it reacts to the bait. Does the fish come closer or spook away? If it comes closer to the bait, what does it do when you impart an action?

Watch carefully. That bass may come and suck in the bait without the angler feeling anything, but he knows the fish took the offering because he saw the fish react in a certain way. Set the hook without feeling the fish — and hook up with a giant fish. It might be your personal ShareLunker.

If the giant bass didn’t take the bait, reel in and make another cast with a different lure. Again, you can see the reaction in real time. You can see the fish moving. What you actually see are a bunch of pixels in a small group that move across the screen. You can also spot the pixels that represent your lure. When both pixel groups overlap, it’s game on.

Considering where technology has taken us recently, we can only imagine what’s next. The future of bass fishing in Texas is very exciting. Get out there and enjoy it.


Bigger and Better

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