Why You Don't Catch More Bass
As a guide, I witnessed many anglers struggling to catch bass when I knew they were on fish that would bite with the right presentation. Many times, the problem was the angler was not fishing close enough to the fish.
Bass have a strike zone around them that must be penetrated in order to trigger a reaction. Think of the strike zone as a sphere surrounding the fish from all sides. When the fish are active, the strike zone can be 6 feet or more. When this happens everyone catches bass. Under tough conditions such as during a cold front or when the lakes are heavily pressured from other anglers, the strike zone shrinks to inches.
In Lake County most of our lakes are heavily stained and fishing pressure is relentless. This shrinks the strike zone even further and causes the fish to hold very close to cover. For example, let’s say you are fishing and you come across an isolated group of lily pads out in the lake. You can bet that most of the time there will be at least one good bass on that clump of pads. Like most anglers, you recognize this and make a cast with your favorite lure. The lure lands three feet away and you don’t get a strike, so you assume the fish aren’t there and move on. Just after you leave another angler spots the same group of pads, but instead of one cast three feet away, he casts 5 feet to the other side of the pads and brings his lure within 3 inches of the pads as it comes by. Nothing happens, so he casts again in the same fashion but at a slightly different angle. Three casts later and…..Wham! a three pound largemouth hits the lure.
It is possible to fish the entire lake and not see a fish when an angler who knows the secret comes behind you and fills the boat! The secret is you must consistently bring your lure as close to the cover as possible and make numerous casts to the same target. Most anglers will make one cast within 6 feet of the cover and move on. To catch the fish they leave behind, you need to slow down, work your lure as close to the cover as possible and don’t move until you have tried every possible angle. To do this all day takes skill and confidence, which is what we are going to talk about in next week’s column.