Phil's Top 10 Bass Fishing Myths
1. You have to get up early to catch bass.
While it is true that bass are normally more active early and late in the day, this has more to do with light penetration than the time on the clock. In dim sunlight, bass feel less vulnerable and are more likely to react to your lure from a greater distance or chase your lure farther. This doesn’t mean they don’t bite just as well during bright daylight. The fact is the largest bass are almost always caught between the hours of 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Direct overhead sun positions the fish and makes them easier to locate, especially when using the flipping technique or casting top water baits into heavy cover.
2. Bass won’t bite if it’s too cold or too hot.
Tournament after tournament has proven that someone always finds a way to find and catch bass no matter what the temperature. I have fished 30 degree days on the Harris Chain in January and had bass all around me biting everything I threw at them. In the summer months, Florida water temperatures can easily reach 95 degrees. High water temperatures make the fish much more active. The best time to fish is whenever you can.
3. Bass don’t bite if the water is too clear or too dirty.
Bass readily adapt to any and all water clarities and don’t avoid water if it doesn’t suit your idea of what it should look like. You must learn to adjust your fishing techniques to match the clarity of the water instead of relocating to water that matches your technique. For example, clear water means top water lures, smaller baits, light line and long casts. Stained water means flipping, spinner baiting, rattle traps and making continuous casts to each target.
4. Making noise or splashing the water scares bass.
Bass live in an environment totally surrounded by sound. Water is a great sound conductor and bass use sound to find food to survive. Any sound, especially splashing is interesting to a bass. It could be a school of fish, or a large predator feeding. I once fished with an excellent tournament angler who fished by casting a very heavy 1 oz. Carolina rig into 3 feet of water as hard as he could on every cast. The bass heard the huge splash and swim right to his lure to see what all the commotion was about. He caught fish after fish and I couldn’t match him until I did the same thing. I do believe bass become alerted to the sound of a trolling motor, especially if it is running in heavy weeds. I try to use the wind whenever possible and avoid hitting the on/off button too much.
5. Bass won’t bite if there’s too much boat traffic.
This is false. It may bother you, but the bass don’t care. I have won and witnessed others in numerous bass tournaments where the winning anglers fished directly adjacent to a busy boat ramp. Sometimes boat wakes actually stir up bait fish and make bass bite better.
6. You need an expensive bass boat and expensive tackle to catch bass.
In my lifetime, I’ve fished bass out of everything from an 8 foot dingy that I made myself to a 22 foot custom built 80 mph bass boat. The boat doesn’t make any difference; it’s the angler and his/her skill that makes fish bite. What a big fast boat does is allow you to cover a lot of water fast. This comes in handy if your tournament fish are 50 miles away, but hurts many anglers because they spend the entire day running all over the lake instead of fishing. It’s very hard to catch bass at 80 MPH! On the subject of tackle, all you need is a rod and reel that will allow you to cast the bait you want to use comfortably where you want it then retrieve the bait at the speed you want and not break down. Everything else is just for comfort or show. The line you use is actually more important than the rod and reel, but that’s another discussion all together.
7. The biggest bass in the lake are in the deepest water.
This may be true in deep clear northern waters, but in Florida this isn’t true at all. In Florida's shallow lakes the biggest bass is lying in the heaviest cover she can find and isn’t moving to your bait more than a few inches if at all. Except in the spawning season, big bass are not all that aggressive and don’t give a darn about chasing your lures. The most effective way to catch giant bass in Florida is to fish with large native live shiners. Unfortunately, this technique kills far too many big bass and is looked upon negatively by most knowledgeable fisherman. If you want to kill bass just get a harpoon, it's cheaper! Flipping plastic worms is the best all around way to catch a giant bass with artificial lures. I’ve caught hundreds of bass over 8 pounds on spinner baits, crank baits and top water lures, but most all my bass over 10 pounds have been caught flipping heavy cover.
8. Most public lakes in Florida are fished out.
This always makes me chuckle. Every single mud hole in the State of Florida contains largemouth bass. When I was a kid growing up in South Florida we caught bass walking the bank next to tiny drainage ditches. One of my favorite canals was an outflow from a water treatment plant. The water flowing out of that plant would make the Harris Chain look clear and that particular canal was eaten up with bass. Today, Florida has a 5 fish limit and almost everyone practices catch and release. Recreational fishing pressure is not significantly hurting Florida’s bass populations. What fishing pressure does is make bass much more wary and keeps the “community bass holes” cleaned out. When I was actively guiding, I was able to witness this phenomenon first hand. During the week the fishing would be much better than on the weekends, especially if there was a big tournament. The fish don’t hide on the weekend, they just won’t move to your bait as far as they will on the week days. They’re not smart enough to keep their mouths shut, their strike zone shrinks in response to the pressure. The fish are still there, you need to get better at catching them.
9. There are no big bass left in Florida.
I started bass fishing as a young boy in the late fifties. Back then, I was totally fixated on big bass. I read everything I could find and spent hours looking at pictures and dreaming of catching one of those huge bass myself. I fantasized about the day that I would drag a world record out of the pond down the street. Here’s the truth. Bass, like all fish have what’s called “indeterminate growth”, which means that they never stop growing. It’s rare for a bass to live longer than 10 years. Florida bass grow about a pound a year. The biggest bass I have seen alive in 50 years of hard fishing in Florida was about 14 pounds. The two biggest bass I have personally caught weighed 11 ¼ (Okeechobee) and 11 ½ (Lake Eustis). All those huge bass you see in California, Texas and Mexico are transplanted Florida strain largemouths. They grow that large because of the habitat, not because Florida bass are stunted. If you take a Florida largemouth bass, move him to a private pond in California and stuff him with baby trout for a few years, you will get one enormous bass. There never were that many bass over 15 pounds swimming in Florida. If you want to catch a bass over 10 pounds in Florida, you need to fish in a lake were they actually live and flourish. This means fishing very fertile nutrient filled lakes with lots of big bait fish. If I was to guess, I would bet some of the biggest bass in Florida are swimming in Lake Apopka. Ten pound plus bass are still swimming in Florida waters and are much more common than most anglers think.
10. Bass are difficult to catch.
If you are not catching bass, it’s either because you are not fishing where they are or they don’t want the lure you are using the way you are using it. This statement identifies the challenges of bass fishing and the reason bass anglers love the sport. The most difficult part is locating them in the first place. No amount of expertise will catch bass where they aren’t. Learn the seasonal patterns of bass. Hone your skills until you can cast a lure into a small pocket of grass 6 feet inside of a weed bank. If you are physically unable to do that, buy a flipping stick and learn how to use it. As a former guide and tournament competitor, I had a chance to observe a lot of weekend anglers. Some of these anglers were good fishermen that didn’t understand why they couldn't catch Harris Chain bass. The problem was they didn't consistently get their lure close enough to cause the fish to react. Six feet away is not close enough to a bass strike zone when it’s measured in inches. Join a good bass club, seek out successful anglers and ask a lot questions. Never assume you know all the answers about bass fishing. I have never met a bass angler that I didn’t learn something from. Most so-called professional anglers are not that good at catching bass. If you don’t believe me, check the score board at the next TV tournament and see how many anglers get skunked weighing 12" fish!