Everyone’s heard and maybe even shared stories themselves about the one that got away. Unfortunately, you can’t always come out on top. Regardless of the target in the crosshairs, anglers who educate and prepare themselves accordingly before going to battle have a greater likelihood of success.
Largemouth bass are intelligent predators…not foolish feeders.
While there are literally thousands of lures on the market, they are all designed to perform under certain scenarios and weather conditions. In many cases, success or failure will be a direct result of not only what offering you use, but the way you use it. It’s important to remember that each and every lure is designed to perform a specific function. As a result, the more you know about your lures and the fish you seek, the better prepared you’ll be for a great day on the water.
…if a fish strikes at a walking bait, follow up with a popper or a jerkbait. Something that runs on the surface, but makes a completely different presentation.
With their olive green and jagged black camouflage, largemouth bass are notorious for hiding in thick weeds where they ambush prey and protect themselves from various mammalian, reptilian and avian predators. Not known for long bursts of speed, largemouth bass have mastered the art of pouncing on unsuspecting morsels that pass their way. However, it’s not always the initial strike that results in a lunker catch. When a bass takes a swipe at and misses a bait, many anglers instinctively throw that same lure back into the spot thinking it will result in an immediate, second strike. It seems like such a natural response. While sometimes this approach works, usually it does not. Instead, a follow up cast with something completely different is the way to go. For example, if a bass swirls at a fast-moving spinnerbait, pick up a rod rigged with a proven soft plastic and flip it out. On the other end of the spectrum, If you’re tossing a slow-moving bait like a soft plastic worm, follow up with a fast-moving Rat-L-Trap and run it aggressively through the same area.
“It’s very difficult not to throw the same offering back into a hole where a fish struck, but bass very seldom hit the same bait twice,” said Peter Thliveros, a professional bass angler from Jacksonville, FL with over $2,000,000 in tournament winnings. “There are countless offerings you can throw back into a pocket for a second opportunity at a bass, but the key is being prepared to do so. After a missed strike I’ll drop what I’m throwing and pick up something different every time…” continued Thliveros.
Take a look at any professional bass boat and you’ll be floored by the number of rods that are rigged and ready to cast upon a moments notice. “If a bass wants to eat something, it will. They’re such efficient predators it’s amazing,” Thliveros explained. “If a bass misses a bait, it’s not because it couldn’t see it or catch it. It’s because it didn’t really want it. It was interested and wanted to feed, but your lure wasn’t exactly what it was looking for.”
On most occasions, a bass that strikes and misses a bait will circle around to investigate the missed opportunity. While seasoned anglers will tell you that most second chance baits are offerings that can be worked slower to stay in the strike zone longer, this isn’t always the case.
If you’re actively fishing a soft plastic bait and it doesn’t get inhaled on the initial strike, perhaps your adversary wants something moving a bit faster or more aggressively. Changing colors, shapes or retrieval speeds can help dramatically. Anglers usually go from brighter colors to more shad-like subtle hues and from larger baits to smaller ones to catch second chance bass. However, a bigger fish might actually want a bigger, more aggressive bait or a brighter color.
“If a fish strikes at a topwater bait and doesn’t get it, follow up with a smaller, slower topwater,” Thliveros said. “For instance, if a fish strikes at a walking bait, follow up with a popper or a jerkbait. Something that runs on the surface, but makes a completely different presentation.”
In addition, an angler might target several fish in the same hole instead of just the one that struck at the first bait. If the first fish doesn’t hit again, others might. Sometimes, occupying the same honey hole makes bass more aggressive. In this situation, bigger, brighter baits might tempt the more aggressive, frequently larger fish in the pack. In any situation, the angler who plans ahead, observes what happens nearby and reacts quickly to opportunities usually catches the most fish. Be prepared with several options to throw at anything that rises to the occasion and you will certainly come out on top against second chance bass.